By John Fogarty
Liam Mellows 3-12 Gort 1-15
Liam Mellows claimed their first Galway SHC title in 47 years with a composure that belied their final inexperience in Pearse Stadium.
This was also their first senior decider since 1970, but the manner in which they took their three goals was the hallmark of a team accustomed to such occasions.
Richard Cummins manufactured a late goal to try and unnerve Mellows at the death but it wasn’t enough to help the south Galway men who suffered their second successive final defeat.
Mellows were five points up after the first half but Gort made it a one-point game when Aiden Helebert sent over a 39th minute free.
He had a chance to level it with another free two minutes later from a difficult angle and distance but sent it wide.
Instead, Adrian Morrissey at the other end put two between the sides and then Colm Kavanagh scored Mellows’ third goal, doing well to keep his cool after Tadhg Haran sent a ball into him.
Kavanagh squeezed a shot past Gavin Lally and Mellows began to dream.
That Michael Mullins was sent off for striking David Collins was a benefit as was having Collins on the field, after he was fortunate not to pick up a second yellow card earlier in the second half. A Greg Lally free and then Cummins’ goal brought Gort closer but not close enough.
Gort led by two points after 13 minutes, Helebert having helped himself to three points from play. Kaelen Higgins’ runs from deep were causing the Liam Mellows’ defence difficulty but they were supplying their forward line with enough ball to ensure they stayed in touch.
Haran picked off two great sideline efforts either side of a Morrissey free before Gort again went a couple ahead through Higgins and Helebert’s first free.
The game turned in Mellows’ favour in the 19th minute when Kevin Lee and Jack Hastings combined to set up Aonghus Callanan for a goal.
There was still plenty for Callanan to do but his shot from an acute angle on the left side of Lally’s goal was a rasper. He followed it up with a point two minutes later and Gort were two points to the good.
A brace of Helebert frees, the latter of them a soft one won by Higgins, brought Gort level but Morrissey penalised another foul and the margin opened to four after Haran’s stinging strike beat Lally in the first minute of additional time.
If Callanan’s goal was about power, Haran’s was all about precision as he steadied himself to find the corner of the net following a driving solo run.
Ronan Elwood finished out the first half’s scoring and the underdogs were 2-7 to 0-8 ahead at the break.
Scorers for Liam Mellows: A. Morrissey (0-8, 7 frees); T. Haran (1-2, 0-2 sidelines); A. Callanan (1-1); C. Kavanagh (1-0); R. Elwood (0-1).
Scorers for Gort: A. Helebert (0-10, 7 frees); R. Cummins (1-0); G. Lally (0-2, frees); Jason Grealish, A. Mullins, (free), K. Higgins (0-1 each).
LIAM MELLOWS: K. Walsh; M. Hughes, M. Connelly, S. Morrissey; C. Reilly, D. Collins, S. Barrett; K. Lee, J. Hastings; C. Hynes, T. Haran, R. Elwood; A. Morrissey, A. Callanan (j-c), C. Kavanagh.
Subs for Liam Mellows: J. Forde for C. Hynes (57); J. Kenny for A. Callanan (60); C. Elwood for C. Kavanagh (60+2).
GORT: Gavin Lally; M. McMahon, A. Coen, M. Cummins; Jack Grealish, Greg Lally (c), P. Lally; S. Linnane, A. Helebert; M. Mullins, A. Harte, Jason Grealish; R. Cummins, A. Mullins, K. Higgins.
Subs for Gort: J. Commins for A. Mullins (49); N. Forde for M. Cummins (53); P. Killilea for Jason Grealish (55); W. Walsh for S. Linnane (57); K. Killilea for A. Helebert (60+2).
Sent off: M. Mullins (straight, 53).
Referee: C. Browne (Ballinasloe).