Galwegians rugby rounded off their season in fine style when they claimed the All Ireland u-17 crown on Sunday.
The Connacht champions, who led from the start, produced a comprehensive display to see off their Leinster counterparts Gorey in Naas.
It was a deserving and long-awaited result for Galwegians who have lost to Leinster clubs on three previous occasions - the most recent just two years ago, before the competition was restructured, when they lost the u-16 final to Navan. This year, however, Galwegians went all the way, starting with victories over Monivea and Westport before a 26- 21 win over Sligo, to whom they had earlier suffered their only loss of the season, to claim this year’s Connacht league and cup double. They then trounced the defending champions Waterpark by 36 - 12 in the semi-final avenging their defeat at the same stage the previous season to set them up for their fourth attempt to win the All Ireland.
On Sunday they played into the strong breeze in the first half, but still finished 10 - 0 ahead at the break thanks to a huge effort from their dominant pack. They then sealed the title with another converted try and penalty in the second half.
Wegians overcame some early nerves to take control with their pack leading the way. The impressive front five were supported by a strong backrow, featuring captain and Irish international Sean O’Brien, who led by example in a strong backrow, and flankers Ross Kerrigan and John Martin.
Outhalf Ciaran Gaffney’s goalkicking also proved a big boost for the Galway outfit, and although he missed an early opportunity, he overcame the difficult wind conditions to nail the rest.
The vital breakthrough came on 20 minutes when some excellent driving play from the forwards gave scrumhalf Paul Power the chance to dive over for a well-deserved opening try. Gaffney landed the conversion to put the Blues 7-0 ahead.
However Gorey, with the wind, enjoyed their share of possession, but Galwegians held their composure in defence to deny them scoring. Instead Wegians struck another blow on half-time when Gaffney’s struck long-range penalty from the 10 metre line sailed through the uprights for a 10- 0 interval lead.
As expected Gorey came out all guns blazing in the second half and their pressure forced a succession of penalties, which eventually led to the sin-binning of Wegians’ winger Niall Kane for a deliberate knock-on. However in 10 minutes of action and with a man down, they scored 10 unanswered points. Gaffney added a second penalty shortly after the binning when the Blues turned defence into attack, and when skipper O’Brien intercepted a pass and dashed home unopposed for a second try, which Gaffney converted, Galwegians were in control.
Although Gorey claimed a consolation score in the 60th minute with a converted try from Eddie Earl, Wegians, determined not to let the silverware slip from their grasp, maintained their discipline to claim this year’s All Ireland title.
Galwegians: P Kitt, N Kane, P O’Donnell, P Hackett, N Grogan, C Gaffney, P Power, S O’Brien (cpt ), J Martin, R Kerrigan, P Dervan, S Murray, D McArdle, C Gavin, M Joyce. Replacements, D Byrne, S Fallon, E O'Brien, E O'Dwyer, E Hughes, F Stoneman, A Butler. Management, Iain O'Brien, (head coach ), Noel Leader (coach ), John Gaffney (coach ), John Cleary (backs coach ), Jamie Stephens (forwards coach ), Sarah Brennan (physio ), Donal Leahy (manager ).