FC Groningen had a preview of the Wild Atlantic Way fully thirty years before it was conceived by Fáilte Ireland when they came to Páirc an Chatánaigh in An Cheathrú Rua to play Galway United in the second leg of the UEFA Cup. It was Galway's second foray into European action but a maiden voyage to Connemara for everyone.
I find it hard to realise that is 30 years since we made the odyssey to Cararroe - even heading out four hours before kick off necessitated a walk of at least a mile as the small village braced it itself for an invasion. the culture shock for the Dutch team must have been numbing as the rugged terrain all round the pitch in Cararroe is stark by comparison with the flat landscape in Holland.
On the field Galway ran out 1-3 losers and 2-8 overall to the professionals, but not before giving their all for manager Tony Mannion.
On Friday night when Bohemians come to Deacy Park, Galway United will take the opportunity to An Cheathrú Rua group of that era with a presentation. It was the Gaeltacht community through its pitch committee came to Galway United's assistance when they offered the use of their redeveloped pitch to the club when the club had difficulties in sourcing a ground in the county suitable for the European match.
Galway United have embraced the Irish language where they can over the years. Bernie O'Connell who has played a pivotal role in the 'relaunch' of the club revisited the scene of the game last week.
"A Galway soccer team's match in the Connemara Gaeltacht in the eighties made the statement about a changing Ireland. Looking over at Páirc an Chatánaigh last Saturday with thirty years past since the Groningen visit the joy and the sense of something as unlikely as it was outrageous. Our sense of place, loyalty and affinity to that place still excite, most of all our appreciation of good solid people who viewed life in the broadest perspective remains high."
TG4 is also due to rebroadcast its celebrated UEFA sa Ghaeltacht programme which documents this celebrated chapter in Galway United's history, in the near future. The Galway United faithful are hoping that the nostalgia and the buzz generated by the 30th anniversary will give the current crop of players the lift they need to get their season back on track.