The Andy Merrigan Cup will reside west of the Shannon for the third straight season after Salthill-Knocknacarra’s 0-07 to 0-06 triumph over St Gall's in today’s AIB All-Ireland Club Football final.
In front of 33,454 spectators at Croke Park, Salthill made it a Galway double - joining hurling champions Portumna - as they held off a late burst from the Antrim and Ulster champions.
Eoin O’Donnellan's side are the third Connacht winners of the football title in three years after the successes of Caltra (2004) and Ballina (2005).
Backed by a sizeable breeze, Salthill opened well and were two points to the good within nine minutes. Galway Club Footballer of the Year Seamie Crowe and Seamie Rabbitte, set up by Galway senior Sean Armstrong, kicked early overs.
But St Gall's, having beaten the Tyrone, Down, Derry, Cork and Munster champions on the road to the final, had reason to be confident. They landed the next three points to go 0-03 to 0-02 in front by the 22nd-minute.
Karl Stewart left-footed their opener between the posts on 18 minutes. Sean Burns followed suit with a free, moments later, and the same player, who struck 0-07 against Nemo in the semi-final, added another when a goal chance looked on after 22 minutes.
Salthill then squared it up with a point from Barry Dooney, who was back from suspension, and his fellow midfielder Maurice Sheridan, the team captain, kicked a late free to ensure a 0-04 to 0-03 lead for the Galway men at the interval.
The Connacht side continued their sudden dominance in front of goal when Rabbitte brilliantly pointed from an acute angle, a minute after the restart. Former Mayo star Sheridan added his second free to extend the Galway champions' lead to 0-06 to 0-03.
Following a Michael Donnellan-inspired attack and blocked shot from Rabbitte, Armstrong pointed after 42 minutes. Incredibly, Armstrong's white flag turned out to be Salthill-Knocknacarra’s final score of the afternoon.
Gall's, partly down to an excellent display from Salthill full-back Finian Hanley, who deservedly won the man of the match award, and some awful shooting, had to wait until the 56th-minute before hitting their first point of the second half.
However, just coming up to the hour mark, Salthill should have had a goal. A pinpoint pass from Donnellan played Armstrong into space but, with Crowe, a former team-mate of Robbie Keane’s at Wolves, unmarked to his left, Armstrong opted to go for a point and his attempt into the wind dropped short.
Kevin McGourty finally added to Gall's tally with a quickly taken free with four minutes of normal time remaining. Substitute Conor McGourty tagged on a brace of late frees on 59 and 61 minutes to suddenly make it a one-point game.
With just less than two minutes of injury time remaining, the Falls Road side looked to carve out another opportunity but some inspirational fielding from Sheridan and Donnellan, who looks set to be named as the new Galway senior captain, helped Salthill-Knocknacarra see out a famous victory.
Salthill-Knocknacarra: S Rabbitte, M Sheridan (2f) 0-02 each, S Crowe, B Dooney, S Armstrong 0-01 each.
St Gall's: C McGourty (2f), S Burns (1f) 0-02 each, K Stewart, K McGourty (1f) 0-01 each.