Sunshine Day For Under 16s
Oughterard 0 Salthill Devon 3
by Bob McDonald
Salthill Devon Under 16s turned in a blistering second-half display of passing and possession football, coupled with clinical finishing and a key substitution by manager Kenny Gavin, to blow away the challenge from a game but technically-inferior Oughterard side in this Connacht Cup semi-final at Oughterard.
The omens were not good for Gavin’s side from the off. Salthill Devon fielded a weakened side, away from home to a physically bigger and stronger side. Indeed at least three of the Oughterard players towered over their seaside opponents. There were five Salthill Devon starters, including Irish international centre-half, Evan Murphy, missing in this game–on duty with their school teams–but Gavin dipped into his Under 15 reserves to plug the gap. The gulf in class emerged within minutes of the kick-off as Salthill Devon played balls to feet and had the Oughterard side chasing shadows for much of the game.
For long periods of this game, Oughterard just could not get the ball from Salthill Devon as the strong midfield axis of Captain Finian O’ Laoi, Caimin Rooney and Kevin Cahalan completely dominated. Still there were worries for Gavin as his side struggled to create clear-cut chances.
The normally effective Ciaran Nugent seemed subdued and Gavin switched him to the right wing but still he struggled to get a clear run at his marker. In the first thirty minutes of this game, good chances fell to the tall Dan Kenny for Oughterard which he blazed wide and to Ben Cahill for Salthill Devon who forced a good save from the Oughterard keeper, Eoin Talbott.
This game was played in wonderful sunshine and even though it finished nil-all at half time, one felt it was only a matter of time before Salthill Devon took the lead. Manager Gavin Concurred after the game:
“I felt the first half was a little scrappy, we dominated but didn’t really get our game going.”
But that all changed in the second half when the industrious Caimin Rooney launched a wonder-strike from fully 25 yards out to strike the underside of the bar and leave the keeper with no chance. Minutes later, the best player on the pitch, the talented Kevin Cahalan, came close with another long-range effort but his shot whizzed just over the bar.
By now Ciaran Nugent had arrived in the game and was playing puck with his marker on the right wing. One could see why Gavin was so anxious to get Nugent into the game. He is a big, physical winger with a great burst of speed who can create havoc in any defence. He came close when he took the ball on his head in the area, beat two men and drove the ball just wide. Oughterard immediately began to make substitutions and began playing direct football into the box for their tall strike force. The policy paid dividends and Dan Kenny and Eoin Kelly Had chances but it just wasn’t their day. One effort by Kenny, which saw him with only the keeper to beat, produced a wonder-save from Salthill’s James Grealis which, crucially, maintained his side’s lead.
At this stage Gavin introduced number 12 Mark Wynne to the game and he seemed to give more structure to the Salthill Devon attack.
Said Gavin afterwards: “I told Mark he could impact the game and he certainly did that. I felt he improved us no end when he came on.”
The second goal came when Robert Finnerty combined with Kevin Cahalan for Finnerty to produce a second great strike.
The third goal came from striker Ben Cahill when he chipped the ball left of the keeper from inside the box and put matters beyond doubt. Still Oughterard battled and their direct play did yield some chances. Manager Gavin will be glad to see his regular centre-half back on duty in the final–defence was the one area where Salthill Devon looked vulnerable on occasions.
The final will be played in Moyne Villa, Headford on the May Bank Holiday weekend. Salthill Devon’s opponents will be the winners of Galway Hibernians and Westport United.
Salthill Devon: James Grealis, Jack Brown, Adam Fitzgerald, David Carter, Robert Finnerty, Finian O’Laoi (Captain), Conor O’ Flaherty, Caimin Rooney, Ben Cahill, Kevin Cahalan, Ciaran Nugent, Mark Wynne, Paddy Donohoe, Bryan Ndego.
Referee: Mr. PJ Norman.
MVP Award Kevin Cahalan.