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Division One Football Final

Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-8 Tara 0-6

By Dave Brennan

Fresh off their championship three-in-a-row, Tir Chonaill Gaels claimed their third league title in four years with a two-point victory over Tara.

Played late Sunday afternoon at a sodden and darkening Greenford, this was effectively the Gaels’ final game of note until their All-Ireland quarter-final with the Munster champions in January.

Three months without competitive action is far from ideal but at least the Gaels signed off with a victory, once which clinched a fourth league and championship double in their history.

This was an even game that could have gone either way, but once you adopt that winning mentality it’s very hard for other sides to overcome, and that proved to be the case here.

With a strong breeze made the game challenging for both players and spectators alike. Tir Chonaill opted to play with the elements in their favour in the opening half and they almost got off to a dream start.

Ex-Tara man Conor Beirne, who came close to a goal in the county final replay win against Neasden Gaels, let fly from all of 25 yards, only to see his shot cannon off the crossbar and to safety.

Beirne’s effort signalled the Gaels intent to build a sustainable lead in the opening half hour, and two points in as many minutes from the wily Kevin McMenamin had them on their way.

Despite the handicap of playing into the breeze Tara continued to battle gamely for the rest of the half, although as half time approached they still hadn’t worried the scoreboard.

They managed that from a Cathal Murphy free, and with the wind on their backs in the second half they would have been satisfied to be only trailing by 0-5 to 0-1.

Yet Tara were left with a mountain to climb early in the second half when the home side registered two further points. Tir Chonaill aren’t the sort to throw away leads, so you feared the worst for last year’s intermediate champions.

However, Tara regrouped and began to chip away at that lead. Four unanswered scores inside six minutes had reduced arrears to just two points, and with 20 minutes remaining the Gaels looked as though they’d lose their second successive league final.

Both sides pushed for a decisive score that could swing the match in their favour but all they succeeded in doing was cancelling each other as score became a precious commodity.

That was until Martin Sweeney bent over a free eight minutes from time to put the Gaels three points to the good.

Tara’s season has been one of promise but also one that lacked cutting edge, and this was more of the same as they tried in vein to carve out a chance from the slim pickings that were on offer.

They were offered a lifeline when they were awarded a free on the edge of the rectangle with just 30 seconds of normal time remaining.

Although you could sense he fancied a punt at goal, Murphy heeded the advice that there was going to be a large amount of added time and popped the ball over the bar.

Unfortunately for Tara, the three or four minutes of injury time never materialised, allowing Tir Chonaill to close out the game and add to their ever-expanding trophy cabinet.

Frustration for Tara, delight for Tir Chonaill Gaels. All of Britain knows they are a force to be reckoned with; now the focus for the Greenford side is to put Ireland in the know.

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