John Mitchels: 1-11
Neasden Gaels: 0-11
By Martin Mannering
Neasden Gaels paid the ultimate price for profligacy as Liverpool’s John Mitchel’s relentlessly marched on into another All Britain Junior final.
It was a dour affair in truth and indeed spilled over on a couple of occasions leading to unsavoury incidents with players piling in for wrestling matches. Mitchel’s went straight on the offensive from the start and within a minute Craig Owen and Michael Higgins combined to release Rory Sharvin who fired over.
Straight from the kickout it was the turn of Neasden to attack and when Conor Byrne collected Conor Doran’s pass inside the square, referee Mark McLoughlin adjudged Dave McTeggart’s challenge to be illegal and pointed to the spot. A dream chance of the dream start then for the Londoners but it was not to be. Conor McGoldrick totally scuffed his effort and it drifted harmlessly wide. Ryan O Hare was one player who didn’t deserve to be on the losing side as he gave a wonderful display and had the Mitchel’s defence at full stretch every time he gained possession.
It was the corner forward who levelled things on six minutes with a sweet effort from the right side but Michael Higgins restored Mitchel’s lead from a close in free after Michael Molloy was fouled. O Hare repeated his earlier effort, this time from the left side only to see Higgins repeat his own effort after another offence on Molloy. It was cagey stuff at times with both sides defending in numbers and too many misplaced passes by both sides preventing any real pattern of play to develop.
Darren Russell tapped over a point after Paddy Murphy’s effort on goal was palmed away by Niall O Carroll. Conor Doran who also had a fine match for the losers pulled it back to a point on the quarter hour mark and three minutes later turned provider to set up O Hare for his third.
Niall Macartan restored his sides lead and five minutes from the break came a defining moment.
Another Paddy Murphy effort was deflected for a 45 and Michael Higgins lined up the kick. As his effort dropped short in the square Rory Sharvin rose majestically to land a perfect punch on the ball and rattle the net. The Gaels were unfazed by the setback and Conor Doran pointed a free before another gilt edged opportunity went abegging. Mattie Deeney mishit a kickout to Conor Byrne who drove hopelessly wide with the goal at his mercy.
The irresistable O Hare hit his fourth of the half but Niall Macartan hit an excellent point from the right wing in stoppage time to send Mitchel’s in with a 1-6 to 0-6 lead. The defending champions restarted on the front foot and in a dominant first eight minutes hit three unanswered points.
They all came from frees from the boot of Michael Molloy but it was the pressure being applied that won the frees.
Firstly Pauric McGurk powered forward and set up Paddy Murphy who was dragged down as he was about to strike. A short kick out went astray when Dara King picked the ball off the ground and Molloy duly obliged again. the third came from another McGurk sortie which passed through Eddie Jackson to John McDermott who was brought to ground. Gaels to their credit regrouped and went on a recovery mission pushing Mitchel’s onto the back foot. Mitchel’s would go the next fifteen minutes without a score during which time Gaels would narrow the gap back to three with frees from Byrne and Doran(2).
There was also time during that period for an ugly skirmish which stopped the game for four minutes. Dave McTeggart and Conor Doran got in a tangle on the ground and within seconds players were piling in from all sides. It was mostly handbags but nevertheless not a scene that does credit to anyone.
Seven minutes out Higgins got the winners score moving again with a glorious effort from his less favoured left foot. McTeggart received a black card after another foul on O Hare and Byrne pointed the free. Despite coming under increased pressure the Liverpool rearguard stood firm, Marty Carey, Craig Owen, McGurk and Sean Rice led the resistance and Rice even seized the chance to break upfield to lash over a fine point from fifty metres out.
Tempers flared again near the end but thankfully order was restored much quicker this time. Colin Flanagan received his second yellow card for a high tackle on Michael Higgins but Gaels cleared the danger and broke upfield for O Hare to close the gap to three. Perhaps what stands to Mitchel’s is the number of times they have been in these contests over recent years and they never seem fazed. So it was again here as they used all their craft and guile to play down the clock and on into their fourth consecutive final.
The frustration of imminent defeat was too much for Dara King who saw red in the dying seconds when he shoved referee Mark McLoughlin after a decision went against him. Neasden will reflect on this as a missed opportunity after spurning those two gilt edged goal chances.
They matched their opponents in many aspects but calmness under pressure is a trait that the Liverpool outfit have mastered and that was the telling factor in the end. Barry Morris will spend the next two weeks preparing his troops for another showdown with Dunedin Connolly’s as they attempt to claim an unprecedented four in a row in this competition.
JOHN MITCHELS: Mattie Deeney, Marty Carey, Dave McTeggart, Niall McShane, Sean Rice (0-1), Pauric McGurk, Craig Owen, Rory Sharvin(1-1), Denis O Neill, Niall McCartan (0-2), Michael Higgins (0-3, 2f), John McDermott, Michael Molloy (0- 3f), Paddy Murphy, Darren Russell SUBS: Edward Jackson for Russell, Shaun Walsh for McTeggart, Darren Healy for Murphy, Keiran McIntyre for Jackson
NEASDEN GAELS: Niall O Carroll, Tom Connolly, Keith Geraghty, Colin Flanagan, Donal Farrelly, Dara King, John McGauley, Conor McGoldrick, Frank McMullin, James O Hara, Conor Doran (0-4, 3f), Stephen Doran, Aiden Flanagan, Conor Byrne (0-2f), Ryan O Hare (0-5) SUBS: Paddy Cole for Farrelly, Andrew McMunn for James O Hara