Shalloe Pearse: 0-06
By Adam Shaw
A thirty-man plus brawl in the closing stages of an ill-tempered match marred Tir Chonail Gael’s victory over Shalloe Pearse at Greenford.
A late challenge from Killian Butler on Phillip Hogan prompted retaliation from Pearse’s captain Kevin Reid before all players and staff waded in with fists, heads and feet. After the melee, which spanned a good five minutes, the referee awarded a hop ball and chose not to punish anyone from either side.
Aside from the match defining scrap, TCG were worthy winners as their swift interchanges overcame Pearse’s brute strength. Butler was involved throughout; driving his team forward at every opportunity and working particularly well with Ryan Elliott.
And their other London inter-county player, Gavin McEvoy, made his own telling contribution with a superb stop from Connor Kennedy as the visitors threatened to stage a comeback.
Butler got his team up and running with a long range point after three minutes, before he added a free seconds later.
TCG continued to assert their authority and were rewarded with a goal when Butler’s 30-yard pass found Elliott who popped it up for Gerard Geraghty to plant the ball past Eoghain Collins.
Another strong Butler run brought another foul, and the Gaels’ star man picked himself up to land the free. Pearse refused to alter their gameplan of getting the ball quickly to their full forward Kennedy before rushing to support him.
Two close efforts suggested that it was a tactic worth pursuing and they were vindicated when Reid found Kennedy in space and the big man fed Liam Ryan who was brought down for a free in front of the posts. Andrew Lavery completed the score and the away side were on the board.
TCG quickly stole back the initiative with another Butler free and they should have gone further ahead when Elliott found himself through on goal but inexplicably hit the post from a few yards out. He did make amends as the game approached halftime; picking up the loose ball after Butler went looking for a free and slotting it through the posts from a difficult angle.
With a similar move to their previous score, Pearse had the final say of the half as Kennedy rose highest to catch Sean Madigan’s punt and was illegally smothered, allowing Lavery to notch the free.
A change of ends gave Pearse the advantage of the wind behind them and the slope of the pitch in their favour. They utilised these conditions from the off as the classic midfield- Kennedy combination brought another score – this time Madigan providing the support and completing the move.
Butler missed his first free of the match from the left-hand touchline but was given another opportunity soon after and made certain the second time around. Kennedy was then rewarded for his tireless contribution with a point of his own, his perseverance in chasing the loose ball leading to the opportunity.
TCG soon settled down once more and a stunning, defence-splitting pass from Rory Jennings allowed Liam Cunningham to open his personal account.
First signs of tension
A series of wides from both teams was halted when substitute Dean Bruin became the latest player to benefit from Kennedy’s hold-up play. And with their tails up, Pearse sensed it was a case of now or never – it very nearly paid off when Kennedy turned his marker and had the goal at his mercy.
McEvoy made himself big, however, and palmed the ball away and though the ball found its way to Peter Wright, his first-time strike sailed wide of the goal. The first real signs of tension and pent-up frustration came to the fray as the game entered the final five minutes.
A number of cynical challenges resulted in tough free opportunities for both sides, which Reid and Elliott duly scored. TCG looked to finish with a flourish, and a hand passed point from Jennings opened up a six point advantage before Elliott was brought down inside the area.
The corner forward took the kick himself, expertly placing the ball in the bottom left-hand corner. This piece of skill, and all before it, was ultimately overshadowed by the huge fight that exploded after Butler’s infringement with seconds left on the clock.
Tongue-in-cheek calls for the match to be abandoned from the Pearse bench and cries of disbelief from the spectators saw things gradually calm down. And to the credit of those involved, which was practically everyone, the incident was settled with handshakes and apologies all round.
The talking point was obvious, but in terms of onfield play, TCG ultimately had more ideas and a few more standout players, which was enough to see them home.
TIR CHONAIL GAELS: Gavin McEvoy; Patrick O’Connor, Jack Elliott, Antonio Pisano; Rory Jennings (0-01), Killian Butler (0-05, 4f), Gerard Geraghty (1-00); Ryan Kearney, Ewan Vassallo; Kieran Clarke, Aidan McGarvey, Conor McCarthy; Liam Cunningham (0-01), Donal Geraghty, Ryan Elliott (1-02, 1f)
SHALLOE PEARSE: Eoghain Collins; Peter Wright, Padraig Muldoon, Duncan Gallon; Joe Birmingham, Shane Kelly, Paul Moore; Kevin Reid (0-01, 1f), Stephen Page; Phillip Hogan, Andrew Lavery (0-02, 2f), Sean Madigan (0- 01); Liam Ryan, Connor Kennedy (0-01), Hugh Haughian. SUB: Dean Bruin (0-01)