Sallins secured their first major trophy for over nine years, defeating Grangenolvan in the Tom Cross SFL Division 3 final on a somewhat blustery Saturday evening in Hawkfield, writes Eoin Beatty.
Tom Cross Senior Football League Division 3 Final
The last time the men in green and white tasted major success was in 2003 when they marched to victory in the Junior ‘A’ Championship defeating suncroft.
Now, in 2012, they were led to the League final by Anthony Herbert, Michael McLoughlin, Michael O’Brien and John Heffernan, a quartet who had experience of playing in big games in handfuls.
As for Grange, they were coming into the game looking to cause an upset and unload, perhaps a certain amount of sportsman-like revenge on the Canal-Siders having been beaten by them twice in the league by the smallest of margins.
Three Conor Herbert points in quick succession set his team on their way before Damien Behan, Justin McLoughlin and Eamonn McCormack added to that tally with a point each respectively.
Grange at this point, looked both rattled and shell-shocked, but weren’t prepared to lie down without a fight. Keith Leigh landed a free kick on the fifteen minute mark to open the men in blue and yellow’s account for the evening.
With Player/Manager Eamonn Farrell issuing instructions from the sideline, Grange began to gain momentum and pile on the pressure on the Sallins rear-guard but couldn’t find a way to break down the resolute defensive unit. Keith Leigh did however manage to split the posts with another difficult free to cut Sallins’ lead even further.
The Sallins management team then opted for a different approach, putting midfielder Lar McKenna into full forward and the switch paid off immediately as McKenna rose above two defenders to knock the ball down to an on-rushing Eamonn McCormack who calmly slotted over.
It looked as though Sallins would have a commanding lead at the interval but that was not to be as Grange were awarded a penalty right on the stroke of the half time whistle, which Shane Dunne dispatched with aplomb to leave the score at 8 points to 1-2 at the break.
Sallins knew that by no means was this game over and acknowledged that they were now in a battle. Having lost McKenna through injury, Sean Corley was introduced as his replacement and made his mark on the game straight away with an excellently worked point.
Grange continued to keep up the pressure on Sallins and eventually broke them down as Nathan Doyle found the back of the net to ensure a nervy second half for Sallins.
However, the men in green and white found their rhythm once again and this proved pivotal. From then on in, it was one-way traffic as Sallins began knocking scores over at will with the pick of the bunch coming from Eamonn McCormack and Conor Herbert.
Speaking after the game, Sallins selector, Michael McLoughlin described this victory as being one of the proudest of his career, saying “We try to install a winning mentality and it’s evident here today that it has paid off. Words cannot describe how happy and proud I am for this group of lads, their commitment and enthusiasm is outstanding”.
Attention now turns to the Championship as Sallins face Rathangan and Grange lock horns with Clogherinkoe.
Dan Sweeney, Gavin Moore, Eoin Delmer, Wayne Farrell, John Boland, Emmet Ralph, Damien O’Keeffe, Mark Donnelly, Lar McKenna, Eamonn Cully, Damien Behan (0-4), Justin McLoughlin (0-1), Conor Herbert (0-4 2f), Eamonn McCormack (0-5), Eoin Ennis. Subs: Jack Sharkey (0-1) for Eoin Ennis, Sean Corley (0-1) for Lar McKenna (Inj), Paul Clifford for Eamonn Cully, Matthew Cluxton-Corley for Damien O’Keeffe.
Willie Clynch, JJ Grace, Jason Lambe, Kevin Peters, Ian Costigan, Paddy O’Brien (0-1), Tommy Nolan, Mark Brennan, Eddie O’Brien, Keith Leigh (0-2f), Shane Dunne (1-0), Killian Deere, Wayne Dooley (0-1), Lar Nolan, Nathan Doyle (1-0). Subs: Eamonn Farrell for Killian Deere, Johnny Mannion for Eddie O’Brien, Kevin Casey for Tommy Nolan.
Dave Coady (Ballykelly).