Provincial Championship of Great Britain JHC Final
Brothers Pearse: 3-18
Fullen Gaels: 2-10
By Martin Mannering at Parc na hEireann
An exhibition of long range scoring in the first half laid the platform for Brothers Pearse to claim the All Britain Junior Hurling Championship title at Parc na hEireann on Sunday.
That along with a rock-solid defence and powerful displays up front from Phil Hogan and Connor Kennedy gave the London side the edge. It must be added, though, that the final scoreline doesn’t truly reflect the contest as twice Fullen Gaels battled back from close to oblivion to still be right in the game going into the final quarter.
Pearse’s, with the brisk wind at their backs, showed their intent from the word go when Declan Sexton dropped it long into Kennedy in the opening 30 seconds, and the Tipperary man collected and fired over. He repeated the act moments later this time with Stephen Page the supplier.
Three minutes in, James Fitzmaurice got the Gaels on the board from a free after a foul on JJ Dunphy. Phil Hogan quickly made his first mark on the game collecting Sexton’s sideline cut and firing over.
Stephen Duncan and Owen Shiels traded two long range efforts, with Shiels’ score coming after a superb catch from a Fullen Gaels puck-out. Fitzmaurice hit another free for the Gaels before Hogan produced a sublime effort on the volley, as the ball broke up over his shoulder from a challenge between Nathan Unwin and Jake Greany.
All this happened in a breathless opening ten minutes, but the next ten were to tell a very different story as Pearse’s took a grip on things. Hogan was having a blinder and won a free which Tony Clarke pointed before hitting another beauty from way out. Stephen Page, Owen Shiels and Danny Connelly all got in on the act with points hit from the edge of the parish.
Hogan’s fourth put nine points between the sides, as the Gaels struggled to stay in the tie. That they did so is testament to their character and captain Greg Jacob, who urged his troops to rally.
Through the final eight minutes of the half they actually took the upper hand with James Fitzmaurice powering through the centre to firstly point and then win a close in free which Paddy Duggan tapped over. He then hit another himself from further out, after Martin Hawley was infringed upon, to send his side in at the break trailing by 0-12 to 0-6.
Fullen Gaels made a promising start to the second half with the wind in their favour and though they missed a couple of early chances a breakthrough came four minutes in. Paddy Duggan floated a sideline cut in from the right which keeper Paul Egan did well to bat away, but Damien O Grady was on hand to rifle home.
Before the Lancashire side had any chance to build momentum, however, they were rocked when Kennedy had the ball in the net at the other end within a minute.
The Gaels had moved Liam Knocker to full back after the early scores from Kennedy to negate his physical strength and he had made a fine job of it for most of the first half. On this occasion, though, Kennedy rose to collect Owen Shiels’ long ball and turned to drive past Darragh O Brien.
Tony Clarke fired over a point with Hogan and Kennedy soon adding to their respective tallies. But the Gaels, again looking over the cliff, refused to buckle and Fitzmaurice drove forward, latching on to another Duggan sideline, and lashed the ball to the net.
Three long-range scores from Paddy Duggan, substitute Sean Hannon and wing back Nathan Unwin had brought it back to a three-point game early into the final quarter, and it was game on again. Centre half Kevin Reid, who had a splendid second half, prompted his side back into gear with some lovely distribution and it was his long drive into the square that broke from the pack for Kennedy to strike home his second goal.
A sublime free from Tony Clarke from way out on the sideline seemed to finally break the Gaels’ spirits and Pearse’s gradually pulled away over the home straight.
Mike Noonan entered the fray for the final few minutes and rubbed salt into Lancashire wounds when his sideline cut deceived all and sundry to nestle in the net. As said at the top, the scoreline did scant justice to the Gaels’ efforts.
They defended heroically at times with Greg Jacobs, Liam Knocker and Nathan Unwin leading the resistance, while Fitzmaurice excelled at midfield. But despite the best efforts of the forwards they never got out of the clutches of the winner’s defence.
It speaks volumes for Pearse’s back unit that O Grady’s goal was the only score they conceded from play to Fullen’s starting six forwards. Padraig Muldoon was a tower at full back with Joe Berminghan and Barry Smith sweeping up.
The half-back line was identical with Kevin Reid flanked by Declan Sexton and Niall Murphy. The most striking factor was their strength down the spine of the team, with Shiels and Stephen Frawley at midfield, and Hogan and Kennedy at centre and full forward respectively.
The speed merchants also did their part most effectively and Brothers Pearse can now look forward to an All Ireland quarter-final against the Leinster champions.
BROTHERS PEARSE: Paul Egan; Joe Bermingham, Padraic Muldoon, Barry Smith; Declan Sexton, Kevin Reid, Niall Murphy; Stephen Frawley, Owen Shiels (0-2); Jake Greaney, Phil Hogan (0-5), Stephen Page (0-1); Danny Connelly (0-2), Conor Kennedy (2-3), Tony Clarke (0-5, 4f). SUBS: Mike Noonan (1-0) for Hogan, Jason Joyce for Greaney.
FULLEN GAELS: Darragh O Brien; Liam Knocker, Justin Cleere, John Hughes, Simon Wallace, Greg Jacob, Nathan Unwin (0-1), James Fitzmaurice (1-4, 3f), Stephen Duncan (0-1), Paddy Duggan (0-2f), JJ Dunphy, Daire Maskey, Shane Dunne, Martin Hawley, Damian O Grady (1-0). SUBS: Sean Hannon (0-1) for O Grady, Sean Power for Maskey, Tommy Duane (0-1) for Dunne, Cathal McKillop for knocker.