Tir Chonaill Gaels are London senior football champions for a record-breaking 16th time after a pulsating win over final debutants St Kiernans.
By Fiona O’Brien
After the game Gaels’ president Paddy Burke said ‘you never get sick of winning’ which was made clearer with the Gaels’ hearty celebrations at regaining their crown at the final whistle.
In his celebratory speech upon accepting the cup captain Marty McCoy paid tribute to the fine performance of the Kiernans, empathising with them for their narrow loss in extremely blustery conditions.
Watch his speech here:
He noted their first appearance in a Senior final and said that ‘sometimes you have to lose before you can win’. But it was a match the Kiernans could have just have easily have won on their debut, and was probably lost over the course of five minutes around the third killer goal from TCG.
It would be patronising to state that Kiernans held their own, or proved their worth with their performance, they had proved that on merit by reaching the decider, but were agonisingly close to picking up their first senior title.
But in the end it was the experience and composure in front of the posts from the Gaels that saw them over the line.
Before the game, it would have been laughable to suggest that there would be a total of 26 scores with the howling wind, but it just went to show the quality of play in one of the better county finals in recent memory, with four black cards, a sending off and many wides showing how action-packed of an hour it was.
Kiernans opened the scoring on four minutes with a pointed free from Kenneth Sweeney. It was a set-play that the Gaels would respond with as Mark Gottsche expertly measured the wind against him and across the goal to put over his ‘45’ attempt after a period of heavy Kiernans dominance.
But they had not made the most of their wind advantage in converting ball to scores. Hanlon added another free soon afterwards before the game saw its first goal as the Dungloe man ran onto a Niall Boyle ball to bury his shot in Brian O’Leary’s top corner.
But Kiernans responded immediately when their player-of-the- match Greg Lyons looped a high ball into the square where Cathal Og Greene emerged highest and quickest to punch it into the back of the net. Goalscorer Hanlon was black-carded moments afterwards before Irish TV’s ‘Man of the Match’ Cathal Magee set up Seamus Friel for the Gaels’ second goal.
At the beginning of a purple spell for the Kiernans, Adrian Moyles sailed an impressive long- range shot over the bar, before the impressive Danny Ryan powered down the left wing to open his own account. It wasn’t long before the Kiernans would suffer a blow as Tom Waters got his marching orders, just minutes after using his strength to make a crucial block on fellow London- born player Liam Gavaghan.
His side would go on to take more unanswered scores however to pull back the deficit from the second goal, first through Michael O’Donoughue. Continuously driving on they won a free, which Sweeney took with great authority from a tight angle.
It gave them a one- point lead at half-time as the score stood 1-6 to 2-2, but with the Gaels still in breathing distance after playing against the strong wind, it looked as if it would take a huge effort for the Mill Hill club to hold onto this.
They flew out of the blocks in the second half, and put an early shot wide, as they set about gauging the direction and speed of the wind. Then, was the next black card as Gavaghan, one of the Gaels’ star players in midfield this year, used too much force as he pulled Greg Lyons to the ground, as he continued to cause problems when running from the half-back line.
Immediately afterwards Tir Chonaill broke from play and ran at the Kiernans defence, and a Greene challenge on McCoy, was later punished by Beano Collins after he correctly played the advantage for Friel to take his score, before goalscorer Greene was black carded.
But still undeterred, Lyons again drove in on goal, and may have got it if the wind hadn’t have carried his thundering shot off and over the bar. He, Danny Ryan and Stephen Curran must be commended for their relentless play to link up with the forwards after Waters’ departure from the field.
Tit-for-tat frees from Sweeney and McGrath scoring another each, before Tir Chonaill Gaels went on a scoring spree that would ultimately seal their win. Boyle was first from mid-range, before a wayward kick-out found Magee for a second. They had secured a 2-06 to 1-08 lead by this stage but club captain Peter Finn found an equaliser, coming off the bench, as he fisted over a soaring assist.
The next play, no more than five minutes after Boyle’s impressive point came the killer blow. Boyle was freed on the left wing and crept his way goal-ward before fumbling the ball on his way in.
He proceeded to regain possession of the ball before setting up Brian Duddy on the far post for a sloppy goal. The Kiernans claimed that Boyle had picked the ball straight off the ground, but after little consulting from the umpires and referees the green flag was raised and the game ushered on.
All was not lost however as Kiernans’ top-scorer for the season Moyles pulled the deficit back to just two as he pointed a free against the breeze soon afterwards. But they would never really catch up again, with their few scoring chances always responded to by the Gaels.
But there was still an air of hope, as Chris Byrne and Mort Reidy urged their players from the sideline to continue to run at the Gaels, clearly feeling they had the makings of a comeback.
Captain McCoy got the next for the Gaels before O’Donoughue duly responded with his own, which was immediately negated by a Friel pointed free. Ryan, one of his team’s best performers, then ran in on goal to defy the heavy Ruislip breeze and get himself on the scoreboard.
The influential McCoy would set up the next for his Tir Chonaill Gaels side, who with this win clinch their seventh title in just 11 seasons, as he finely passed to Magee for his second score from long-range, using the wind to his advantage.
Kiernans would lose corner forward Michael O’Donoghue for kicking out at Gaels’ full-back Philip Butler, with a straight red card.
The game seemed to have fizzled out by this stage, with the Kiernans players losing hope at the mammoth four-point deficit in the game’s dying minutes, but despite a lengthy period of additional time the Gaels would hang on, with Magee’s score proving to be the final point.
Tir Chonaill Gaels now face Clonmel Commercials, who won the Munster Championship with a last gasp goal, 20 seconds from the full-time whistle, against Cork’s Nemo Rangers. The Tipperary team travel to Ruislip for their All-Ireland quarter-final clash on Saturday, December 12.
TIR CHONAILL GAELS: Declan Traynor; Eamon McConville, Philip Butler, Brendan McAtarnsey; Gary Magee, Ronan Breen, Marty McCoy (0-1); Mark Gottsche (0-1, 1 ‘45’), Liam Gavagan; Adam Askin, Cathal Magee (0-2), Niall Boyle (0-1); Brian Duddy (1-0), Seamus Friel (1-3 2f), Adrian Hanlon (1-1, 1f)
SUBS: John McGrath (0-1, 1f) for Hanlon (black card), Anthony McDermott for Gavaghan (black card), Ashley Carr for Duddy, Brian Ross for G Magee, Brian Collins for McAtarnsey, Ryan Kearney for Askin.
ST KIERNAN’S: Brian O’Leary; Patrick Begley, Ian McGough, Dara Quinn; Danny Ryan (0-1), Stephen Curran, Greg Lyons (0-1); Tom Waters, James Moran; Mark Mulholland, Cathal Og Greene (1-0), Liam McKenna (0-1); Adrian Moyles (0-2, 1f), Kenneth Sweeney (0-4, 3f), Michael O’Donoghue (0-2)
SUBS: Michael Callery for Waters (black card), Peter Finn (0-1) for Greene (black card), Liam Donoughue for Mulholland.