Magnificent Killanin are crowned county intermediate champions

Killanin 0-13

Moycullen 0-10

Rarely in any sporting occasion that I have attended has there been a better atmosphere, or a greater display of joy and jubilation than that which followed the final whistle from referee Shane Hehir last Sunday which saw outsiders Killanin crowned 2014 county intermediate football champions.

And given that their opponents Moycullen are their closest neighbours and people they meet every day of the week, it was all the more sweeter.

To see their passionate manager Pat Quealey being hoisted like a rag doll and bounced on the shoulders of his clubmates and neighbours after the game encapsulated the sheer ecstasy the small club was feeling after one of the greatest days in their history.

Most GAA people in the county know Killanin GAA club has endured a tough year, losing some terrific club members, including the ebullient and gregarious character that was Paddy Sweeney.

Watching his two sons, Patrick and Cathal, play like giants all through the game and especially in the second half when Patrick was tremendous in open play, must have been a source of inspiration to the entire panel and club.

Patrick kicked six points in total, won a world of ball, and was crucial to his team's success.

His colossal freetaking in the first half was inspiring and he shot four of his side's first six points.

Cathal Sweeney added another and the hugely impressive Niall Walsh at corner forward also shot a super score from a tight angle from play

Moycullen were in a good position at half time, trailing by one point, 0-6 to 0-5, with the stiff wind at their backs for the second half.

However Killanin were having none of it and they came out like men possessed.

They ran at Moycullen and Johnny Heaney and Ronan Caldwell were both tremendous at 5 and 7.

Heaney was a livewire all through the game and when he raced forward to shoot the first score of the second half from right-half and saluted the crowd in the stand, everyone felt the boost it gave the team.

In hindsight Moycullen probably made a tactical mistake in switching former Galway star Paul Clancy from a sweeper role, with seven players at the back, to full-forward for the second half. It did not work, and no ball went into him. Plus Patrick Sweeney was on a serious mission in that second half and he was imperious at centre-forward.

Moycullen's centre-back Diarmuid Lee could have done with some additional support to help close down the middle of the rearguard and, if Clancy had been sweeping, it would have helped clog up the middle.

However that was not Moycullen's only problem. Up front they failed to make any inroads and Killanin's big fullback David Walsh and the impressive Edwin Murray at corner back were taking no prisoners.

Moycullen's cause was not helped in the closing quarter either by some wild shooting and poor decision making in possession.

Cool heads were needed in the last 10 minutes and the Killanin management team of Quealey, Johnny Kelly and David Melia knew where to turn. New county manager Kevin Walsh was that man.

Walsh's introduction - the stuff of legend

It was like a fairytale for the Killanin supporters and team to see Walsh, who played in an Intermediate West Board final 29 years ago, and who turns 45 next month, coming on to help the cause.

He got a rapturous welcome and when he caught the first kick-out on his introduction and won a free, the roof almost lifted off the stand in Tuam Stadium. It must have been a source of serious motivation for the rest of the team.

Once that happened, every Killanin player looked an inch or two taller and it was almost impossible to see any way back for Michael Donnellan's charges.

Killanin were imperious in the last few minutes and it was fitting that Niall Walsh, who hit three sweet points, and man-of-the-match Patrick Sweeney were their final scorers.

So, major disappointment for Moycullen, but they will be the first to admit the better team won on the day.

Killanin seemed to want the victory more and when leadership was needed, Heaney, the two Caldwells, Niall Walsh, Kevin Walsh and, in particular, the two Sweeneys, came up trumps and that is what wins county finals.

Killanin team captain Marvin Lee deserves a special mention too, for his eloquent, thoughtful and sincere speech after the game.

On such an emotional day for the club and many of its members, I thought he got the balance spot on, and spoke incredibly well.

It is a day that will live long in the memory, and, above all, for anyone who calls Killanin home.


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