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The trail-blazers

The trail-blazers

Adrian McGing recalls a glorious day in Westport United’s history

Daniel Carey

TWENTY years ago last Thursday, Westport United under-18s captured the Connacht Youths Cup title for the first time in their history. On February 26, 1989, the Coveys won the provincial competition with a 1-0 victory over Galway side Crescent.
Adrian McGing played at right full-back that day, and was chosen as team captain by manager Pádraig Burns. Twenty years on, he has good memories of a successful period in the club’s history.
“I suppose after Euro ’88, soccer was on a high in Ireland,” he told The Mayo News last week. “The Westport United junior team won the Connacht Cup and the Michael O’Byrne Cup in 1987. Then we won the Connacht Cup, and the under-15s won their Connacht Cup shortly after. It was a great era for soccer in Westport. On the back of those earlier wins, we believed that we would go to Galway and win – the fear wasn’t in us.”
Crescent had beaten Westport earlier in the year, and were a tough nut to crack. In the end, a single goal, scored early in the second half, was enough to separate the sides – and what a goal it was. A corner by Brendan Horan (a familiar face for Islandeady GAA fans) was cleared to the edge of the box. Enter Brendan Keegan, who got the all-important strike. Adrian McGing, who has seen the goal on video, recalls it as a fine strike.
“It was like Eric Cantona’s goal against Liverpool in the FA Cup final,” he recalled with a smile. “He had to dig it out. His technique was exceptional – no one else would have scored from there.
“Our goalkeeper, James McKenna, got man of the match, he made a few great saves. But while we were under pressure for parts of the game, we were comfortable with it. And we had chances too.”
The muck which flew from the heavy pitch is evident from Frank Dolan’s evocative pictures, A large crowd had made the journey – “It seemed like the whole of Westport was in Galway,” Pádraig Burns wrote in this newspaper afterwards. McGing has fond memories of the banter on the bus journey south as well as the celebrations afterwards.
“It was a good group of players,” McGing recalled. “We had good representation on the Mayo U-18 team of that year. I think there were nine Westport lads on the panel, and Mayo got to the All-Ireland final in that, but lost to Dublin.”
In his wonderfully vivid account of the Connacht Cup final, carried in The Mayo News the following Wednesday, Pádraig Burns described the moment Adrian McGing lifted the trophy as ‘the moment we had all longed for’.
“We’ll savour this for a long time,” the manager wrote in his final paragraph. “It’s amazing to think that Westport have never won this cup before. We’ll be doing our best to hold onto it now. It’s been a long time coming but it’s been worth the wait.”
 There’s talk of a reunion later this year. It’s good to know that that famous day hasn’t been forgotten.

James McKenna, Adrian McGing, Brendan Keegan, Des Ryan, Martin Halpin, Myles Joyce, Brendan Horan, Stephen Duffy, Chris Grady, Brian Hope, Ben Walsh. Subs: Seán Kelly for M Halpin; Iain McLoughlin, Kevin O’Hora, Mark Ryder, Brian Coffey, Geoffrey Crawford.


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