Mulligan to the rescue to earn Fulham replay

Mulligan to the rescue to earn Fulham replay
Photo: Sheila Fernandes

The Irish World Senior Football Championship Final

Fulham Irish 1-14
Tir Chonaill Gaels 1-14

By Damian Dolan
At McGovern Park, Ruislip

Fulham Irish and Tir Chonaill Gaels will do it all again next Sunday at McGovern Park after 60 pulsating and absorbing minutes of football couldn’t separate them.

Both will have reason to feel they left it behind them last Sunday, but ultimately it was the holders, Fulham, who conjured three points in four added minutes of injury-time to force next Sunday’s replay, and give themselves another crack at making it back-to-back titles.

Twelve months after kicking the winning point in the 2017 final between these sides, Owen Mulligan was again at the centre of things – the former Tyrone star knocking over a free with the penultimate kick before referee Mattie Maher’s whistle meant the first London SFC final to go a replay since 2009.

Tir Chonaill came out on top on that occasion, against Neasden, and Paul Coggins’ side will be hoping that history repeats itself.

They’ll also know that they were within touching distance of lifting the cup last Sunday, and negating the need for a replay.

Killian Butler edged the Gaels into a 1-12 to 1-11 lead in the 51st minute after Liam Gavaghan had drifted off his man and into space.

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Patient build up play then ended with Killian Butler doubling the Gaels’ lead, and when Brendan Friel kept his composure to fire over in the 59th minute the Greenford side had one hand on the cup, and a first senior title since 2016.

Peadar Friel flashed a low shot across the face of Gavin McEvoy’s goal and it seemed that it wasn’t to be Fulham’s day.

Few would have thought that after the opening ten minutes when the champions surged into a 1-5 to 0-1 lead, fuelled by David Givney’s goal after just 60 seconds.

But then Givney got a crucial touch to a ball in, which had McEvoy back-peddling. Suddenly Fulham had renewed hope, and the Gaels suddenly seemed edgy.

Mulligan to the rescue to earn Fulham replay
Photo: Sheila Fernandes

With good reason. Liam Staunton landed a free and the gap was down to just one. But Fulham’s chance seemed to have gone when Staunton, who had an excellent game, then fired wide with another placed ball.

Not so. The Gaels went short with the kick-out and when the ball went loose, Ronan Breen was forced to drag down Michael Murphy. Breen saw a straight red, but might have saved a goal.

Enter stage left, Mulligan to tap the ball over the bar to level the game. McEvoy’s kick-out was the last of a pulsating game that certainly lived up to its billing.

The Gaels will undoubtedly feel they left it behind them, while Fulham will rue not being able to build on their fantastic start, when they threatened to steamroll straight over the Gaels.

The only winner’s on the day were the punters, who will get to savour another 60 minutes of enthralling action next Sunday. More of the same will be the request.

 

Fulham couldn’t have asked for a better start. After Hanlon had fired wide, Staunton drilled a ball into Givney, who gathered with ease above his man, before turning and firing low past an exposed McEvoy. The clock had just ticked on to 60 seconds.

Staunton added a brace of frees, before a Gavaghan free opened the Gaels’ account.

All pace and power, Fulham were beginning to move through the gears. Ronan Sloan’s run set up Lorcan Mulvey and he cracked one against McEvoy’s crossbar.

Staunton (free) and Mulvey fisted over after breezing away from his marker. Staunton added a lovely score from the left hand sideline and Fulham led by 1-5 to 0-1. We’d played only nine minutes.

When Staunton then put a free wide, one had to look twice just to be sure.

Gavaghan started the fightback with a super strike, which Hanlon then followed up from Brian Mullin’s ball.

Fulham appeals for a penalty were waived away when Mulvey and Givney both hit the deck amidst some scrambling Gaels defence.

Mulligan to the rescue to earn Fulham replay
Photo: Sheila Fernandes

After such a frenetic start, it was little wonder the game then entered a lull. But that seemed to favour the Gaels, who were slowly beginning to gain a foothold.

Mullin’s run ended with Ryan Elliott pointing to make it 1-5 to 0-4 and the Gaels should have been back to within a point when Killian Butler squared it to Hanlon, only for his shot to hit the inside of the post and stay out.

Murphy’s score – set up by some skilful play by Givney – was Fulham’s first for 13 minutes.

Fulham’s physical midfield had been negated by McEvoy’s quick, and short, kick-outs. No chance for Fulham to smoother the Gaels and pin them in their own half, as they had Round Towers in their semi-final.

Getting plenty of ball, the Gaels finished the half by far the stronger, claiming four of the remaining five scores to see Fulham go in at the break leading by 1-7 to 0-8. The holders had managed just two scores since the ninth minute.

Mulligan to the rescue to earn Fulham replay
Photo: Sheila Fernandes

They were indebted to an excellent block from Roger Morgan straight from the throw in, as Killian Butler looked set to test Jonathan Tavey.

Staunton fisted over and then added another from play and the lead was up to four points.

Mullin and Killian Butler then combined for Gavaghan to point, and London’s captain troubled the scorers twice more to close the gap to a solitary point.

Feeling the final slipping away, the call went out for Mulligan.

Staunton landed a much needed free for Fulham after Gavin Nugent was fouled, but then Marty McCoy’s run committed Fulham bodies, before the TCG half back slipped the ball to Hanlon in space.

Mulligan to the rescue to earn Fulham replay
Photo: Sheila Fernandes

The former senior Donegal player buried it to the roof of the net past Tavey, to atone for his first half miss. We’d played 44 minutes and the Gaels led for the first time in the game, 1-11 to 1-10.

It was a lead they would enjoy for less than two minutes, though, as Givney despatched the ball over the bar with venom.

Scores level going into the final quarter, it was then that things really started to get interesting. Sunday’s replay has a lot to live up to.

Fulham Irish: Jonathan Tavey; Marc Cunningham, Conor Hyde, Roger Morgan; Ronan Sloan, Hurl Dockry, Michael Walsh; Michael Murphy (0-1), David Connern; Liam Staunton (0-9, 6f), Anton McArdle, Liam Turley; Lorcan Mulvey (0-1), David Givney (1-2), Gavin Nugent. Subs: David O’Connor for Turley (36min), Owen Mulligan (0-1f) for Walsh (41min), Shane O’Brien for Nugent (47min), Peadar Friel for Mulvey (49min), John Gilfedder for Morgan (56min).

Tir Chonaill Gaels: Gavin McEvoy; Michael McWilliams, Phil Butler, Gary Magee; Marty McCoy, Anthony McDermott, Matt Moynihan; Brendan Friel (0-1), Brian Mullin; Eoin Murray, Mark Gottsche, Liam Gavaghan (0-6, 2f); Ryan Elliott (0-2), Adrian Hanlon (1-2), Killian Butler (0-3). Subs: Kevin Rafferty for Elliott (38min), Shaun Burke for McWilliams (44min), Ryan Kearney for Murray (51min), Ronan Breen for Hanlon (60+2min).

Referee: Mattie Maher.


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