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Donnellan inspires Salthill to glory

Salthill 0-7 St Gall's 0-6 AIB Club SFC final THE shredding machine that has ripped up so many scripts in the last six months misfired for St Gall's at the wrong time as their AIB All-Ireland club football dream was literally blown away yesterday.

They looked poised for victory at half-time as they trailed by just a point, 0-4 to 0-3, with the aid of a very strong and bitingly cold breeze to come. Just a gentle shove early in the second half and it looked like they could get there.

But they quickly fell victims to their own tactical trademark as Salthill swarmed all over and eventually overwhelmed them with a level of industry and tenacity that Gall's hadn't reckoned with. It completed a glorious double for Galway clubs, only the third time ever that teams from the same county have claimed club titles in the one year.

For so much of the first half St Gall's were in control, they led by 0-3 to 0-2 after 22 minutes, but clearly fell into the trap of believing that the hard work was done when they turned over at the break in such a good position.

They hadn't reckoned, however, with Salthill's ability to adapt to conditions that they have become accustomed to at home. Even on more benign days the wind that whips up from Galway Bay across the pitch in Salthill could turn a mill!

Apart from the conditions the other chief factor in Salthill's success was the second half performance of Michael Donnellan.

Brilliant

Switched to midfield for the restart - captain Maurice Sheridan moved into full-forward - Donnellan was Salthill's brilliant guiding hand as they played their way out of trouble and crept into a four-point lead before St Gall's could respond.

From linking attacks to positioning himself just in front of his centre-back, Donnellan was the fulcrum for everything in the second half. His work-rate too was immense and even at the end he made a spectacular catch to break up a promising Gall's attack.

The Belfast side just didn't have an influential figure to match him. They showed tremendous spirit in the opening half with Kevin McGourty so prominent at half-forward and Mark McRory and Ciaran McCrossan taking such a firm hold in the middle.

Salthill were disappointing in the opening half. Sheridan never fired at midfield, Alan Kerins and Sean Armstrong were anonymous and they never got any momentum going with the wind at their backs.

But once Donnellan switched to midfield and began to dictate, they lifted their game impressively in every sector. Finian Hanley was immense at full-back, Gordon Morley was steady in front of him, while Marty O'Connell, Barry Dooney, Seamie Rabbitte and Armstrong all picked it up in a collective act of defiance that has been the hallmark of Gall's all season.

They edged four points clear - 0-7 to 0-3 - in the first 12 minutes of the second half and compounded Gall's growing frustration by holding them scoreless from the 22nd minute to the 56th minute when Kevin McGourty fired over a free.

Significantly all the St Gall's substitutes performed well which is something Rafferty might want to reflect on. One of three players introduced, Conor McGourty pointed two frees to set up a grandstand finish.

But inspired catches by Sheridan and Donnellan in the closing stages lifted Salthill again and they were able to prevail.

Sheridan credited Donnellan's second half performance and the effort of his defence for the win.

"It's all about winning, it doesn't matter how. I've been here in Croke Park with enough losing Mayo teams to know that," commented the winning captain.

MAN OF THE MATCH - M Donnellan.

SCORERS - Salthill-Knocknacarra: S Rabbitte 0-2, M Sheridan 0-2f, B Dooney, S Armstrong, S Crowe 0-1 each. St Gall's: C McGourty 0-2f, S Burns 0-2 (0-1f), K Stewart, Kevin McGourty (f) 0-1 each.

SALTHILL - C McGinley; R McTiernan, F Hanley, C Begley; M O'Connell, G Morley, B Geraghty; M Sheridan, B Dooney; A Kerins, M Donnellan, S Rabbitte; S Crowe, J Boylan, S Armstrong. Subs: A Callanan for Boylan (14), D Burke for Kerins (32), P J Kelly for Callanan (52), F McCann for Crowe (60), A McDermott for Geraghty (64).

ST GALL'S - R Gallagher; C Brady, S Kennedy, A Healey; G McGirr, S Kelly, P Gribben; M McRory, C McCrossan; A Gallagher, Kiernan McGourty, Kevin McGourty; S Kelly, K Stewart, Niblock. Subs: A McClean for McCrossan (37), T O'Neill for Stewart (49), C McGourty for Kiernan McGourty (53).

REF - D Coldrick (Meath).

ATT: 33,454.