THE weight of creating modern-day history can have an anchor like effect on teams when it gets to the big day, especially when coming up against a seasoned outfit who have been there and done that on numerous occasions.
In Mellows case, they set sail in Sunday’s county final without even carrying an anchor on board, as they tore in to Gort right from the get-go, totally unfazed and undaunted by the magnitude of the challenge that lay ahead.
In the end, their reward was great as it was they who carried the day to record the club’s ninth county title and first in 47 years.
Experience was meant to play a huge role in this decider. All of Gort’s starting 15 bar Kaelen Higgins had previous experience in county finals prior to Sunday. Some victories, some defeats, but experience none the less.
Eight of the Liam Mellows side which started in Pearse Stadium last weekend lined out in last year’s U-21 A county final defeat to Turloughmore. Year after year, Mellows suffered heartache, whether it be at underage or senior level, but on Sunday, that counted for little, as the city men played with a freedom and confidence that defied their birth certificates.
All week long across social media platforms, supporters from across the county and beyond answered the clubs online campaign to ‘Join the ‘Mellows Roar’ as fans filed in to Pearse Stadium in their thousands to create a truly electric atmosphere for what turned out to be the best county final of recent years.
In the early rounds of the group stage, Mellows set out their stall as dark horses for this year’s title. Their six goal demolition of Loughrea sent shockwaves reverberating throughout the county but a subsequent defeat to Craughwell and dip in performance levels dampened the hype.
Their heroic comeback and subsequent replay victory over Clarinbridge, and nail-biting one-point success over Cappataggle earned them a spot in the county final but going on form, a lack of experience and injuries to key players, all the signs pointed towards Gort. But Louis Mulqueen had his side in the right frame of mind to go out and produce the performance of their lives, and that’s exactly what they did.
Summer hurling is what this Mellows side love. Crisp, fast, off the cuff hurling is what they do best and as the year goes on, that becomes more and more difficult.
Fighting through those nervy knockout games in a heavy Kenny Park was the difficult bit. Sunday’s game on a pristine Pearse Stadium surface allowed them the opportunity to showcase their talent.
Speaking with Tadhg Haran and Sean Morrissey in the aftermath, both made the exact same point – Mellows love the open spaces of Pearse Stadium and know they can do damage once they get there.
Right from the start the tactic was clear as Mellows searched for the runs of the inside line of Conor Kavanagh, Aonghus Callanan and Adrian Morrissey, with Tadhg Haran and Ronan Elwood chasing in to offer support while Conor Hynes operated slightly deeper.
This tactic was by no means what defined the match, but as the game wore on, particularly in the lead-up to half-time and for much of the second half, Mellows garnered quite a degree of success from the direct cross-field ball.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.