Salthill/Knocknacarra have only won the Frank Fox Cup on two occasions, 1990 and 2005. However, based on the displays they have produced over the past few weeks, few could argue they are the team to beat this season in Galway football.
Two weeks ago they humbled county champions Killererin on a 2-16 to 0-8 scoreline, and last Sunday it was Maigh Cuilinn’s turn to feel the clout of Gerry Hughes’ men when they went down by 12 points, 4-12 to 2-6.
The city side was full value for this huge victory.
Racing into an early 2-2 to 0-1 lead, Seamie Crowe and Gearoid O’Leidhinn played puck in the full-forward line.
Impressive midfielder John Boylan and Crowe, who had a storming game throughout the contest, hit the early goals and the two-man full forward line (with big Conor Healy withdrawn ) ripped the Maigh Cuilinn rearguard to shreds.
No one could blame the two corner backs for their predicament as the pace and ball control of Salthill’s inside forwards would spook most club defences.
Eventually Maigh Cuilinn dropped Henry Lydon back in front of the two corner backs and he helped to stop the goal rot.
Mark Lydon hit two points for Maigh Cuilinn and a superb goal on the burst by Gareth Bradshaw gave his side some hope at half time as they had fought back to within two points, 2-03 to 1-04.
However Salthill, looking far the superior side, continued to punish their opponents. Crowe notched two quick points before a goal by county hurler Aonghus Callanan knocked the stuffing out of Padraic Oates’ men.
It was all Salthill from then on and, with Callanan’s influence growing at centre forward and Stephen O’Reilly putting in a huge effort at midfield, there was no way back for Maigh Cuilinn.
When Tom Burke, John Boylan and Conor Healy raised a few more white flags, it allowed the Salthill management team to give some game time to Noel Tyrrell, Kevin Conlon, Marty O’Connell, Eoin O’Mahony and Conor Treacy, who scored his side’s fourth goal.
Salthill well balanced
Salthill are a very well balanced team. Cian Begley and Finian Hanley are sticky customers in the full back line. Ruaidhri McTiernan is an imposing figure at centre-back and he takes few prisoners. He is flanked by county minor Gearoid Canavan and Peter Fahy who both did some good things.
Stephen O’Reilly and John Boylan, who notched 1-3 from play, are a powerful midfield combination. They are gelling really well and both men complement each other.
They are well supported on the breaks by former county minor Conor Halloran, while Conor Healy is a powerful man no matter where he lines out.
He is nominally picked at corner forward and he did a lot of damage against Killererin in that position, but he is a big strong man when he goes for a ramble around the field and he is in terrific form.
No other team left in the championship can afford to leave their corner backs exposed and in one-to-one situations with Crowe or the speedy O’Leidhinn, especially in Pearse Stadium. When they get good ball into space, and Callanan puts in some good passes, they are very difficult to contain.
They are 2/1 to win the championship with Mulhollands and, based on what I have seen of them in the last two games, they are moving very well.
They will be hard stopped.
Maigh Cuilinn had no excuses and they were well beaten by a better outfit. Many of the Maigh Cuilinn lads are very young and they can develop.
David Wynne, Eoin Walsh and Philip Ezergallis are all talented youngsters.
Seamus Friel could do little with any of the four goals as he was left exposed. Conor Bohan did some good things at centre-back and hit one good point. Mark Lydon and Gareth Bradshaw did their best around the middle, but Salthill’s overall cohesion, power and support play was too much to contain. Philip Lydon also tried hard up front against overwhelming odds and limited supply.