It was a glorious day for Menlough GAA club on Sunday at Pearse Stadium. The club’s footballers claimed the intermediate county title to ensure the club returns to the senior ranks for 2014.
In a terrific spectacle, Pat Carty's men had just too much in the tank for a gallant Claregalway side which went down fighting valiantly.
Although Menlough only won the game by a single point, 1-12 to 2-8, they were the better side for 50 minutes of the tie.
Menlough led by 1-7 to 2-1 at half time and they probably should have been further ahead. Claregalway's two goals came from Paul McGuinness and a terrific effort from young star Mark Rohan, who is a really exciting prospect.
Surprisingly, Claregalway started with county senior player Danny Cummins at centre-forward, and it was a move that did not really work for them. He looked more dangerous in the inside line. Admittedly Danny did get through for a scoring chance or two early on from number 11, but his finishing was not as good as his approach work.
Menlough were full value for their half-time lead and their first-half scorers included wing-forward James Craughwell, Brendan Costello, David Reilly, Mark Costello, impressive wing-back Joey Glynn and man of the match Kevin Reilly (two points ). Their vital goal was scored by corner forward Brendan Costello.
Menlough, who last won the intermediate title back in 2006, were in complete control for some stages of that first half, with inspirational team captain Robert Hughes excelling at midfield, beside the hard-working David Reilly.
Eoghan Cummins, who has been in splendid form all year for Claregalway, struggled to have an impact against the bigger, stronger, and more experienced Menlough duo.
When Menlough scored the first three points in the opening minutes of the second half to lead by 1-10 to 2-1, things looked stark for Claregalway.
However, Conor Glynn and Eoghan Commins came more into the game around the middle in the last quarter and, as they steadied the ship, their forwards started to look much more potent.
Claregalway really stepped on the accelerator in the last 10 minutes, mainly through some inspirational points from county u-21 star Seán Moran.
Kenny Murphy and Alan Moran's charges shot four points without reply to really put it up to the Menlough boys, but to be fair, Menlough held firm for an historic victory.
Team captain Robert Hughes collected the silverware from fellow Menlough clubman Milo Costello, while centre-forward Kevin Reilly, who shot 0-4 from play, was selected as man of the match.
Menlough who play a stylish and fast moving brand of football, will represent Galway in the provincial intermediate championship. That Connacht quarter-final is fixed for October 20 away to Kiltane (Mayo ).
They had very good performers in goalkeeper Jason O'Neill, defenders Con Lucey and the entire half-back line of Joey Glynn, who scored two fine points and was unlucky on two other occasions, and Tomás Mannion and Mark Costello.
Is there a better midfield partnership in the county than the massive Robert Hughes and the hard-working David Reilly?
Up front, the vastly experienced Derwin Costello did not waste a ball all game and linked play very well, while goalscorer Brendan Costello and Kevin Reilly were also impressive.
Claregalway will feel this is a game that if they had performed as they have in previous outings, they could have won. However, the tenacity of Menlough had a lot to do with that.
Corner back Marc Goldrick worked hard all through, as did Joe Kearney at wing-back.
Up front Seán Moran took a long time to get into the game, but he had a spectacular last 10 minutes.
Perhaps the tough run that Menlough had to get to the final, beating Clonbur and Athenry, was a plus for them.
An awful lot of credit for the success and their impressive pace must go to their management team of Pat Carty, selectors Leo Molloy and John Hughes, and trainer Ger Lennon.
It was a momentous day for the proud club and their loyal supporters and one they will cherish.