Liam Mellows will need to hit new heights to bring down Gort men

Some of the survivors from the last Liam Mellows team to win the county senior hurling title in 1970 are pictured at the club's grounds ahead of Sunday's Galway final between the city club and Gort. Back row, left to right: Ray Gilmore, Paddy Ryan, Liam Sammon, Matt O'Malley, Martin Ryan. Front row: Jimmy Hegarty, Paddy Kearns, Jim Bishop, John Walsh, Clarrie Quinn
Some of the survivors from the last Liam Mellows team to win the county senior hurling title in 1970 are pictured at the club's grounds ahead of Sunday's Galway final between the city club and Gort. Back row, left to right: Ray Gilmore, Paddy Ryan, Liam Sammon, Matt O'Malley, Martin Ryan. Front row: Jimmy Hegarty, Paddy Kearns, Jim Bishop, John Walsh, Clarrie Quinn

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IT’S 33 years since a city club last won the Galway senior hurling title, but Liam Mellows will have a long-awaited opportunity to end that protracted famine since Castlegar’s county championship triumph in 1984 when they take on Gort in Sunday’s decider at Pearse Stadium.

Appearing in their first final since 1970 – the last of the club’s eight senior title wins – Mellows will carry huge neutral support as they make the short trek across the city to Salthill for a decider whose belated timing is bound to have a negative impact on the attendance. It’s just too late in the year to be staging local hurling’s showpiece event.

Naturally, the controversy over the group clash between Portumna and Turloughmore has had a significant bearing on the final taking place just over three weeks before Christmas, but local GAA officials are also going to have to look at reducing the number of rounds in the title race. Do we really need preliminary quarter-finals and, especially, those play-offs in senior B between the second and third placed teams?

With radical changes coming done the tracks in relation to inter-county fixtures in 2018, there is a lot of uncertainty about how the compacted new structure will impact on club championships. In theory, leaving the month of April free for club games and the All-Ireland finals being completed before September should give more scope to local administrators, but in Galway, for instance, we could be looking at parish teams not playing a single championship fixture in the months of May, June, July and August.

None of that, however, will be on the minds of the Mellows and Gort camps this week ahead of a first ever final between the teams. Both clubs survived replays in the knock-out stages, with Gort’s victories over Killimordaly and Craughwell reading that bit stronger than Mellows’ successes over youthful Clarinbridge and inexperienced Cappataggle outfits.

Gort are strong favourites (1/2) to carry the day and having under-performed in last year’s decider against St Thomas’, there shouldn’t be a trace of complacency in their ranks. They have a vastly experienced team, many of whom are armed with county medals from the triumphant campaigns of 2011 and ’14, while their overall physique is a huge asset, especially on heavy pitches in the depth of winter.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.