McStay happy as Brigid's show All-Ireland promise
St Brigid's 0-15
CONNACHT CLUB SFC SEMI-FINAL
St Brigid's remain firmly on course to become only the second club to win three Connacht titles in succession after seeing off the challenge of a disappointing Salthill/Knocknacarra side at Pearse Stadium.
The Roscommon champions, utilising all the experience picked up in winning six of the last eight county titles, came good after a tight opening and will now be strongly fancied to retain their provincial crown against Ballaghaderreen.
Ballaghaderreen, nestled right on the Mayo-Roscommon border, have never won the Connacht title and have not been in the provincial decider in 40 years and that inexperience could be exposed by a battle-hardened Brigid's side.
The Kiltoom club, managed by RTE analyst Kevin McStay with his former Mayo team-mate Liam McHale a selector, have developed into a formidable outfit and could make a strong bid to become the first Roscommon side to lift the All-Ireland title.
They have conceded just one goal in eight championship games this season and, in Senan Kilbride and veteran Frankie Dolan, have two free-takers who can punish teams.
McStay has instilled a high work ethic and while they encountered problems initially -- as they did in the quarter-final win over Melvin Gaels -- there was no doubting their dominance as the game progressed.
They got on top in midfield and a Salthill/Knocknacarra side, who lined out without former Roscommon captain Gary Cox, then suffered another massive blow when key attacker Seamie Crowe limped off after just six minutes.
The sides were level three times in the opening 10 minutes, but then St Brigid's pushed on and Kilbride kick-started a five-point run for the holders.
Armstrong reduced the deficit with a free before the break as Brigid's led by 0-8 to 0-4 at the interval having played with the breeze.
Significantly, though, they hit three points without reply directly after the restart, with Dolan, Kilbride and wing-back Damien Kelleher finding their range.
"I thought the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half was the key," said McStay.
"We upped it a good bit and we got the scores. I thought it was a real November performance, everyone put in a great contribution.
"Then, when they got tired, we brought in a few other lads. I thought we kept the tempo fairly high throughout the hour.
"We are another step along the way, but Ballaghaderreen will be fired up for the final and, hopefully, so will we.
"I thought when the game got close with 10 minutes to go, our football shone through.
"I thought our foot-passing was quite nice and we used the ball quite well, but we still have plenty to do. Our shot selection was not great at times, but I was pleased with the way our lads kept going to the end and closed it out," said the former Mayo forward.
Sean Armstrong gave the 2006 All-Ireland champions some hope with three splendid points -- a free from either touchline and a battling score from play -- but they needed a goal and never looked like getting it.
Brigid's took control in the closing stages with veteran Dolan punishing Salthill with some excellent frees.
Another south Roscommon club, Clann na Gael, are the only team to win a three-in-a-row -- they won six in succession in the 1980s -- but McStay's men will be hard to stop now in Connacht and their ambitions may well extend beyond provincial glory.
Scorers -- St Brigid's: F Dolan 0-6 (5f, 1'45'), S Kilbride 0-5 (3f), N Grehan, G Dolan, D Kelleher, D Donnelly 0-1 each. Salthill/Knocknacarra: S Armstrong 0-5 (3f), T Burke, E O'Mahony (f), D Tierney 0-1 each.
St Brigid's -- S Curran; R Stack, P Domican, J Murray; D Kelleher, D Donnelly, N Grehan; K Mannion, I Kilbride; G Cunniffe, G Dolan, E Sheedy; S Kilbride, F Dolan, R Blaine. Subs: D Sheehy for G Dolan (46), D Dolan for Blaine (54), Cathal McHugh for Grehan (54), Conor McHugh for Cunniffe (61).
Salthill/Knocknacarra -- C Connolly; C Begley, F Hanley, K Conlon; C Halloran, G Canavan, D O'Flaherty; D Tierney, J Boylan; A Kerins, S Armstrong, C Healy; S Crowe, B Conlon, T Burke. Subs: E O'Mahony for Crowe (6), S Gavin for O'Mahony (41), R Conlon for Burke (56), G O Leidhinn for O Flaherty (61), B Malone for B Conlon (61).
Ref -- Michael Duffy (Sligo).