Thomas McCurtains 1-13
St Brendans 1-7
By Damian Dolan
McGovern Park, Ruislip
‘The East’s awake’ and it’s hard to disagree with that post-match rallying cry from the Thomas McCurtains camp, after the east Londoners deservedly picked up the Shiels Cup at McGovern Park.
Junior champions in 2017, McCurtains’ footballers were unlucky to miss out on reaching last year’s intermediate semi-finals.
Although they ended 2018 without silverware – they lost out in the finals of the Murphy Cup and League Division 2 – they more than showed a liking for their new surroundings.
After last Friday evening’s success – a deserved one at that – McCurtains will undoubtedly be challengers for the intermediate title, alongside Brendans and St Josephs.
It was also success achieved, unusually for London GAA, with three sets of brothers in the McCurtains’ starting line up – Peter and John Rafferty (Eastern Harps, Sligo), Conor and Sean Murphy (Portarlington, Laois), and Paddy and John McGuigan (Cremartin, Monaghan).
Shiels Cup runners up in 2017, 2014 and 2012, the competition again proved an unhappy hunting ground for Brendans.
But Brendans, who’d already scooped the Murphy Cup, could have few complaints. McCurtains were the sharper outfit on the day.
Fearghal McMahon’s goal brought Brendans back to within just two points, as the game entered the final quarter. But McCurtains responded superbly and Conor Murphy’s goal eight minutes from time settled matters.
With first use of the breeze blowing towards the clubhouse, McCurtains eased into a 0-5 to no score lead after nine minutes – John McGuigan and Niall Coffey with two excellent strikes.
Niall Askell got Brendans on the board, with McMahon playing in Graham Lawlor, only for Martin Keyes to save well.
Brendans, though, had begun to settle and they reduced the deficit to 0-5 to 0-3, but too many of their attacks were being broken down by the McCurtains rear-guard and they could apply little pressure to Keyes’ kick-outs. The east Londoners were able to escape too easily.
McCurtains stretched their lead to four, only for Brendans to hit back before the break through Connor Campbell (free) and Lawlor.
McCurtains led 0-7 to 0-5 at the end of an ultimately scrappy first half.
The movement of the east Londoners’ forwards would be a problem for Brendans all evening, and McCurtains notched the opening four scores of the second half.
Lawlor rattled the McCurtains’ crossbar, though, and McMahon slotted over a free before the London man capitalised on a McCurtains kick-out to round Keyes and blast the ball into an empty net.
That cut the McCurtains lead to 0-11 to 1-6 with 14 minutes still to play. But Brendans would only trouble the scorers once more, and that in the final minute.
The McCurtains response to McMahon’s goal was impressive. Halligan and John McGuigan both fisted over before an under-pressure Conor Murphy somehow wriggled away from a plethora of Brendans jerseys.
Played in by John McGuigan, the path to goal suddenly opened up for the McCurtains full forward, and he picked out the bottom far corner or Campbell’s net with a low shot.
The east Londoners lost Cathal Moran to a second yellow and Brendans threw the proverbial kitchen sink at their opponent, but to no avail.
Thomas McCurtains: Martin Keyes; Mark Owen, Paddy O’Neill, Cathal Moran; Peter Rafferty, Paddy McGuigan, Brian Hourihane; Tom Clarke, Danny Ryan; John Rafferty (0-2), John McGuigan (0-2), Sean Murphy; Niall Coffey (0-3, 2f), Conor Murphy (1-1), Paddy Halligan (0-5, 4f). Subs: Stephen Johnston for Coffey, Colm O’Neill for Sean Murphy, Paudi O’Shea for Conor Murphy, Jack Breen for Halligan.
St Brendans: Connor Campbell (0-2, 1f, 1’45); Pa Connelly, Josh Sherry, Denis Murphy; Brendan Scannell, Micheal O’Hare, Aidan Fulcher; Niall Askell (0-1), Daniel Glynn; Mark Connelly, Fearghal McMahon (1-2, 1f), Andy Hayes; Joe Doyle Ward, Rory Lively, Graham Lawlor (0-1). Subs: Colm Smith for Hayes, Shane Lawless for Mark Connolly, Sean Dowlin for Fulcher, Maurice Hagnett (0-1f) for Sherry.
Referee: John Doyle.