Under 20 County Final Match Report
County U20 Final 2019
Claregalway 0-09 v Salthill 0-08
Duggan Park, Ballinasloe 15:12:2019
A virtuoso like display from an inspired Padraic Commins paved the way for Claregalway to etch their names in the history books by capturing the clubs first ever U20 title in Duggan Park Ballinasloe in what was a pulsating encounter between 2 high quality outfits.
In a game that ebbed and flowed, it was the men donning the green and gold who jumped for joy winning out by the minimum after a staggering 68+ minutes were played by Dandy Kelly. While the decision of the county board to fix the game for Ballinasloe was absolutely ludicrous, both teams nonetheless arrived on merit with Claregalway registering wins over Monivea and Annaghdown prior to defeating Corofin to acquire the North Board title whereas our opponents overcame a stubborn Moycullen side to claim the West Board Final.
It was Salthill who opened the scoring on 13 minutes from a placed ball courtesy of Paddy Culhane, however, it was to be the first and only time they held the lead throughout as Claregalway got up and running through Commins who finished the half with 4 points to his name, 3 from play and 1 placed ball pushing Claregalway into the lead at the break on a scoreling of 0-04 to 0-02.
Indeed the scoreline realistically flattered the city outfit as Claregalway really and truly should have been further ahead at the break however, the now customary wayward shooting from Conor Campbell, as well as some missed goal opportunities meant Claregalway failed to take a commanding lead into the dressing room at half time. Claregalway started the 2nd period sprightly and the big man from Kiniska pushed the Balchies further into the lead and with the rearguard standing firm at the back, Salthill were surviving on scraps and somewhat looking devoid of ideas and with 10 minutes remaining, Claregalway were 3 to the good. What with football being a crazy game and Claregalways attraction to doing things the hard way, the pendulum soon swung and scores from Connaughton, Halloran and Walzer meant with normal time now up, amazingly the sides were level and emotions were now at an all time high.
Claregalway huffed and puffed and managed to manufacture a late opportunity from a placed ball, however, Padraic Commins was deemed to have taken to too long to strike and was harshly penalized and the ball thrown in. From the resulting skirmish, Claregalway managed to force a turnover and won another free from a similar position as the initial infringement.
With now 65 minutes on the clock, the weight of the world on the shoulders of Commins but cometh the hour, cometh the man as he lofted a left footed outrageous effort that curled its way inside the right hand post and over the bar to send the Claregalway fans into raptures. There was still time for more drama to unfold as Salthill hunted for their equalizer alas it wasn’t to be as the Claregalway defence stood tall and after what felt like an eternity – the final whistle was sounded and Claregalway were the U20 A County Champions for the first time in the clubs history.
This achievement now means that this exceptional group of players have won every competition from U12 right the way along to U20 and the senior team in years to come can look forward to having a crack at achieving the glaring omission from the clubs trophy cabinet.
On the day the team were well served by man of the match in this year’s minor A county hurling final Conor Flaherty, Buckley, Callinan, Whelan, Roche, Campbell while Commins racked up 9 points to copper fasten his 10 star display and deserved man of the match award.
Brion Connolly collected the trophy on behalf of his comrades and extensive management team and he now joins Damien Stephens as the 2nd ever captain of a county final winning side at this grade a mere 17 years on from Claregalway capturing the U21B title.