GAA London Ardent Tide SHC Final
Last gasp Gabriels deny Kilburn
St Gabriels 1-14
Kilburn Gaels 2-08
By David Hennessy
It looked like Kilburn Gaels had just done enough to beat Gabriels to a coveted Senior Championship, as the 2010 champions led by the narrowest of margins as the game headed into its final moments.
Then it looked like things could be going to a replay with Martin Finn emulating Joe Canning from the All-Ireland final some weeks back with a free that levelled things up late on.
But St Gabriels, denied by Robert Emmetts in last year’s Ruislip decider, were determined to avenge that defeat and return to the top of the pile for the first time in three years and it was John Grealish who had the final say with an expertly dispatched late goal that broke Kilburn hearts.
Kilburn were slight favourites heading into this final due to Gabriels not looking themselves at times throughout the season. On the other hand, Kilburn had looked strong at all times and had that extra motivation of playing for their team mate Cathal Forde, who tragically passed away earlier this year.
The game was hardly a minute old before Martin Finn drove the ball over the bar from long range with only his first puck of the ball. Matthew Fitzsimion wasted no time in adding a point of his own and it was obvious from the outset that Gabriels were up for this match, with Aidan Ryan causing the Kilburn defence problems with his probing balls up field.
Kilburn settled as the game went on and Donie Reale hit back with two frees but these were answered by two from Martin Finn. Finn had the opportunity to put a bit of breathing space between the teams but was then uncharacteristically inaccurate with a number of frees.
Finn was also put through on goal by Luke Hands and one-on-one with the Kilburn goalkeeper John Joe Burke, you would have bet on the London talisman to raise a green flag, but Burke denied him with some brave goalkeeping.
A Neil Coady point brought his team’s tally to five as the interval approached. Kilburn found a couple of scores in order to go in trailing by just a point. First Colm Quinn sent a long range free over the bar and then James Egan pointed after being set up by Henry Vaughan. Gabriels lead 0-5 to 0-4 at the break but there was little in it and could go either way.
As the second half got underway, it looked like Finn had relinquished free taking duties with Pat Sloane taking over. Sloane pointed his first effort but also let some go astray.
Then the Gabriels were rocked by a hammer blow. Tony Dunne crossed the ball in and Donie Reale got the ball in hand to drive it past Aidan Ryan in the Gabriels goal. The first goal in this game was always going to be of utmost importance and how Gabriels responded would test their character.
Although he had not looked his usual self, Martin Finn returned to free taking duty when Gabriels needed him and hit the placed ball that levelled things up again. A Matthew Fitzsimion point that followed would then restore their slender lead.
With the game delicately balanced, James Egan struck back for Tom Bergin’s team only for Finn and the other Egan, Shane to find scores that opened up a three point gap between the teams. It looked like Gabriels may just run out comfortable winners but Kilburn were never going to surrender so easily.
First James Egan ran through to point despite the efforts of PJ Rowe to stop him. Then Colm Quinn pointed a long range free and then they hit Gabriels with another hammer blow. Donie Reale laid the ball off to Henry Vaughan who found the net.
Leading by two points and with the clock running down, the cup seemed to have Kilburn’s name on it and the dejection was evident among those on the Gabriels bench.
However, there was to be another twist in the tale. When John Grealish and Conor Sexton combined to set up Gerard Wynne with a goal opportunity, another fine John Joe Burke save denied him.
However, Finn could once again be relied upon with a free and a 65 that dragged his team back level. He would do the same when Colm Quinn hit another long range free with accuracy. It looked like a replay may be necessary to separate these two teams but then with the game entering injury time, Aidan Ryan’s long free up field was plucked from the air by substitute John Grealish.
Grealish beat Burke with his rocket of a shot and with very little time left for Kilburn to respond, he had won the crown of county champions for his team in the most dramatic fashion possible.
It was very difficult to single out a Gabriels player for man of the match. Finn and Sloane did not look the great players we know them to be, while still contributing greatly to their triumph. PJ Rowe was dealing with everything that came his way at centre back, while Enda Cooney was bossing the midfield like he normally does.
Had things worked out differently, John Joe Burke would have been the choice of many but his opposite number Aidan Ryan was impressive and inspirational with his play. At fault for neither Kilburn goal, Ryan’s powerful drives up field often put Kilburn on the back foot and finally created their winning goal. Key to Gabriels’ victory is their spirit and character as they never let the heads drop and Ryan was leading by example as a captain should.
You have to feel for Kilburn Gaels especially after the year they have had and the cruel way in which they lost. However, they will be back.
St Gabriels: Aidan Ryan, Neil Coady (0-1), Brian Costello, Frankie Tierney, Eoghan McKeigue, PJ Rowe, Enda Collins, Enda Cooney, Neil Rogers, Luke Hands, Matthew FItzsimion (0-2), Pat Sloane (0-1f), Kevin Walsh, Martin Finn (0-9, 6f, 1×65), Shane Egan (0-1). Subs: Gerard Wynne for Hands, Conor Sexton for Fitzsimion, John Grealish (1-0) for Cooney.
Kilburn Gaels: John Joe Burke, Stephen O’Connell, Kevin Campion, Seamus Richardson, Chris McAlinden, Colm Quinn (0-3f), Keith Kennedy, Roy Darcy, Noel MacDonald, Tony Dunne, James Egan (0-3), Henry Vaughan (1-0), Eoin Gleeson, Jonathan Maher, Donie Reale (1-2, 2f).