The 17-13 win over their most dangerous rivals in the Division 1B final means they are now heading to the topflight of the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League for the first time since 2009.
The home side’s ability to grab their scoring opportunities and to control the game at the most crucial moments made them worthy winners of a fiercely, honestly contested encounter.
They were particularly impressive when restricting Garryowen to a three point lead at the interval given they had two players in the sin bin at the same time in the opening half.
A four point defeat after eight successive wins came as a bitter disappointment to Garryowen who, however, could still gain promotion should they come out on top of a play-off against St Mary’s College on Saturday week.
Galwegians’ hero was left winger John Cleary who grabbed two second half tries while the nerveless place kicking of Aidan Moynihan who converted both and also kicked a penalty was also crucial.
The hosts looked in trouble when a fine Andrew O’Byrne try converted by Jamie Gavin in the 65th minute pushed Garryowen 13-10 in front but they came back in style to regain the lead and then defended magnificently to secure victory.
“There is great strength of character in this group”, stressed ‘Wegians coach Matt Brown, a native of Leigh, Lancashire, and so a man with a significant Rugby League background. “We were regarded as underdogs all year and nobody expected us to be where we are. We’ve always gone out to try and play football. We just toughed it out in the end and I would still back Garryowen in the play-off because they are an incredibly strong physical side.
“Obviously John Cleary with his two tries stood out but you had the whole back-row tackling their hearts out and I think we dominated them up front. I’m very proud of them all.”
His Garryowen counterpart Conan Doyle fully appreciates the task lying in wait as they prepare for the play-off away to St Mary’s, a team that ran up 45 points against Dolphin on Saturday.
“We made it easier for them in the first half when they were down to 13 men at one stage and we led by only 6-3 and that’s just not good enough”, he accepted.
“They defended very well, both their tries were opportunistic, and their kicker took his chances. We now have to pick up ourselves up again and that won’t be easy, especially for amateur players.
“We’re adding another two weeks on to the season but I know if you gave the lads the option of being out of it entirely or having this opportunity, they would certainly take these two extra weeks.”
C Gaffney; J Cleary, B Murphy, R Parata, M Dever; A Moynihan, B Lee; J Naughton capt, R Fitzgerald, D McHugh, M Cummins, B McClearn, J Dinneen, J Pimm, A Ryan.
C Blade, G O’Brien, P Hackett, M Towey, C Kyne.
A Wooton; S McMahon, A O’Byrne, J Purcell, J McInerney; J Gavin, J Glynn; P O’Shea, E Rossiter, B Rowley, P McCarroll, A McCloskey, J Keane, D Sherry capt, J Hrstich.
J M Griffin, B McNamara, D Mulcair, N Cronin, J Frawley.
D Wilkinson (IRFU).