By Damien O’Grady
Scotland became All Britain champions for the first time at a bright and breezy Pairc na hEireann on Sunday afternoon as they stormed to a six point victory over Warwickshire.
The visitors laid the foundations for the historical win with a blistering opening fifteen minutes which saw them open up a seven point lead and despite Warwickshire coming back to take the lead in the early stages of the second half Scotland showed no sign of panic as they dominated the remainder of the game outscoring Warwickshire 1-8 to 0-1 over a twenty five minute period in the second half.
The home side were hit with a big blow in the early stages as centre back Pauric McLuskey was shown a black card inside the opening three minutes for a deliberate trip with Damian Keane slotting over ther resulting free with ease.
Corner forward Keane was causing the Warwickshire defence numerous problems throughout the game and in the sixth minute he was fouled inside the area with referee Rob Whelan having no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Up stepped Alan Ward and he made no mistake as he fired into the top right corner leaving Eamon Fallon with no chance and hand Scotland the perfect start.
Warwickshire eventually got off the mark in the 11th minute through a free from corner forward Paul Garvey but controversy struck just three minutes later when Scotland fired home their second goal of the game. The home side were sloppy in possesion for large periods throughout the early stages and they were caught out when Scotland forced a turnover and Keane was on hand to finish to the net to give the visitors a commanding 2-1 to 0-1 at the midway point of the first half. Warwickshire were unhappy that play wasn’t stopped as full back Niall Gilbride had suffered a head injury in the lead up to the goal.
The home side then began to get a grip on proceedings but thier inaccuracy in front of the posts saw them kick seven wides in the opening twenty minutes with the aid of a strong breeze.
Michael Harrigan then dragged Warwickshire back into the game as he bagged 1-1 in the space of two minutes to reduce the deficit to two points with the goal an excellent piece of skill to find the far top corner. Daniel Loftus and Paul Garvey then exchanged points before Frank Niblock fired over an excellent point which was followed by another from Alan Brooks to leave the scores level at half time,1-5 to 2-2.
The momentum gained by Warwickshire in the closing stages of the first half continued in the early period of the second as they struck for 1-1 inside the first five minutes with the goal a carbon copy of Alan Ward’s penalty in the first half as Michael Harrigan dispatched his effort into the roof of the net past the helpless Martin Hanna. Centre forward Niblock added his second point of the game as Warwickshire completed a turnaround from six points down to lead by four.
That would prove to be thier last score for the next twenty minutes however as Scotland’s superior fitness and subs proved to make a massive difference as they fought thier way back into the game with Alan Ward leading the way with two big points to halt Warwickshire’s momentum and restore confidence throughout the visitor’s side.
Tony Gallagher then pointed to reduce the arrears to the minimum before Ward was on target once more to draw the sides level again. The pressure was now building on the home side but they had no response to Scotland’s pace and powerful runs which saw them open up a three point lead with scores from Keane and two from the influential Ward.
The game was all but sealed in the 18th minute when substitue Enda Lyons went on a powerful run through the heart of the Warwickshire defence and placed his shot passed Eamon Fallon to open up a commanding 3-9 to 2-6 lead.
Alan Ward then fired over a fantastic score to stretch that lead out to seven points and even though Michael Harrigan pointed late on it was far too little all too late in a game that was over long before referee Rob Whelan blew the final whistle with Scotland players and management overjoyed with there first All Britain trophy.
No doubt Warwickshire will be dissapointed having got in front early in the second half but there is no doubt that Scotland, boasting thirteen players from Dunedin Connolly’s, were the better side and they now advance to an All Ireland semi final against the Leinster champions which will take place in August.
Scotland: Martin Hanna, Arran Moore, Mark Whelan, Cian Lowney, Joe Crean, Paul Cribbin, Patrick Tobin, Robbie Howe, James Carroll, Tony Gallagher(0-1), Alan Ward(1-5, 1-0(pen), 0-1(45), 0-1f), Patrick Brady, Daniel Loftus(0-1), Vinnie Moriarty, Damian Keane(1-3, 0-2f)
Subs: Brian McAteer for James Carroll, Michael Cochrane for Arran Moore, Enda Lyons(1-0) for Patrick Brady, Sean Sweeney for Vinnie Moriarty
Warwickshire: Eamon Fallon, Sean Sullivan, Niall Gilbride, Shane Sweeney, Niall McCooey, Pauric McLuskey, Liam McGovern, Andrew Willis, Donal Leahy, Chris McDonald, Frank Niblock(0-2), Alan Brooks(0-1), Paul Garvey(0-2, 1f), Brian Cuffe, Michael Harrigan(2-2, 1-0(pen), 0-1f)
Subs: Joe Owens for Brian Cuffe, Dougie Galbraith for Alan Brooks, Ted Duffy for Frank Niblock, Steve Ormsby for Paul Garvey, Brian Rushe for Chris McDonald
Referee: Rob Whelan