Galway footballers still reeling from their painful defeat on Sunday felt the warm embrace of the crowd at Ballybritt yesterday.
Emien Comer couldn’t walk five feet without a punter to shake hands and tell him how proud he was of him and the “boys.”
Damien’s mother, Mary, watched him from afar as he progressed to the edge of the parade ring.
After throwing his arms around her, Irish independent asked him a clear question.
“Mrs. Comer, are you very proud of that?”
“Yeah absolutely. Absolutely always. Even when he’s not playing football.”
There’s no antidote to the pain of an All-Ireland defeat, but arguably the only thing that comes close is a day at the Galway race among your county relatives.
Galway manager Pedric Joyce agreed.
He said he was “disappointed and disappointed, but it’s great to get out and be about it.”
“The races are fantastic. We always come here. I’ve been involved with Michael O’Callaghan with a few horses, so it’s always a good day.
“You have to remind people that it’s not a wake-up call or anything.
“We did our best. People are saying sorry and sorry for it, but you should be proud of our boys on Sunday for what they did and the joy they brought to the county.
“The last six, seven weeks have been great. We just have to build on this and move on. We’re going to enjoy Race Week, and we’ll see where we are next December.
“It is painful, but all that the boys have produced is to be credited to their families and their clubs. And boys need to appreciate and understand what they achieved. Hopefully the pain and injury will propel him to achieve bigger and better things next year.
“They’re relatively young, and they’re very ambitious dudes. We’re in a good place.”
BelClaire’s Jim Comer (84) picked up his walking stick and said he was still desperate to go, “but I’m not that easy now”, he quipped.
“Today is not good luck, but it’s more about the day, I guess,” said Jim, who worked on construction sites in London before returning to his native Galway in the mid-1990s.
“I love everything about racing. I’ve always loved coming here,” he said. “I used to race a lot in England, but Galway is hard to beat.”
Liam Casey of Mill Street in Cork left his daughter Orna on the farm for a few days, and he and his wife are living their best lives in Ballybritt.
“It’s a family outing – we’ve been coming here for so many years,” he said.
“I’d hate to tell you how long we’re coming up. We’ve lost count at this stage. It’s nice to meet people year after year, but we’re not making much money.
“A lot of us are from the same area here. We’ve seen similar faces over the years, but we’re all getting a little darker.
“My daughter Orna is taking care of the farm. She’s also big on horses, but she didn’t mind letting me go. she is a nice girl.”
Tom Buckley, also from Mill Street, and a farmer, said he was enjoying the day, but after the pandemic, he finds it hard to predict the winner.
“Everything was tied for the last three years, so the form is hard to read.
“I like to go all day, but I also like to win,” he says with certainty.
Racecourse manager Michael Moloney says he has spent the past three years dreaming of the hustle and bustle of the crowd. “It is an incredible feeling to see people enjoying themselves again.
“There is a huge buzz around this place and I think everyone is happy to meet people again.
“Yesterday we had a crowd of 15,200 so we are very happy with it. Things have clearly changed in the last few years.
“For the past three years, we’ve been coming here every day, and it’s been such a quiet, lonely place. It was really special to see so many people here yesterday.”
Milliner Majella Dalton of Claregalway completed her hat at 5.30 a.m. yesterday.
“I had to do everything else first,” she laughed.
Her friend Susan O’Toole was wearing one of her creations, which took Majella a grueling 12 hours.
But it was worth every second, Susan said.
“This hat was in Ascot, it was in the royal enclosure. I got some good comments back then too,” she said.
But how does one find oneself in the royal circle?
“You have to be sponsored initially, but then after a few years, if you are a UK citizen, you qualify for membership. I can now invite my Irish husband as a guest.
“It’s my first time in Galway, so I’m just learning the ropes, but it’s buzzing. I was in town last night, and I couldn’t believe everyone outside.”
Sinead Sheridan of Longford is spending three days running with her mother before returning to Hong Kong on Friday.
A lecturer in exercise physiology at the Chinese University, Sinead specializes in jockeys’ health.
She speaks passionately and hopes the racing industry will invest more in her welfare.
Sinead faces a week of mandatory hotel quarantine, where she can’t even open a window or door when she returns to Hong Kong, so she’s savoring every moment.