In the history of the All Ireland Club Intermediate Hurling Championship, six different clubs from Galway had been defeated in finals since its inception in 2004. Finally that has changed, and Galway can toast Oranmore-Maree who produced a wonderful second-half display to overcome Munster champions Charleville and win by 2-18 to 1-5.
With the sides deadlocked as the clock ticked towards full time, Niall Burke’s goal from a penalty, breaking a hurl that had already contributed 10 invaluable points in the process, pushed Gerry McInerney’s men into a three-point lead.
Charleville were down to 13 men after second-half red cards were issued to both Jack Doyle and Cian Carroll, but Oranmore-Maree still had to rely on goalkeeper Rory McInerney to smartly repel a close-range effort from Darren Casey on 60 minutes that would have propelled Ben O’Connor’s side back into the lead.
It would have been harsh on Oranmore-Maree, who had regrouped magnificently at half-time after being worryingly second best late in the first half, and Seán McInerney finally sealed the historic win with a fantastic catch, turn and strike to the net in injury time to ensure that Oranmore-Maree will motor into this year’s senior championship on the crest of a wave.
“It’s a special day,” Man of the Match Niall Burke says. “Things weren’t looking good for a while, but we addressed certain areas at half-time.
"We had to get more hands-on and physical with their runners. That set the platform really. As everyone knows on days like this, it is never really about one individual, it is about the team, and it was a massive team performance.”
Charleville’s Darragh Fitzgibbon appeared keen to win this final on his own for the hot favourites in the first half, notching his side’s first six scores before setting up their next two. Oranmore-Maree stayed in touch until the end of the first quarter, thanks to Niall Burke’s excellence and a magnificent point by Alan Burke from the right sideline. However, Andrew Cagney’s goal on 28 minutes made it 1-8 to 0-5 for the Cork men and the Galway side were staring into the abyss.
Crucially, though, they upped their intensity and workrate in the third quarter, outscoring Charleville by 0-6 to 0-3 in that time, with Rian Maher excellent in midfield and Gearóid McInerney thundering into the contest from deep with an inspirational display of leadership. After Charleville’s indiscipline cost them dearly, Seán McInerney made them pay with a goal that will forever be etched in the history of Oranmore-Maree.
Oranmore-Maree: R McInerney; S Bannon, S Geoghegan, A Bannon; M Hanniffy, G. McInerney (0-1 ), L Keane; N Geoghegan, R Maher; M Quinn, A Burke (0-2 ), N Burke (1-11, 0-4fs, 1-0 pen, 0-3 ‘65s ); R Malone, P Keane (0-1 ), S McInerney (1-2 ). Subs: É Burke (0-1 ) for M Quinn (44 ), N Qualter for Keane (50 ), S Dunne for N Geoghegan (59 ).
Charleville : C Collins; D Butler, J Meade, F Cagney; A Dennehy, J Buckley (0-1 ), C Carroll; J O’Callaghan, K O’Connor (0-1 ); D O’Flynn (0-1 ), D Casey (0-1 ), J Doyle (0-1 ); A Cagney (1-1 ), D Fitzgibbon (0-10, 6fs, 1 ’65 ), C Buckley. Sub: T Hawe for K O’Connor (55 ).
Referee: C Cunning (Antrim ).