CLAREGALWAY footballers finally made the breakthrough at minor A level, triumphing over reigning champions Salthill/Knocknacarra in an entertaining county final at Tuam Stadium on Sunday.
The margin of victory was seven points, and Claregalway were full value for it, as they dominated the second half despite Salthill’s resilience that produced consolation scores late-on.
It was a tight, tense and thrilling opening 30 minutes in which both sides went hell for leather but Claregalway’s class eventually shone through as they got the upper-hand during the middle chunk of the second half.
When Salthill corner forward Ultan Sheerin levelled matters 1-7 apiece, six minutes after the restart, the signs pointed to a contest that would go down to the wire. It didn’t.
In the following eight minutes that ensued, Claregalway then rattled off 1-3 to Salthill’s solitary point, a period of dominance that proved crucial to this historic, first ever championship win at this grade.
Salthill, who were going in search of a three-in-a-row of titles, had some fine individual performances from the likes of roving wing-back, Cathal Sweeney, playmaker centre-forward Evan Murphy, and Conail Hanley in defence, but not enough of them played to their true potential.
Claregalway had a stand-out performer in Keelan Grainger, who kicked 1-5 with an awesome display that resulted in him just pipping his colleague Conor Walsh for the man-of-the-match accolade.
But there were valuable contributions from other quarters, too, like Mark King in goals, Iarla Keating, Barry Callanan and Jack Glynn who were dogged in defence, Jason Reilly, a workhorse at midfield, and steady free-taker, Páraic Commins up front.