Salthill Devon Under 16s Bow Out
by Kenny Gavin
Salthill Devon 16s, travelled to Tralee, Co Kerry last Sunday morning for a last 8 SFAI Barry Cup tie vs St Brendan’s Park, Tralee known locally as ‘Park’.
Salthill Devon had a full squad to choose from with the exception of team captain, Davy Carter, who is sidelined until July with a fractured ankle. On arrival at the ground in Tralee, it was evident that this was a very big day for the home side and home support arrived in their droves.
The wind picked up slightly at kick off began, and Captain for the day, James Grealis opted to play with the elements in the first half. The game started at a frantic pace, with the home side getting the better of the opening exchanges. Park were a very physical team who play direct football and play off openings or knock-downs. Devon started to get to grips with the game and slowly became the dominant side as Evan Murphy & Finian O’Laoi dominated at centre back and Robert Finnerty and Dessie Connelly at full back came more into the game. Dessie Conneely hailing from Newtown, Moycullen and also a handball All-Ireland champion was providing excellent precise delivery with his long throws and there were opportunities for Devon to open the scoring. Perhaps, the gilt-edged chance for Salthill Devon in the opening half was a superb 40-yard delivery in Xabi Alonso style from Evan Murphy to Ben Cahill who has been a serious threat all season. On this occasion though, Ben just took a touch too wide of the keeper and was unable to finish to the net.
A succession of excellent corners by Ross Murphy led to panic in the Park defense and again there was chances for Devon to break the deadlock. Devon needed to score as they would be playing uphill and against a growing breeze in the second half and Ross Murphy duly delivered just before half time. A long-range free-kick delivered with the sweetest of left-footed strikes ended up in the top corner. This goal was no fluke as this was the fourth time in successive seasons that Murphy scored such a goal. Ciaran Nugent down the right flank was causing significant damage but with better decision-making, he too could and probably should have increased Devon’s lead at the break. 1-0 then at half time.
The players knew at half time that the second half would be a test and also knew that Devon were by far the superior footballing side but with a large crowd and tetchy referring decisions, and a more physical Park side, there was nothing won yet.
The second half opened as the first half ended and Salthill Devon really should have scored with an almost-open goal but an acute angle meant it wasn’t to be. Would Salthill Devon rue these missed chances as the game wore on?
Devon’s midfield trio of Caimin Rooney, Adam Fitzgerald and Kevin Cahalan battled gallantly but the sheer physical difference of the two sides and the momentum with the home side made it very difficult. With 12 minutes remaining and Park in the ascendency a lack of communication in the Devon defense, for once, enabled the substitute striker to nick in and finish to the net to make the tie one-all. The westerners had to baton down the hatches which they did and saw the game end in normal time at one-all.
Into Extra time, Salthill Devon played against the elements and held out in the opening period. David Patton was introduced to try to win the game with his speed and finishing ability. A needless free-kick was conceded by Salthill in a rare Park attack. A good delivery into the Devon box and a blatant push enabled the Park attacker to head the ball and it looped over Devon custodian James Grealis and trickled over the line. The home fans were joyous, Salthill Devon introduced Mark Wynne into the attack and although forcing a number of corners late on with everyone pushed on, into overtime, Park broke clear, Finian O’Laoi got back to challenge the attacker in the box and although winning the ball, the tackle was judged to be from behind, a penalty awarded and a second yellow, meaning red card for the Devon centre-half. The score line read 3-1 but this would not be an accurate reading of the game.
The home side to be fair, were industrious, strong spirited, physical but never dirty and will be difficult to beat on their home patch. A few days reflection for this Salthill Devon side who know that this was really a game that should have been closed off early in the second half. The disappointment was evident of the faces of squad and management but the season doesn’t end here. Salthill Devon will meet Westport in a re-arranged Connacht Cup final and they play near neighbours Knocknacarra in the Galway Premier Cup Final on Friday 9th May.
The squad & management would like to sincerely thank the parents and family members who made the voyage south to support the side. There were a number of good wishes text messages of support to the management en-route and messages of sympathy after the game.