Galway Advertiser 2005/2005_11_24/GA_2411_E1_127.pdf
November 24 2005
Salthill sail through to win Connacht title
Salthill/Knocknacarra (Galway) 1-10 St Brigid's (Roscommon) 0-5
Salthill/Knocknacarra bridged a 15-years gap to capture the Connacht Senior Club title for the second time in the club's history when defeating Roscommon champions St Brigid's in a bright but chilly Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Sixteen years ago Clan na Gael of Roscommon were the kingpins of Connacht club football, capturing their third provincial title in a row, but the following year Salthill broke that sequence when they were crowned champions for the first time. Since then, no team outside of Galway or Mayo has tasted provincial success, and it was obvious this pattern was going to continue well before the final whistle sounded on Sunday. Without having to set the world alight this year, Salthill/Knocknacarra have gone through a steady campaign - grinding out results and doing just enough in each encounter to see them past the post. Despite having this fortunate knack of being able to raise their performance when necessary a common trait among champions - Eoin O'Donnellan's charges have yet to perform to their maximum potential for an entire 60 minutes. Nevertheless, the Galway champions were installed by the bookies as raging hot favourites for this tie and indeed their prediction was spot on. This was perhaps Salthill/Knocknacarra's easiest game to date in this year's championship, and they finished comfortable winners against a St Brigid's outfit that ran out of options on the field and played second fiddle for most of the match. The tactics employed by St Brigid's were simple - let the ball in long to Frankie Dolan and the towering Karol Mannion. In order for this to work it was crucial for Ger O'Dowd's men to at least break even at midfield. They did this for the first 20 minutes of the game. Salthill were slower to start, but once they found their rhythm, they began to dominate in all sectors. Eventually the supply lines into Dolan and Mannion were cut which effectively ended the St Brigid's challenge. Salthill had 13 attempts on goal in the first half, but only managed to convert six of them, hitting seven wides. On the other hand, St Brigid's converted all three of their attempts. This statistic tells the story of the game. Had Salthill been more clinical in front of goal in the first half, this game could have been out of St Brigid's reach before half time. Frankie Dolan produced an outstanding longrange effort with the outside of the boot to register the first score of the day after three minutes. St Brigid' s looked the livelier of the two teams in the opening exchanges, and with Shane Curran finding his midfielders on numerous occasions with short accurate kick outs, it appeared Salthill/Knocknacarra would have a mighty task on their hands. The ever-reliable Alan Kerins got his side off the mark on seven minutes, fisting over from close range. Within two minutes Salthill captain Maurice Sheridan notched his first score of the day to edge the favourites in front. Moments later Salthill were unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty when Sean Armstrong appeared to be dragged down inside the square. By the 10th minute Salthill had come to terms with the St Brigid's tactic of short kick outs. Barry Dooney and Michael Donnellan took over the reins at midfield, although the Salthill forwards were guilty of some wayward shooting, and it took them another seven minutes to add to their slender lead. Gordon Morley, who gave an exhibition in quality defending, began a lovely move that involved both Anthony McDermott and Kerins before Donnellan accurately split the St Brigid's posts from 35 yards. The margin was reduced to a single point again when in a rare foray into Salthill territory Dolan and Mannion combined before the latter fired over Cathal McGinley's crossbar. Their response was immediate as Salthill surged downfield and Sean Armstrong kicked a high looping effort over the bar to restore his side's two-point advantage. It was clear that St Brigid's were having to work tirelessly to get into scoring positions while Salthill/Knocknacarra were creating chances in almost routine fashion. This was a trend which was to continue for the remainder of the contest and in the end the gulf in class between the sides was obvious. Salthill managed a further two points in the first half through Seamie Crowe and Maurice Sheridan. Ian Kilbride kept his side's hopes alive with a solitary point six minutes before the break. The game was all over as a contest after five minutes of the second half. Declan Burke found Armstrong with a neat pass and he was hauled to the deck by St Brigid's corner back Robert Kelly. Maurice Sheridan drilled the ball high to the net past Shane Curran to open up a six-point gap. This was quickly followed by a point from Kerins, and from this point the signs were ominous for St Brigid's. Karol Mannion was the only real threat to the Salthill goal, but he was starved of possession for most of the second half. Indeed he and Frankie Dolan were forced outfield in a bid to get on the ball. Mannion managed his second point of the day 10 minutes into the second half. The killer blow for St Brigid's was self inflicted. Darragh Donnelly kicked a sideline ball straight to Michael Donnellan who in turn found the unmarked Seamie Crowe and he had no difficulty in sending the ball over from 20 yards. From this moment on, the St Brigid's players heads dropped, they knew they were a beaten side. Salthill simply went through the motions for the final quarter of the game, bringing on their full allocation of substitutes. In the end the Galway champions ran out comfortable winners. Despite kicking seven wides in the first half, Eoin O'Donnellan and his management team will be happy with the professional performance displayed by his players. They head to London the weekend after next to contest the All-Ireland quarter final where they will be expected to advance to an All-Ireland semi final. There is still room for improvement in the Salthill attack. They have been unable to score a goal from play in the last five games, and if they want to contest a final in Croke Park next March, they may need to remedy this. Salthill/Knocknacarra: C McGinley; R McTiernan, F Hanley, C Begley; M O' Connell, G Morley, A McDermott; B Dooney, M Sheridan (1-2); S Armstrong (0-1), A Kerins (0-2), D Burke; S Crowe (0-4), M Donnellan (0-1), S Rabbitte. Subs: PJ Kelly for O'Connell, J Boylan for Sheridan, T Burke for Rabbitte, N Tyrrell for D Burke, C McGauran for Armstrong. St Brigid's: S Curran; D O'Connor, D Donnelly, R Kelly; B Mannion, K Noonan, P Kilcommins; M O'Carroll, G Aherne; G Dolan, D Blaine, I Kilbride (0-1); J Tiernan, K Mannion (0-2), F Dolan (0-1). Subs: E Mannion for Noonan, S Kilbride (0-1) for G Dolan, J Kelly for B Mannion, B O'Brien for Blaine, B Lennon for Aherne. Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).