From the smallest acorns grow the strongest trees

Date Published: {J}

Given the number of underage internationals Salthill Devon Ladies produce, and the extensive amount of resources they invest in coaching, it was only a matter of time before the club contested a national WFAI Senior Cup Final.

Well, the day has duly arrived, with the Galway City outfit due to face a fancied Dublin side Peamount United in Tolka Park this Sunday (3pm). It is truly a massive occasion for the club, given this will be the first final Salthill Devon will contest nationally at senior level.

That said, Kieran O’Mahony’s charges will travel to the nation’s capital confident that they can cause an upset. Boasting a wealth of talent, the side is littered with players who have worn the Republic of Ireland jersey with distinction at one level or another.

These include Meabh De Burca (U-19 and Senior), Julie Ann Russell (U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-19), Emer Flatley (U-15 and U-16), Becky Walsh (U-15, U-16 and U-19) cousins Aine and Lucy Hannon (both U-16), Kara Mullins (U-19) and the multi-talented Dora Gorman (U-15, U-16 and U-17).

“I suppose 10 of the squad have worn a green jersey of some description,” says manager O’Mahony, who is, coincidentally, a founding member of Salthill Devon FC.

“Ruth Fahy was with the Irish Universities, while

the rest of them would have all played underage. Also, Jenny Critchley and Becky Walsh have both captained the Ireland U-19s while Dora Gorman captained the U-17s this year. So, it is great to have those involved.”

Even more pleasing is that the majority of Salthill’s panel is made up of home-grown talent, having been nursed up through the grades by O’Mahony and other coaches. “I would have started with the girls in 2000 or 2001, when my own daughter (Jenny) got involved,” says O’Mahony, who is currently aided in the management set-up by Coach Alan Kenny.

“There has been quite a number of those players who have come up all the way through, such as Julie Ann Russell, Dora Gorman, Emer Flatley, Caroline Carter, the two Hannons – Lucy and Aine – and Ruth Fahy. I remember John Flannery and I started off coaching in Dangan on the all-weather pitch because Drom wasn’t even open at the time. Not alone that, we didn’t even have anyone to play.”

However, from those small acorns sown almost a decade ago, a strong sapling began to grow. In the ensuing years, the club began to nurture an abundance of talent, which not only fed into the Republic of Ireland underage set-up, but also backboned the Galway & District Ladies League’s successful bid for the same honour in 2007.

The problem for the Galway League, though, was that Salthill Devon was already racing up through the grades at adult level. Consequently, when the city outfit won the WFAI Intermediate Cup in 2008 –turning Senior as a result – the loss of those Salthill players significantly weakened the representative side. So much so, the Galway League did not participate in the Senior Cup for this season.

In the meantime, Salthill Devon has evolved even further, helped by a number signings from the now defunct Galway League team. “When Galway Ladies finished up, a number of the girls signed with us, such as Deirdre O’Connell, Annette Clarke and Tina Hughes. We also got two new signings this year, in Rebecca McPhilbin (Galway ladies Gaelic footballer) and Jenny Critchley, who is some player.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.