Tommy Joe Gilmore
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Cortoon, Galway, Ireland
Born and bred in the village of Cortoon just outside Tuam, Gilmore spent almost twenty years from 1968 onwards in the Senior ranks of local Cortoon Shamrocks and helped the small rural club to county semi final appearances in 1975 and 1978. Centre Half-back is the position he will always be remembered for, but he played in a variety of locations from full back to full forward. Actually pulling on the No. 14 jersey to help his county to victory over Roscommon in the 1981 National League decider. A county Minor in 1967 and on Under 21 for two further years, it was quite a magnificent achievement for the Cortoon man to break into the county’s star studded Senior team at that time.
Any player who has suffered it will tell how bitterly disappointing it is to leave Croke Park empty-handed on All-Ireland final day. Gilmore was subjected to the painful ordeal on three occasions and, not surprisingly, would love the opportunity of venturing into the vaults of time and re-writing the record books. Failure to get his hands on an All-Ireland souvenir was a bitter pill to swallow and by far the biggest regret of his career. "It was a big disappointment for me because it’s every player’s ambition to get one. That would have been a great highlight for me".
The Cortoon Shamrocks star was resident centre half back on the Galway sides which lost to Offaly, Cork and Dublin in 1971 / ’73 and ’74 respectively. In hindsight, he feels that had the Tribesmen a trusty place-kicker on board then things might have been different. It’s a big disappointment to appear in three finals in four years and not win one. To get so close makes it harder to accept, but I firmly believe that the lack of a reliable free-taker cost us two finals. The ’71 result was upsetting because if we had put the ball over the bar from placed balls like Tony McTeague did for Offaly on the day then we’d have won out comfortably. A team must carry a free-taker who can get four out of five over the bar from within fifty yards. A harsh lesson it was for the footballing Tribesmen who certainly paid the price for missed opportunities.
Despite the obvious disappointments, Gilmore’s career furnished him with many golden memories, memories to be treasured forever. The Galway centre half was honoured with All-Star awards in 1972 and ’73 appearing on All-Star teams in the esteemed company of the likes of Seán O'Neill, Kevin Kilmurray, Brain McEniff, Mick O'Connell and Jimmy Barry Murphy to name but a few. "Centre back was certainly the position I had the greatest love for and to win two All-Stars there gave me great personal satisfaction. Such awards are nice bonuses as was the National league medal, but everything is only secondary to All-Ireland Championships" he notes ruefully. Gilmore also appeared in four Railway Cup finals, losing all four, and could have been forgiven at times for questioning the gods and wondering whether he was jinxed. "Naturally that thought does cross your mind at times", he admits. One will always remember the great Micheal O'Hehir referring to the Galway centre half back in the high scoring All-Ireland of 1973 versus Cork. Micheal’s words went like this: Tommy Joe Gilmore has it on his own half back line, he goes past Dinny Long, 60 yards out from the Cork goals, fifty yards out, 40, 30, on the 21 yard line and it’s over the bar".
As the most memorable game he ever played in Gilmore picks out the 3-11 to 2-7 victory over Down in the 1971 All-Ireland semi final. "That was a great Down team and a day which stood out for me. From a personal point of view I was pleased with my performance in the final but you have to look at the ones you win", states Gilmore who rates tigerish Kevin Kilmurray and selfless forager Tony Hanahoe as two of the best he ever came up against. Arriving on the intercounty scene just after the three-in-a-row had been completed, the Cortoon man could probably have timed things a little bit better. "When I arrived on the county team the likes of Seamus Leydon, Jim Duggan and Liam Sammon were still there and it was a time during which Galway football was very strong. We were expecting to win more All-Irelands but unfortunately missed out".
Living in Galway city at present, Gilmore has little active involvement with the national code but had a stint helping out Willie Joyce, Jimmy Duggan, Tomas Heavy and Peter Lee as a selector on the county team between 1986 and ’88.