Inside Track with John McIntyre
THERE are clubs like Liam Mellows in most counties . . . when they get to county finals, they generally win them. In claiming their ninth Galway title from just ten appearances on the biggest day of the local hurling calendar at Pearse Stadium last Sunday, the city men have upheld a winning tradition which must be the envy of so many of their local rivals.
It doesn’t really matter that Mellows were bridging a 47-year gap since they last reached a Galway decider or that they were surprise finalists or that they came perilously close to bowing out of the title race on a couple of occasions, once they get to the defining match of the campaign, they appear to be imbued with a swagger, confidence and self-belief which makes them difficult adversaries.
Mellows were understandable outsiders for Sunday’s big clash with Gort, but as the game drew nearer I much confess to developing a quiet fancy for Louis Mulqueen’s well-charges despite their injured battalion. Firstly, they were bound to draw inspiration from the club’s great record in finals while, secondly, there was real pressure on Gort to avoid a second consecutive final defeat.
Aidan Harte and company may have impressed in their quarter-final win over Kilimordaly, but that form was probably overvalued, while it took them two attempts to fend off Craughwell in the semi-final. They are undoubtedly a durable, hard-working outfit but Gort hardly deserved to be such strong favourites.
Of course, trying to atone for their 2016 final loss to St Thomas’ was an obvious motivation, but that defeat 12 months ago cuts both ways. Players wouldn’t be human if they hadn’t some doubts and anxiety about making sure they didn’t lose two-in-a-row. In the heel of the hunt, Gort were over-rated and Mellows were under-rated.
The city club have been developing some quality young hurlers over the past decade and one of them, Adrian Morrissey, certainly held his nerve from placed balls last Sunday. Jack Hastings and Kevin Lee were a bundle of energy around midfield, while their ability to engineer goals at key moments of the match was a precious commodity. They also possessed plenty of experience at both ends of the field in the likes of former county men, David Collins and Aonghus Callanan, one of their goal-scorers.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.