Christmas truly came early for Liam Mellows hurlers when they deservedly won their first county senior hurling championship in almost half a century, beating 2014 and 2011 champions Gort on Sunday afternoon in Pearse Stadium.
Clare man Louis Mulqueen has done an outstanding job over the past year with the Mellows squad, instilling belief, calm on championship days, organisation and steel - and the team really produced the goods last weekend to see off Gort by 3-12 to 1-15 to win the club's eighth senior title.
The city side will now play Dublin, Leinster and All-Ireland champions Cuala, who are managed by Galway man Mattie Kenny, on February 10 in the All-Ireland semi final for a place in Croke Park next March.
Goals win matches
The cliché states that goals win matches, and it was Mellows who were far more efficient in that department last Sunday and they came at perfect times for them.
Two first-half goals from Aonghus Callanan (18 mins ) and Tadhg Haran (30 mins ) gave them a deserved five-point lead at half time, 2-08 to 0-7. Haran also hit two stunning sidelines to cap off a great season for him in club championship.
When Conor Kavanagh scored his side's third goal on 47 minutes, there was no way back for the Gort men, who also came up short in the final last year.
An added time goal by Richie Cummins meant the game finished with just the one score between them, 3-12 to 1-15, but Mellows fully deserved their victory and looked the more composed side for the final quarter.
It was great to see a packed Pearse Stadium for a county final. The throw-in for the match was delayed by 10 minutes due to late arrivals and Mellows had huge support for their first final in 47 years. Credit to the pitch committee at the stadium too as the field was in great shape and the faster sod seemed to help the game come to life. Mellows were happy to play in Pearse Stadium and the fast sod and wide spaces suited them.
Mellows enjoyed the better start which settled any nerves they may have had with the first point of the game being scored by man of the match Adrian Morrissey, who ended the tie with 0-8 (7fs ).
It was score for score then until Gort built up a slight lead, going 0-6 to 0-4 in front, until joint team captain for Mellows, Aonghus Callanan, who has had a tough season hampered with injury, buried the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle to put his side back into the lead.
The newly-crowned champions were building up a head of steam and another goal just on the stroke of hal-time by the impressive Haran knocked some of the stuffing out of Gort's challenge and they found themselves five down at the break.
Gort rallied hard after half-time, with free-taker Aidan Helebert doing his utmost to bring his side back into things by scoring three points in the opening five minutes, followed by a long range free from Greg Lally.
But Mellows were full of belief and passion, and although Gort brought the tie back to a one point game, Kinvara native Conor Kavanagh struck a crucial goal to re-establish Mellows' five point cushion again.
Another free from Morrissey put Mellows seven points to the good, effectively killing off the contest.
Gort kept plugging away, and Richie Cummins scored a goal in injury time for what was only a consolation goal.
Mellows joint-captains, Aonghus Callanan and David Collins lifted the cup to ecstatic scenes, and rousing singing from goalkeeper Kenneth Walsh. Most people would acknowledge it was good to see a new team come to the fore in senior club hurling.
No doubt the Mellows players will enjoy themselves for a week or two, but their focus will then quickly turn to All-Ireland champions Cuala who are sure to be a different kettle of fish, especially with the scoring ability of prodigy Con O’Callaghan in their attack.
The impressive Dublin outfit has now won three Dublin senior championships in a row along with two Leinsters, as well as the All-Ireland triumph last March. They will be a tough nut for Mellows to crack.
However, that is for another time for the Mellows players, officers and supporters, and for these seven days, and probably over Christmas - in the likes of Crowes in Bohermore and Hughes in Woodquay - it will be about celebrating their first title since 1970.
What is seldom, is indeed wonderful.
Liam Mellows: K Walsh, C Reilly, M Conneely, S Morrissey, M Hughes, D Collins (J-Cpt ), S Barrett, J Hastings, K Lee, C Hynes, T Haran 1-2 (2 S/Ls ), R Elwood 0-1, A Morrissey 0-8 (7fs ), A Callanan (J-Cpt ) 1-1, C Kavanagh 1-0. Subs used: J Forde for C Hynes (57 ), D Fahy for Callanan (60 ), C Elwood for Kavanagh (62 ).
Gort: Gavin Lally, M McMahon, A Coen, M Cummins, P Lally, Greg Lally (Cpt ) 0-2 (2fs ), Jack Grealish; S Og Linnane, A Harte, M Mullins, A Helebert 0-10 (7fs ), K Higgins 0-1, A Mullins 0-1, R Cummins 1-0, J Grealish 0-1. Subs: J Commins for A Mullins (49 ), N Forde for M Cummins (53 ), P Killilea for Jason Grealish (55 ), K Killilea for Helebert (60 ).