St James crowned Connacht champions

Last Sunday was a special day in the history of St James GAA club.

A few weeks ago they had annexed the Galway intermediate championship, advanced into the senior ranks for next year, and it was sweet. But there was more to come.

On Sunday in Tuam Stadium they upped their performance levels, produced a masterclass of high-quality football in the first half against highly-rated Roscommon opposition, and fought like tigers in the second 30 minutes to survive and collect a provincial title. It added another marvellous chapter to what has been a glorious year for the club.

Having two senior intercounty players is a major plus for any intermediate team, and both Paul Conroy and Eoin Concannon both made significant contributions for the Galway outfit.

They shot 0-10 between them out of a total of 0-14 and Conroy, in particular, was immense around the middle of the park.

It is terrific to see the modest and likable young man coming back to the form we saw from him a few years ago when he was a key player on the 2007 All-Ireland minor team.

No doubt new senior boss Tomás Ó Flatharta, who was watching proceedings closely with his selector Martin McNamara, will have been impressed with him and also some of his other lesser known teammates.

Johnny Duane is developing into a fine centre-back and his two wing-men, Jamie Burke and Tommy Walsh, were also to the fore when required.

Team captain Mark Kelly, who is a great warrior to the St James’s cause, put in another hard 60 minutes of graft and kept working between the two 50s and winning the dirty ball.

Full-forward Alan O’Donnell was an effective target man and won some important frees, while Ronan O’Connell kicked two points from play and Sean Donnellan also got on the scoresheet.

What was highly impressive about the entire team was the way they knuckled down when it looked like they were going to be caught by Strokestown.

After playing champagne football in the first 30 minutes, they had to get stuck in for the last 20 minutes to carve out a win. And they did so splendidly.

The club has won three of the last five county minor titles and were narrowly defeated in this year’s final, so they should have a solid pool of talented youngsters to push the club on over the next few years.

They can take a well deserved break now for a few weeks after being undefeated all season and look forward to an All-Ireland semi-final in January against Munster opposition.

No doubt the management team of Seamus Burke, Michael Deacy, Pat Burke and Tony Hanley will be delighted with 2010 and they will have genuine aspirations of having a crack at winning the All-Ireland intermediate in the early months of 2011.

Based on last Sunday’s super display, those ambitions are well founded.


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