Croker dream over as Pearse’s fight-back comes too late

Brothers Pearse's Croke park dream ended

All Ireland Club Junior Hurling Championship Quarter-Final

St Mogues (Wexford) 0-18
Brothers Pearse (London) 2-09

By Damian Dolan
at McGovern Park, Ruislip

Brothers Pearse manager PJ Rea had vowed his players would fight to the bitter end, and their never-say-die attitude very nearly brought them an unlikely victory at a bitterly cold McGovern Park on Saturday.

Despite playing most of the second half with just 14-men, following Graham O’Grady’s sending off, the Leinster and Wexford champions seemed to be coasting into the semi-finals as they led by eight points as the game entered injury-time.

But there was late drama, as first Kevin Reid fired home a free and then Philip Hogan guided the ball past Sean Foley. The impossible suddenly seemed possible.

There was still time for one last attack, but Pearse’s couldn’t conjure another opportunity and St Mogues and their enthusiastic following in the McGovern Stand could celebrate, but it was a far tighter run thing than it looked like being.

Rea could only lament that the goals had not arrived ten, or even just five, minutes earlier, but no one could argue that Mogues were not undeserving of their victory.

In Garrett Foley and Michael Dwyer they had the two best players on the pitch, while Mark Wallace’s freetaking, particularly in the second half, punished Pearse’s at almost every opportunity.

Brothers Pearse's Croke park dream ended

Pearse’s will just have to settle for the four trophies this season then, and the prospect of senior hurling next year will no doubt warm them over winter months, but as good as Mogues were the London side will perhaps rue not being able to make their extra man tell.

Padraig Muldoon’s thumping ‘hit’ on Ciaran Dwyer gave Wallace the first chance of points, but St Mogues’ placed-balls expert couldn’t take the opportunity.

He would err just once more in the game in an otherwise exemplary display of freetaking. Eoin Shiels took full advantage to open the scoring, but the Wexford side’s pacey forward line were already showing their threat. Wallace made no mistake with his second free attempt, and O’Grady edged the visitors ahead in the fifth minute. It was a lead the Leinster champions would ultimately never relinquish.

Pearse’s might have had a goal when Sean Foley batted out Shiels’ ball in, only for Danny Connolly’s soccer skills to let him down as he booted wide.

Battle-hardened by winning their way through Leinster, St Mogues’ greater sharpness was beginning to evidence itself against a Pearse’s side without a competitive game since their All Britain final win over Fullen Gaels four weeks earlier.

Brothers Pearse's Croke park dream ended

St Mogues were looking powerful and strong, and their passes were beginning to find their target with an almost telepathic understanding.

Ciaran Dwyer nearly played Edmund Power in on goal, only for Power to slip much to Pearse’s relief. Both sides would struggle all afternoon to master the greasy Ruislip surface, the result of a heavy frost that morning.

The excellent Michael Dwyer extended the Mogues lead, before Wallace’s run put Michael Dwyer in on goal, only for his shot to find the mid-rift of Mick Noonan in the Pearse’s goal.

Noonan was a replacement between the posts for Paul Egan, who broke a finger in training during the week. Michael Dwyer’s influence was growing.

First, he intelligently spread the play for O’Grady to point, before bisecting the uprights himself from wide on the left after being picked out by Garrett Foley’s free.

Pearses’s needed a reply and it came from Conor Kennedy, and Tony Clarke then added a free after Hogan was fouled. Pearses trailed by just two (0-5 to 0-2) but it felt like it should have been more.

Brothers Pearse's Croke park dream ended

Noonan produced a second excellent save to again deny Michael Dwyer from a tight angle, but the corner forward was fouled as he got his shot away and Wallace landed the resulting free.

From out on the right, Michael Dywer again showed his finishing ability, and Garrett Foley saw his effort come back off the post. Pearse’s were hanging in there a bit.

Hogan forced Sean Foley into a save from an acute angle after good play by Stephen Page, but they didn’t leave emptyhanded as Reid fired over the resulting ’65, and Pearse’s trailed by just three as the game entered first half injury- time. And it got even better for the home side.

Clarke despatched a free and with the last puck of the half Reid landed a massive free from inside his own half. For all of St Mogues’ threat, Pearse’s trailed by just 0-7 to 0-6 at the break.

Pearse’s had done well to hang on to the coattails of the Leinster champions, who must surely have felt they should have been further ahead. The second half would be defined by two massive incidents.

Brothers Pearse's Croke park dream ended

The first arrived just three minutes after the restart, after Garrett Foley had opened the second half scoring, when a contest for the ball on the ground left Niall Murphy needing treatment.

Referee Shane Hynes consulted with his linesman on the Stand side before brandishing a straight red in O’Grady’s direction for a loose hurley to the head of the Pearse’s half back.

O’Grady was a picture of devastation as he left the pitch, head in his hands. Could Pearse’s take advantage of their numerical superiority?

It seemed as if they had just moments later as Reid’s free into the danger area was batted into the Mogues’ net by Hogan, only for it to be ruled out for a square ball. That was the second incident. How might that have changed the game?

As it was, Pearse’s still had plenty of time to press home their advantage. At least in theory, the reality was somewhat different. Wallace added a brace of frees, with the visitors adapting quickly to O’Grady’s sending off. Clarke set up Hogan to hit back, but it was hard to see at times where Pearse’s extra man was.

Forward line

Garrett Foley was becoming ever more influential in the middle of the field, with Pearse’s unable to win enough ball to feed their forward line.

Garrett Foley won possession in midfield before setting up Michael Dwyer to point, although Clarke responded with a free. Not only were St Mogues looking comfortable, you’d be hard pressed to know they were down to 14-men.

Michael Dwyer knocked over a class point from wide on the left, and Garrett Foley followed that with an equally delicious strike. The Wexford side’s lead was up to five points and we were already inside the last ten minutes.

Pearse’s were in desperate need of inspiration, or a moment of brilliance. Clarke fired over, but Mogues seemed to be cruising to the finishing line when Wallace landed three frees in a row, with Pearse’s discipline being increasing tested as time slipped away.

Four minutes of added time were to be played and Garrett Foley immediately extended his side’s lead to 0-17 to 0-9.

 

But then came the comeback. Reid stepped up to drill a 21-yard free past Sean Foley and the plethora of red jerseys guarding the goal-line. Just a consolation goal for the home side it seemed.

Michael Dwyer replied, but Reid’s strike took on greater significance when Conor Kennedy managed to get the ball away under pressure in the direction of Hogan, and he steered it past Sean Foley and into the corner of the Mogues’ net. Game on.

All of a sudden just a goal separated the sides, and there was still time to play. But just as Pearse’s embarked on one final attack, Jason Joyce was dispossessed before he could launch one last-gasp Hail Mary, and St Mogues could exhale.

ST MOGUES: Sean Foley; Martin Power, Ruairi Tubritt, Damiel Mullan; Joe Sutton, Kevin Rowe, Richard Waters; Garrett Foley (0-3), John Tubritt; Edmund Power, Mark Wallace (0-7f), Daire Barden; Ciaran Dwyer, Graham O’Grady (0-2), Michael Dwyer (0-6). SUBS: Brian O’Donoghue for Power (60+1min), Darren Foley for Ciaran Dwyer (60+3min).

BROTHERS PEARSE: Mick Noonan; Joe Bermingham, Padraig Muldoon, Barry Smith; Declan Sexton, Kevin Reid (1- 2, 1-1f, 1×65), Niall Murphy; Stephen Frawley, Eoin Shiels (0-1); Jake Greaney, Philip Hogan (1-1), Stephen Page; Danny Connolly, Conor Kennedy (0-1), Tony Clarke (0- 4, 3f). SUBS: Jason Joyce for Greaney (h-t), Greaney for Murphy (35min – blood sub), Murphy for Greaney (47min – blood sub rev).

REFEREE: Shane Hynes (Galway).


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