Gort are the county senior hurling champions for the first time in 28 years after a magnificent victory over All-Ireland champions Clarinbridge on Sunday afternoon in Pearse Stadium.
They were led to victory splendidly by team captain and corner back Andy Coen, who gave an impressive, emotional and thoughtful speech when accepting the Tom Callanan Cup. After 28 years in the wilderness, there was a fair bit to be said and many people to be thanked; he did so with sincerity and humility.
Gort’s county senior success on Sunday also rounded off an amazing year for team manager Mattie Murphy who had already led the Galway minors to another All-Ireland title in September. Murphy won two senior medals from right corner forward with Gort in 1981 and 1983 and he was ecstatic after managing the club to their sixth title in front of almost 9,500 supporters. He was also effusive in his praise for selectors John John Commins and team trainer Conor O’Donovan who had the team in terrific shape.
It was a very emotional day for many Gort supporters and particularly for the fathers who had won county medals in 1981 and 1983. Gort hurling men such as Sylvie Linnane, Josie Harte, Joe Regan, Gerry Lally, Gerry Finn, John Cummins, Mike Mullins and club chairman Martin Mullins, who all collected winners’ medals in the early 1980s, saw their offspring do likewise last weekend. .
Twelve months on the go without a real break seemed to take its toll on a tired looking Clarinbridge who never fully got into their stride. However that may have had a lot to do with the way Gort tore into the fray and seemed desperate for a win.
It is never easy to compete with a side fanatical for a victory that believes it is going to be its day. Gort got off to a great start and it really fuelled their belief and self-confidence.
Clarinbridge, having staged a few astonishing recovery missions last season - none more so than their victory over De La Salle in the All-Ireland semi-final - needed to dig deep again after falling 0-6 to 0-1 behind in the first quarter.
Gort wing-forward Gerry Quinn hit early four points, three of them frees, and Sean Forde also found the target early on. Clarinbridge responded with points from Shane Burke and Mark Kerins, but points from Harte, Ollie Fahy and Quinn again put the Gort Inse Guaire men 0-8 to 0-2 to the good.
Gort were resolute in defence and Clarinbridge’s much vaunted attack found them difficult to break down and were very reliant on placed balls from Mark Kerins.
Despite Gort having done most of the hurling in the first half, it was only 0-9 to 0-6 at the small whistle.
Points from Gerard O’Donoghue and Quinn put the contenders into a 0-12 to 0-7 lead, but Alan Kerins hit 0-2 from play to keep the Bridge men in the hunt. When Billy Lane bundled the ball to the net after Gort goalkeeper Peter Cummins flicked out a ball, the game was in the melting pot.
Stephen Forde put the 2010 champions one ahead with only a few minutes remaining, but Gort held their nerve and composure and hit the final three scores of the day.
Aiden Harte levelled the game from a placed ball and then Andy Coen edged them in front with a great free from distance, before Harte hit his fifth point of the day to seal the deal and spark wild celebrations which no doubt have continued all week.
With a young side, back-boned by two county u-21 winning sides from 2009 and 2010, it is unlikely Gort will have to wait almost three decades to see senior county silverware again.
Gort: P Cummins; A Coen (Cpt ) 0-1 (1f ), M McMahon, M Cummins, G Lally, B Regan, J Grealish; S Og Linnane; S Forde 0-1, G Quinn, 0-7 (6fs ), A Harte 0-5 (2fs ), P Killilea; R Cummins, O Fahy 0-1, G O’Donoghue 0-2. Subs used: M Nestor, A Mullins, K Finnegan.
Clarinbridge: L Donoghue, B Burke, C Forde, P Callanan (Cpt ); J Cannon, D Forde, M Donoghue; B Daly, S Burke 0-2; S Forde 0-1, M Kerins 0-7 (6fs, 1 65 ), E Murphy; E Forde, Sub: B Lane (1-0 ).