Tuam Stars 2-10
WHEN the final whistle blew at Kenny Park on Saturday evening, it took more than one look at the scoreboard before it truly registered that Tuam Stars had just beaten Salthill-Knocknacarra by four points in this winners group Round Two clash, having at one stage trailed by ten in the first half.
For all of Tuam’s admirable efforts to work their way back into the game after the turnaround, it still looked as if Salthill-Knocknacarra would hang on as they had given Tuam very few sights of their goal and led by two points with injury time about to commence after full forward Jamie Murphy had popped over a free.
Murphy, though, was about to become Tuam’s saviour in an incredible finale, as he first flicked Alan O’Connell’s shot that dropped short to the net before getting on the end of a breakaway to add Tuam’s second goal and leave Salthill-Knocknacarra scratching their heads as to how they could possibly have lost this tie.
In the end, it was their inability to convert goal chances that cost them dearly, as a combination of some superb saves from Tuam Stars ‘keeper Johnny Trayers and poor shooting let them down. For a side that had scored five goals in their opening round victory over Milltown, this was not in the script for the pre-match favourites.
They did start the match without two of the young stars of that win as Evan Murphy and Andrew Butler were both unavailable, but Tuam also had to deal with the absence of Darragh O’Rourke, Cormac McWalter, Conor Rhatigan, and Brian O’Donnell. Playing with the wind at their backs, Salthill-Knocknacarra threatened to run riot in the opening quarter.
With Seán Armstrong at centre half forward and Barry Kelly on the edge of the square, Salthill’s link-up play was superb in that opening spell, and they were quickly in front through Shane Kelly’s third minute effort. Barry Kelly was then on target before Robert Finnerty blazed the first goal chance wide, but he then converted a sixth minute free with ease.
John Maher was charging forward with menace from midfield and he was denied by Trayers in a one-on-one before Armstrong chipped over the resultant ’45. Tuam were struggling to even get a shot in on goal as Salthill defended tigerishly, and a swift counter attack saw Conor Healy register their fifth point.
Brian Conlon then became the sixth Salthill-Knocknacarra player to score on 11 minutes, before Tuam finally began to exert some pressure going forward themselves. While they could only manage to kick three wides in a decent five minute spell, they were at least lifting the siege somewhat, but Trayers was soon again called upon to deny Maher after good play by Armstrong and Finnerty.
Full report in this week’s Connacht Tribune