A county senior hurling championship final pairing sees old hands Gort – strong favourites at 2/5 with the bookmakers – take on newcomers Liam Mellows in a novel decider that should attract a large crowd to Pearse Stadium this Sunday (2pm).
Still smarting from their 2016 county final defeat to St. Thomas’ – given this is Gort’s fourth county final appearance in seven years (and their fifth in 10 campaigns) – it is hard to look beyond them given the wealth of experience in the squad.
This extends back to their first county final appearance in 2008. Although soundly beaten 1-18 to 2-7 by kingpins Portumna on the day, the core of that team subsequently propelled the South Galway outfit to county titles in 2011 and 2014.
Among those still involved from 2008 include defensive quintet Andy Coen – having return from a lengthy sabbatical in Canada – Sylvie Óg Linnane, Michael Cummins – introduced from the bench – Niall Forde and Greg Lally, midfielder Aidan Harte and forwards Paul Killilea and Richie Cummins.
Taking on board the lessons from this loss, three years later they claimed their first county cup in over a quarter of a century when accounting for then All-Ireland club champions, Clarinbridge.
While they would have to wait three years again to secure their next championship, it would prove to be a sweet one as they overturned Portumna in the showpiece to exact some measure of revenge for their 2008 scalding.
Certainly, if you were working off the premise that Gort now win titles every three years, Sunday’s outcome would appear to be a done-deal – and the displays of Aiden Helebert (1-51, 0-38 placed balls), Harte (2-14), Lally (0-20, 0-19 placed balls), Richie Cummins (2-10) and Jason Grealish (0-11) in this campaign would reinforce that view.
In contrast, it may be a surprise to many that Liam Mellows have reached this stage but, in many respects, they more than signalled their intent when engaging former All-Ireland winning Clare coach Louis Mulqueen as manager at the outset of the year.
This has turned out to be a shrew appointment – not only in terms of his extensive coaching experience at club and inter-county level but also because in his role as principal of Rice College (Ennis) he has the ability to form relationships and work with young people.
Full county final preview in this week’s Connacht Tribune