Tir Chonaill Gaels’ junior side have claimed the first London GAA silverware of the season after running out as four point winners over St Clarets in the Cara Stationery McCardle Cup final.
The Gaels, under Paul Coggins in his first managerial role since the London senior team, battled hard to beat the Clarets, who probably went into the final as favourites after winning the competition last year, and reaching four finals in 2015.
The junior side, who are all British-born players, held smothered the dangerous pace of the Clarets in a low-scoring game.
Tir Chonaill Gaels were the first to get on the team sheet through Ryan Elliott after three minutes, before Killian Butler put two attempts wide. In these opening minutes the Gaels set the tone for the game’s remainder as they fought hardest to gain possession from every breaking ball and put the most pressure on the opposite posts.
Sean Killeen responded for the Clarets as he took his time to ensure he got the equaliser and to switch the pace of the high-intensity match. Shane Buckley would hit his next shot short and into the hands of Gavin McEvoy before the Gaels shot two more wides.
The next ten minutes were littered by wides from both sides in the sweltering heat, but Tir Chonaill Gaels almost got a goal for their continued pressure when Butler set up Keiran Cunningham in front of Gerry Lynott, but the goalkeeper managed to get his hands beyond the bouncing shot on goal.
It wasn’t until the 20th minute until the next score when free-taker Buckley pointed his free.
The Gaels were rewarded for their impressive movement of the ball with five minutes of the first half left to play when Rory Jennings linked up well with corner forward Francie McGinley’s.
The latter’s pass to Butler saw him in a goal-scoring position just right of the posts, but he selflessly passed to Kieran Cunningham in space to send Lynott the wrong way to ensure that his side got the valuable three points to go a goal ahead.
They would get another point soon afterwards when Ryan Elliott held on from pressure from his marker from a Donal Gearathy pass to get a good shot away. Patrick Lynott would respond on the cusp of halftime with a pointed free to go 1-3 to 0-3 at the break.
The second-half was similarly low scoring, with wides and short shots aplenty, until Butler set up Donal Gearathy for the first score on 37 minutes. Sean Killeen would nick one back from his side against the run of play on 43 minutes from long range before his side suffered a blow when Buckley was shown a black card for an infringement near the sideline.
Patrick Lynott got his side back to within two with his second pointed free of the match, but his side never managed to build any real momentum to mount a comeback, in a game that became ill-tempered with various stoppages for different melees between players and people on the sidelines.
Butler, who was striking the ball beautifully into the forwards, was responsible for the next point which was called wide by one umpire, but the other maintained that the ball stayed in play, and as the referee agreed with him a Gaels player managed to convert a score from the resultant possession much to the disappointment of the Clarets defenders.
Butler fittingly secured the winner himself as he added another in the game’s final moments, from a pointed free to make sure his side emerged as McCardle Cup champions.
TIR CHONAILL GAELS: Gavin McEvoy, Rory Jennings, Jack Elliott, Pat O’Connor, Ryan Elliott (0-2), Aidan McGarvey, Ewan Jassallo, Ryan Kearney, Kieran Clark, Gerry Gearathy, Donal Gearathy (0-1), Conor McCarthy, Francie McGinley, Kieran Cunningham (1-0), Killian Butler
ST CLARETS: Gerry Lynott, Lawrence Weir, Matthew Healy, Luke Kelly, Ronan Gaughan, Aidan Donaghy, Matt Killeen, Paddy Donaghy, Sean Killeen (0-1), Patrick Lynott, John O’Connor, Paul Keenan, Alfie McNulty, Ryan O’Connell, Shane Buckley (0-1, 1f)