Patrick Flaherty in Moycullen
SALTHILL/Knocknacarrra will contest their first U21 A County football final since 2013 after they saw off Killanin by five points in the West Board decider played in Moycullen on Saturday night.
In a game where both sides had barren spells, going almost a third of the game without scoring, a 52th minute goal from substitute Rory Dempsey proved to be crucial as the city side booked their place in the county final.
It was Killanin who started the brighter in the opening five minutes, taking the lead curtesy of a fine free from Enda Kelly, but the Connemara men would fail to raise a white flag again for the next 17 minutes as Salthill hit them for 1-3 without a reply.
Salthill hit the equaliser through a point from Paul Butler, and the young forward was again to the fore soon after when following a long run from midfield, some neat link up play with Robert Finnerty led to Butler palming the ball past Callum Ciaponi in the Killanin net on 10 minutes for the first goal of the game.
Further scores from Finnerty and Shane Garvey put Salthill into a commanding five point lead, before Killanin finally got back on the scoresheet, as midfielder Gary Heffernan made a darting run forward, losing his marker in the process, and slotting home a fine effort from the left wing.
The sides traded scores soon after before Killanin keeper Ciaponi was tested to his limits, making a crucial block to deny Rob Finnerty, while a minute later Butler had a great chance to add a second goal to his tally, when left with just the keeper to beat, but his effort went across goal and wide.
As a half time approached, Finnerty won a long ball from midfield, before laying it off to Shane Kelly who duly slotted home a delightful effort from the right wing, to leave Salthill five points up at the break,1-5 to 0-3.
Roles were reversed in the second half, when following an early score from the boot of Shane Garvey, Salthill would go 20 minutes without a score, allowing the Connemara outfit to go through a purple patch which saw them hit 1-4 without reply.
Following another score from the boot of Enda Kelly, Killanin had a great chance to get a much needed goal on 34 minutes, when Gary Heffernan intercepted the ball from defender Fiachra O’Griofa, but his effort went agonisingly wide.
Killanin then thought they had that much need goal when Kelly kicked a long range free towards the opposition posts, with his shot seemingly lobbing David Sheedy in the Salthill net, only for the referee Padraig Mac Donnacha to blow for a foul in the square and disallowing the goal.
But wave after wave of pressure would eventually pay off on 44 minutes when following a free from Heffernan, a scramble in the square ensued, with Matthew Lawrence getting the final touch, as he fisted home a vital goal to leave just two points between the sides.
Further frees from Kelly and Ruairi Greene left the teams’ level with just ten minutes to go but that was as good as it got for Killannin as Mark Kinnevey’s side failed to score for the remainder of the tie.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.