Analysis: some tips for iconic Hogan Stand speeches for All Ireland winning captains in 2020
Most victory speeches are unremarkable. With a plethora of people to be thanked, they can essentially become box ticking exercises. But what makes an acceptance speech memorable?
Victory speeches often allude to the agony of previous defeats and longstanding histories of being second best, Tipperary's Richie Stakelum’s proclamation in 1987 after that year's Munster hurling final win that "the famine is over" is one that springs to mind. In 1995, upon Clare’s first All-Ireland senior hurling victory in 81 years, Anthony Daly opened his captain’s speech with "there has been a missing person in Clare for 81 long years ... well today that person has been found alive and well, and that person's name is Liam MacCarthy."
From RTÉ One's Late Late Show, Anthony Daly discusses his iconic 1995 victory speech
In a speech that Daly cites as one of the easiest he's ever made, it stirs emotion in many a GAA supporter to this day. Daly would emanate a similarly iconic acknowledgement of previous woes after Clare’s 1997 Munster win over Tipperary, with cup hoisted defiantly in the air declaring "we’re no longer the whipping boys of Munster".
In 1996, Martin Storey’s speech dispelled the heartache of Wexford hurling’s 28 year wait for senior victory by announcing: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have been described as the bridesmaids of hurling. Well today we got married." The Slaneysiders still anxiously await the renewal of vows.
Martin Storey's speech after Wexford won the 1996 All Ireland hurling final
In the immediate aftermath of reaching the pinnacle of national sports, the use of native language can have a powerful and distinct effect. Cork's John Fenton in 1984, Kerry's Dara Ó Cinnéide in 2004 and Cork's Seán Óg O' Hailpín in 2005 spoke entirely as Gaeilge. While most acceptance speeches in Irish are by those who are fluent speakers, Kilkenny’s Lester Ryan bucked the trend in 2014 with a speech that he learned phonetically. Ryan's speech had further resonance when a video of him as a 10 year old reciting his winning speech for Feile na Gael Kilkenny in 1998 surfaced online.
The most memorable speeches do not have to be the best speeches. In fact, the entire speech can be eclipsed by a notable one liner. Anthony Molloy marked Donegal’s inaugural football glory in 1992 with a closing statement of "Sam’s for the hills!".
Bryan Cullen's speech after the Dublin footballers' All-Ireland victory in 2011 is noteworthy for his concluding statement "see yiz in Coppers." Far from inspirational, it did sum up the captain's excitement of the celebrations to come.
Bryan Cullen's speech after Dublin won the 2011 All Ireland football final
Writing an acceptance speech can be a daunting task and many avoid preparing one for superstitious reasons. Even when speeches are carefully planned, the exhilaration and mayhem that ensues after a victory distorts senses and emotions. After Tipperary's senior hurling victory in 2016, Brendan Maher admitted that he failed to mention team manager Michael Ryan in his acceptance speech. "In the moment you don’t know what to think, you’re a bit all over the place, and I forgot to mention Mick Ryan and the management in the speech and I had him first on the list."
There is one iconic speech in GAA history that synthesises the Irish language, a memorable one liner and a nod to struggles of the past. In 1980, a young Joe Connolly gave a powerful oration upon accepting the Liam MacCarthy cup on behalf of "mhuintir na Gaillimhe".
Joe Connolly's victory speech after Galway beat Limerick to win the All Ireland in 1980
Connolly's speech is celebrated for his use of the Irish language but also for honouring the Galway diaspora around the world who also share in joy of the county's triumph. The celebrations did not end with the speech as Connolly handed the microphone to Joe McDonagh - later GAA president - who led the crowd gathered on the field in a version of "The West's Awake", a stirring ballad with lyrics spontaneously adapted for the occasion.
The primary purposes of victory speeches are to acknowledge, reflect, excite and entertain people. Climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand, accepting a cup and addressing the elated audience is a privilege that most captains are denied. So three cheers for all those who have written victory speeches that will never be heard. Hip, hip hooray….
(Thanks to Tomás Rua Ó Cadhla for suggestions and feedback for this article)
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ