Tears and smiles greeted Christy Brown’s final whistle as the city club defied the odds to subject Gort to a second successive final defeat.
A late Richard Cummins goal had brought Gort to within three points of Mellows but the underdogs stuck it out having been seven points up with seven minutes of additional time remaining.
Their advantage was largely founded on their three goals, two of them coming in the first half and Conor Kavanagh applying with turned out to be the coup de grace in the 48th minute when he did so well to keep his composure after Tadhg Haran sent in a ball over the top.
Indeed, what was so impressive about Mellows was their ability to maintain coolness in such circumstances. Aonghus Callanan and Haran’s earlier goals were clinically taken and it was a healthy five-point lead they enjoyed at the break.
For manager Louis Mulqueen, it was another club success story – “one of my biggest achievements as a project,” he said – and a speedily-delivered one too having taken on the position late last year. “I went away for two weeks and I thought about it. The project appealed to me, it appealed that they had enthusiasm, they had desire to win. I went up and started and 136 sessions later today was the day that they had to stand up and perform in a county final.
“A lot of them are young, one or two lads there Dave Collins and Aonghus Callanan are near the end of their careers if I can say that but there was a balance of experience and youth.
“Even up to yesterday, I rang everyone of them just to make sure the mindset was right. I knew we were ready today, it was a matter of trying to get out to perform. Great young lads, great skilful fellas.”
The former Clare and Galway selector Mulqueen gave a taste of just how young this Mellows team is. “We had a goal crossbar challenge during the middle of the summer. I had two Phil Collins tickets for whoever hit the crossbar. Mark Hughes and Sean Morrissey hit the crossbar out of the blue. It was a surprise, no-one knew that we were going to Phil Collins.
“I told them to bring their passport for the craic. We went up to it and I stood them in the Aviva (Stadium). Mark didn’t know who Phil Collins was. He didn’t know who Blondie was, but he said his dad did. I didn’t realise he was only 19!”
Gort had started the better and led by a couple of points on two occasions in the first 16 minutes but the second goal rocked them. Callanan’s rocket shot from an acute angle in the 19th minute and his point soon after were answered with two Aiden Helebert frees, which levelled proceedings, but they had little time to respond to Haran’s goal just before the interval.
After a strong solo run, Haran expertly slotted the ball into the corner past Greg Lally and Mellows would lead 2-7 to 0-8 at half-time.
Gort came storming back and trailed by just one point nine minutes into the second half as Helebert continued his scoring spree. He had a couple of chances to equalise but was off target and when Adrian Morrissey stuck over a 44th minute free Mellows were able to settle and Kavanagh’s goal followed four minutes later.
Former Galway skipper Collins suffered a bad dunt by Michael Mullins, which saw the Gort forward dismissed in the 53rd minute, but the pain would have been worth it. Mulqueen was fulsome in his praise for his joint-captain. “At this stage Galway had a super year when you look at the hurling they played but from our point of view, not having a player on the county team was a bonus. Every night I had 39 at training some nights.
“David Collins made that commitment to me when I talked to him last February. This was going to be the year for Mellows for him. He gave up an All-Ireland medal this year, he gave up playing for Galway, he decided he had enough of the county scene and I knew if I had that man behind the team as a leader we were going in the right direction .”
In his acceptance speech afterwards, Collins spoke of Mulqueen as having lived and breathed the club and the Ennis man certainly did. “Today was the only focus we had all year. It was a savage 47-year gap. And what it meant. If you look at the (club) website this weekend. The tears that were all around the world, I didn’t realise how much it meant to people from the past.
“They brought up two lads on a wheelchair to me the other night that had medals from the past. It meant so much to a sleeping giant to revitalise it. This has meant so much to me, to see the joy with them today. To see them getting over the line. I love it.”
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).
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).
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.
J. Forde for C. Hynes (57); J. Kenny for A. Callanan (60); C. Elwood for C. Kavanagh (60+2).
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.
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).
M. Mullins (straight, 53).
C. Browne (Ballinasloe).