All good things come to those who wait. And after last year’s heartbreaking defeat to Leitir Mór in the intermediate final, St James’ players and supporters must have wondered what they had to do to make the step up to senior level.
They have bounced back in style this season and, despite the pressure of being hot favourites last Sunday, they managed to keep their nerve and win the intermediate title by 0-9 to 0-7.
It was hard on the eye, to say the least - 23 wides tells us all we need to know about the fare on offer - but Seamus Burke and the “Merlin Mafia”, as team captain Mark Kelly described them from the stand, will not worry about that. Last Sunday can be filed in the “job-done” category.
The club was formed in 1994 and in 2011 it will take its fledging steps in senior football. That is the main thing to be garnered from last Sunday’s victory.
St James are strong down the middle with Alan Deacy, Johnny Duane, Paul Conroy, Mark Kelly, Eoin Concannon and Alan O’Donnell all well able to win their own ball. That power makes them difficult opponents and, had they been a bit more confident and composed with their shot selection, the game need not have been such an ordeal for their supporters.
St James’ wing-back Tommy Walsh, who advanced to shoot two crucial points when they were badly needed, showed terrific leadership. His ambition and endeavour was rewarded with the man-of-the-match award.
County senior player Paul Conroy also notched 0-4 (3fs ) and was influential at stages, while Mark Kelly will just be delighted this year’s final ended so much better for both him and his team than a year ago.
Kelly is a good guy and he has been a real stalwart for St James for the past few years and it was great to see him collect the silverware last Sunday afternoon.
Breandán Óg Ó Callaráin
An Spidéal had chances to win, but having no other player than full forward Breandán Óg Ó Callaráin 0-7 (3fs, 1 penalty ) to raise a flag explains one of the main difficulties they face.
If the vast majority of scores always come from one source, the opposition can focus on that player and double mark him if required. And if he has an off-day, where are you?
That said, their team manager Donal Ó Fatharta has taken them from junior to the cusp of senior in two seasons and such effort and progress is to be commended. He is a very progressive and hard-working coach.
However they do not have the talent coming through that St James have had over the past few years.
St James have been working hard over the past decade and a half to achieve senior football.
They are there now and it will be interesting to observe how they adapt to their new surroundings.
Next up though is the AIB Connacht semi-final on Sunday week against Mayo opposition.
Other Galway Intermediate clubs, Moycullen, Caherlistrane and Leitir-Mór, followed winning the Galway championship by taking the Connacht title too and there is no reason why St James cannot follow their lead.