Tuam Stars and their supporters will be in high spirits this week after their tremendous and deserved one-point victory over Mountbellew/Moylough on Sunday.
They also will hope to continue their winning ways and put Salthill/Knocknacarra to the sword in Pearse Stadium this Sunday (2pm ) in the county senior semi-final.
Salthill will start as favourites, but if Tuam play like they did in the second half last weekend for a sustained period, they are capable of springing a surprise.
Alan Flynn’s team have genuine momentum after their 1-7 to 1-6 win over the black and amber last Sunday. It was tough going on the Mountbellew players who died in their boots after a series of gladiator-like performances over the past five weekends.
In the final quarter last Sunday, the Mountbellew players resembled a a bunch of punch-drunk fighters who had taken too many blows and found themselves lying on the ropes, waiting for the final knock-out punch to end the bout.
Inevitably Tuam mustered that blow. County player Gary O’Donnell delivered it with a good point, deep into injury time, that ended Mountbellew/Moylough’s extremely eventful season.
Mountbellew had led by seven points at half-time, 1-6 to 0-2. Then, after a few inspirational Shane Curtin points, the energy force which is critical in any game of sport, turned Tuam’s way and left Mountbellew unable to raise a single flag in 35 minutes of action.
It was an incredible turn around.
Mountbellew will not be pleased with referee Seán Hehir who overruled a free he had given and threw in the ball at a critical juncture in the second half.
Cathal Kenny would have scored from the free, and it would have raised a flag for Pat Donnellan’s men and perhaps helped them off the ropes. Had that happened, who knows who would be in action this weekend?
However, if a Mountbellew player had words with the referee after being awarded the free, they have only themselves to blame. If that happened, it was an incredibly silly thing to do and cost the team dearly. How often do we see indiscipline costing teams in tight contests?
Doherty and Devaney turned the game
With Tuam seven behind at half time and having played really poorly, it was going to take a bit of magic and a few heroic performances for them to turn the game around. The two men who provided the guts and guile to make that happen were Galway u-21 star Conor Doherty and colossal midfielder Brendan Devanney.
Tony Costello, John Lawless, Shane Curtin, Jamie Murphy, David Connern and Ian McGough also put their shoulders to the wheel, but it was the Double Ds who really made it happen for the Stars.
Doherty was magnificent when he was moved to full-forward. His pace, vision and footballing brain were a joy to behold for the team’s supporters after such an anaemic first half. It was a really good move by the management team to reposition him to the edge of the square and Doherty lit up the Stars.
It was his glorious fetch and lay-off that set up the roving John Lawless for his goal which was the key score of the game. It brought Tuam to within one of their opposition and gave them the belief to go on and win the tie.
While Doherty was excellent with the ammunition he received, it was 6’5” Brendan Devaney who provided it from the middle of the park. He won most of the multitude of throw-ins that Sean Hehir gave and he really powered into the game when most needed.
Having risen like Lazarus last Sunday on home turf, Tuam will believe they can beat a rusty Salthill/Knocknacarra outfit after a jaunt up the N17 this Sunday.
Salthill/Knocknacarra will have it all to do
The seasiders have not been in action for more than two months since they beat Maigh Cuillinn at their ease. They will look to Finian Hanley, John Boylan, Conor Healy, Peter Fahy, Stephen O’ Reilly, Seamie Crowe, Aonghus Callanan, Sean Armstrong and Tom Burke to show the way. The club will be boosted by their minors’ superb win over Corofin in the county minor final and youngsters such as Gearoid Canavan and Gearoid Armstrong, who was man-of-the-match in the minor win, can have important roles to play this Sunday too.
Ray Silke’s view: Mulhollands have Salthill at 4/5 and Tuam at 5/4 which is about right and I don’t expect there to be much between them. It is a very difficult game to call as Tuam were shocking in the first half last weekend and seem to lack a reliable free-taker. Salthill have no real form to go on as it is so long since they last played championship.
Based on their 2-16 to 0-8 victory over Killererin and their subsequent trimming of Maigh Cuillinn when they were motoring really well, the temptation is to side with 2005 county champions. Tuam have the advantage of having played 140 minutes of championship football recently and in Conor Doherty and Jamie Murphy they have two very mobile forwards. If Salthill can keep tabs on those two in particular, they will be in a county final.