Gaels make history as young Gavigan shines
Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-13 Round Towers 1-6
BY GRAHAM CLIFFORDIN the sweltering heat of Ruislip on Sunday 17-year-old Liam Gavigan inspired an all English-born Tir Chonaill Gaels side to McCardle Cup success with a simply stunning display.
This was no ordinary final with both the eventual victors and challengers Round Towers fielding teams made up of players born on this side of the Irish Sea exclusively.
Despite eight of Tir Chonaill Gaels side featuring in the Conway Cup defeat to Fulham Irish on the previous evening, the Greenford-based side dug deep to eventually pip Round Towers though the boys in blue led until the 45th minute in this absorbing encounter.
Half-forward Gavigan was the star of the show, kicking seven points and despite his tender years is set to burst onto the senior scene in the coming months, so composed is he at the highest level in London club football.
Initially it seemed as though the Gaels’ exploits on Saturday evening would come back to haunt them.
Despite captain Gavin McEvoy storming forward from midfield in the first minute and firing the ball over the bar, it was Round Towers who settled quickest with a decisive breeze at their backs.
In a frenetic opening both sides were guilty of passing errors but Michael Murtagh got the Towers off the mark in the eighth minute.
Tir Chonaill Gaels were struggling and they would go through a 21-minute spell without scoring as Round Towers made the most of their wind advantage.
Looking dangerous in attack Sean Hickey set up Murtagh in the 12th minute for a goalscoring opportunity but he was upended forcing referee Liam Barry to signal for a deserved penalty. Sean Lacey calmly slotted the ball past Kieran Nash in the TCG goals to raise the game’s only green flag.
The Towers nippy forwards were causing Tir Chonaill Gaels all sorts of problems and when Sean Hickey landed an exquisite score from the left wing on 19 minutes after good work from Michael English, the Towers had built up a four-point lead.
In a rare first-half attack Tir Chonaill Gaels finally ended their drought when Clive Mills fisted over the bar after being set free by Sean Butler.
The score kept Tir Chonaill Gaels in touch with the knowledge that after the break they’d be attacking the clubhouse end with the breeze at their backs.
The reprieve was short-lived though with Michael English depositing one of the scores of the game from the 45-yard line on 23 minutes to restore Round Towers’ lead at 1-3 to 0-2.
Slowly but surely Liam Gavigan was coming into the game for the Gaels though and for the remainder of this intriguing clash he would dictate proceedings.
Gavigan chalked up his first score with three minutes remaining in the half, slotting over a free to narrow the gap once more.
A second free for the dangerous attacker followed two minutes later after Round Towers defender Noel Maher was adjudged to have touched the ball on the ground.
Leading by 1-3 to 0-4 at the change of ends, Round Towers knew they’d be in for a serious fight after the interval and Michael Murtagh’s second point of the afternoon immediately after the restart settled blue nerves.
But Gavigan was only warming up and seven minutes into the second half he kick-started the Gaels’ revival with a splendid score off his lesser left foot.
The second half was now a mirror image of the first with the Gaels attacking in droves into the clubhouse end, Chris Moroney’s introduction early in the second half proving pivotal.
The Towers endured their own 20minute spell without a score and points from McEvoy and two from Gavigan saw the Gaels take the lead for the first time at 0-8 to 1-4 with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Ollie Bennett pointed for Round Towers to restore parity but TCG were intent on being the first all English born team to lift a domestic cup in London football and two excellent scores from Aidan Lyden and Liam Mullan pushed the Gaels into a two point lead.
Michael Murtagh responded for the Towers but it was too little too late and two more gems of scores from Gavigan and one from Mullan in added time rounded off a splendid second-half display from TCG in which they outscored their opponents by nine points to three.