St Michael's are back. In a hugely entertaining Claregalway Hotel Galway IFC Final, the city side regained their senior status by virtue of a hard-earned yet thoroughly merited one-point victory over Glenamaddy. After an absence of 18 years, St. Michael's return to the top flight and should they bring the sparkling football they displayed at the business end of this year's championship into next season, they look set for an extended stay there.
In a whirlwind start to this final, Glenamaddy's Tomás Curtin and Liam Conneally struck the opening two scores before St Michael's, slower to settle initially, stormed into the game. The city side struck five unanswered points from play from Micheál Feeney, Frank Daly, Peter Ruane, Ciarán Stewart and the score of the half from Greg Rogan.
Pat Regan's side were full of running and attacking in waves during this spell. In what was a rip-roaring first half, Glenamaddy responded with consecutive scores from lively corner-forward Michael Molloy. Micheál Feeney was playing an effective target man role for the city side and he nudged St Michael's further ahead.
Glenamaddy captain Aidan Geraghty, who was enjoying the upper hand in his duel with Eddie Hoare, then broke forward from midfield to strike an inspirational score to leave the sides level 0-6 apiece at the interval.
Within minutes of the resumption, Greg Rogan and Frank Daly put St Michael's two clear once more. The West Board side enjoyed territorial dominance but failed to turn possession into scores. Five consective wides were registered and Glenamaddy profited from their opponents’ profligacy. All-Ireland SFC winner Shay Walsh, who struggled to escape the tight marking of St Michael's full-back Alan Glynn throughout, restored parity with a brace of frees in a third quarter that was high on commitment and intensity but low on accurate finishing.
Rogan and Michael Molloy exchanged points to leave the sides deadlocked at 0-9 each before Eddie Hoare, the driving force behind St Michael's run to the final, thundered into the match. The Galway panelist struck a superb point from range to edge St Michael's ahead with only seven minutes remaining. Tension gripped the sizeable Tuam Stadium attendance as both sets of supporters got behind their sides at every opportunity.
While St Michael's were now dominating the battle for primary possession, the prospect of a draw loomed large. Hoare, who displayed leadership qualities when his team needed him most, then struck an oustanding point from distance to put clear daylight between the sides. Walsh, once again, reduced the margin to a solitary point to leave St Michael's faithful looking at their watches nervously. In a driving finish, the city side's resilient defence held firm to record a famous victory.
While the huge disappointment of losing a championship final was obvious at the final whistle, Glenamaddy can still achieve the goal of playing senior football in 2009. Currently well placed in the North Board Intermediate league table, Ger Dowd's side have a second chance to regain the senior status they lost 12 months ago. Indeed, should St Michael's win the league and complete the double, the north Galway side would return to senior football by virtue of the second promotional berth being awarded to the championship runners-up.
The day belonged to St Michael's, however. This current side is backboned by two county minor winning sides in 2001 and 2004, with the latter crop making up the vast majority of the side.
This victory is a ringing endorsement of the commitment of the players but also the trojan work done at under-age level by the club in recent times. The challenge now is to establish themselves at senior level, but that's for another day. This victory will be savoured over the coming weeks and months by St. Michael's who are deservedly back in senior football for the first time since 1991.
St Michael's: R Hannon; K Sheridan, A Glynn, D Walsh; J Downes, P Ruane (0-1 ); C McClafferty; E Hoare (0-2 ), P Regan; F Daly (0-2 ), G Rogan (0-3, 0-1f ), H McClafferty; C Stewart (0-1 ), M Feeney (0-2 ), C Hoctor. Subs: C Clancy (for C McClafferty, 23 mins ); J Ruane (for Hoctor, 40 mins ); M Cullinane (for Downes, 52 mins ).
Glenamaddy: B Conneally; A Potter, J McHugh, W Burke; S Silke, K Cunniffe; A Hynes; A Geraghty (0-1 ), S Mannion; E Burke, M Conneally, L Conneally (0-1 ); M Molloy (0-3 ), S Walsh (0-3f ), T Curtin (0-2f ). Subs: J Keaveney (for Burke, 11 mins ); M Geraghty (for Curtin, 26 mins ); T Walsh (for L Conneally, 42 mins ); A Hanley (for McHugh, 44 mins ).
Referee: V Judge.