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'Man-of-the-match and joint-captain after 35 years. It was the stuff of dreams' - Galway glory

Mountbellew-Moylough are celebrating after a first Galway senior final win in 35 years.

Eoin Finnerty celebrates his goal in last Sunday's Galway county final.
Eoin Finnerty celebrates his goal in last Sunday's Galway county final.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

IT WAS A momentous night in their corner of north Galway last Sunday.

After a frustrating wait since 1986 for silverware and a succession of agonising defeats in recent finals, Mountbellew-Moylough savoured reaching the summit of Galway senior club football.

“Just relief after the game,” says the joint team captain Eoin Finnerty.

“A lot of pressure around the parish, just to get it finally after 35 years and we’d been in six county finals since and five in the last seven years and lost them all. Some of them hammerings, some of them close.

“Man-of-the-match and joint-captain after 35 years. It was the stuff of dreams, really.

“We did a tour of the parish. There were people in the parish I didn’t even know existed, out with fires. Even in the neighbouring parish, we came through Abbey, they had fires out for us. Just past Killererin, they had fires out for us. It’s something we’ll never see again. If we win another again there won’t be this euphoria of the first time for so long.”

The manner of Mountbellew-Moylough’s achievement was highly impressive. They lost finals in 2015, 2017 and 2018 (after a replay) to Corofin, along with the 2016 quarter-final and 2019 semi-final to the same opposition.

When they finally knocked out the All-Ireland kingpins in last year’s semi-final, they suffered the hardship of subsequently losing the final to Moycullen, yet their resilience was never destroyed.

“Last year was definitely the toughest to take,” admits Finnerty.

“Going back on the years before that, we just weren’t good enough. We were getting beat out the gate by Corofin really. When you’d see them go on to win All-Ireland finals, you’d get a little bit of hope.

“When we were driving down the road on the way to this year’s final, we were saying there was no way can we come back out of here without winning this game.

“There’s a lot of very good individuals on the team. We couldn’t walk away from it either. Not getting there would have been a massive disappointment. If we looked back in years to come and we’d thrown in the towel say this year, we’d regret it, so we just kept coming back.

“This was seen as the generation of players that were finally going to bring Mountbellew across the line. It probably wouldn’t have been seen on the outside, but there was pressure.

“At Christmas you’d be meeting older club men who’d be asking you, were we going to do it this year. You didn’t want to be seen as losers, not getting over the line.”

aib-gaa-club-championship-launch-202122 Eoin Finnerty at the AIB GAA club championship launch. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Everything fell together this year as they were not hit by injuries, while the upshot of Covid-19 was more players were based at home. Finnerty hailed the contribution of manager Val Daly, the Galway great who had sons Michael and John on the team.

“Val is a club-man through and through. He’s helped us at underage. This team, he had us from U-10 to U-16 and then back again at minor. That’s probably where he has been most influential, coaching at underage. Teaching us how to actually play the game. Everyone associated Val Daly with Mountbellew-Moylough.”

And the joint captain has also thought of club icons like Joe Bergin, the Galway All-Ireland winner, who had tried for years to land a county senior medal.

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“2019 I think he retired. In fairness you would have loved to see him winning one. He was there when we were coming through and guided us along through our early careers in the club championship. I would have loved to see him win one. There are a few more like Fergal Gavin, a few legends down through the years.”

Finnerty was part of the Galway U21 team that contested the 2017 All-Ireland final, while he was drafted into the county senior setup in 2018. Study commitments in 2019 in UCC, where he won a Sigerson Cup medal, saw him drop out of the county scene and his current focus is at club level.

On Sunday, this Mountbellew-Moylough setup enter unchartered territory with a Connacht opener against Leitrim champions Ballinamore.

“We were back training (Tuesday) night. The dressing-room beforehand, the laughing that went on over the last couple of days. Just the buzz of having a county medal in your pocket going training.

“The pressure is off now. This is new territory for hte club so hopefully we can go on a bit of a roll here now.

“We’ll just turn up now next Sunday and hopefully perform.”

BTL 5

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Fintan O'Toole

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