GAA London Div 1 League Final: TCG 0-10 St Kiernans 0-5
League comfort for Gaels
By Damian Dolan
These two served up arguably the game of the season when they met earlier this year in the Championship, but there was little chance of a repeat at Greenford on Sunday given the boggy conditions.
While hardly conducive to either side, the caking mud took a greater toll on Kiernans, blunting their pacey attack. It also took a physical toll, with Mark Mulholland and Derek Hagan both suffering innocuous ankle injuries that were entirely due to the treacherous conditions underfoot.
With London manager Paul Coggins watching on, it was a chance for those with county aspirations to try and stake a claim, but it was tough for anyone to shine in such conditions.
The sight of Mulholland and Hagan limping will have done little to warm Coggins on a bitterly cold November day in Greenford, but it was tempered somewhat by some sparkling moments from Kevin McMenamin.
Just a point separated the sides at the break, with Liam Gavaghan accounting for all of his side’s points to help the Gaels into the narrowest of leads. The Gaels then pulled away at the start of the second half with McMenamin instrumental with a couple of exquisite scores.
The Gaels still needed a great save from Brian McBrearty, though, before they could celebrate victory in a match both sides finished with 14-men.
In his post-match winning captain’s speech, Paddy Callaghan spoke of a “poor season” by Tir Chonaill’s standards, and for a club accustomed to All-Ireland quarter-finals a league success may be questionable consolation, but a trophy is a trophy and the Gaels will undoubtedly be back next year more hungry than ever.
Coggins has spoken of his desire to include a quota of London players in his panel, and Gavaghan is pushing hard to be in the new London manager’s thoughts.
He gave the Gaels the lead with a first minute score, when given time to pick his spot, although Adrian Moyles, another who’ll be hoping to challenge for a regular starting place, levelled things up with a free.
A sloppy ball at the back by Kiernans was picked off by Gavin McEvoy and when Kevin Downes was fouled, Gavaghan did the rest.
Kiernans were immediately level through a lovely finish from Mulholland but Gavaghan added a brace of frees as we reached the 20-minute mark with the Gaels two points to the good.
Hagan, such a physical presence for Kiernans, was then injured in an innocuous incident was he landed awkwardly as he looked to take a return pass. He temporary moved to full forward before returning to the Kiernans midfield, but the injury would eventually force his withdrawal.
Tom Waters finished off a fine team move, from one end of the field to the other, but Kiernans were then dealt a blow when Kevin Canty saw a straight red after an altercation with Niall Travers.
John Collins, another to give Coggins food for thought, saw his ball in cannon off Brendan Mulrooney’s crossbar, and the Kiernans goalkeeper was grateful to see Chris Byrne tidy up the loose ball.
It was a fortuitous moment for Kiernans, but luck would turn against them in first half injury time as the muddy Greenford playing surface claimed its second victim when Mulholland slipped and was left crawling in pain in the mud.
He was withdrawn at the break, only to return, ironically enough, for his injured counterpart Hagan.
Five minutes into the second half the numbers were evened up when Gary Kane received his marching orders for a second yellow, but it was then that McMenamin came into his own.
Up until then, McMenamin had been quiet, but an outstanding finish from wide out on the left was followed by a turn that left Tom Donoghue for dead, with a finish to match to leave three points between the sides.
Collins extended the lead further to give the Gaels their third point in a purple three minute patch. Kiernans responded but Hagan and Waters both shot narrowly wide after been set up by Moyles.
A Moyles free closed the gap to a goal but with Hagan finally forced to admit defeat, after further aggravating his ankle in attempting to take a kick out, Kiernans looked up against it.
Their hopes of ending the season with one piece of senior silverware as reward for a year in which they have contributed much were all but evaporated when Gavaghan added a brace of frees in a minute, although Wayne Sullivan responded for Kiernans.
Four points separated the sides with eight minutes remaining and the Gaels were looking comfortable, but Richard Butler then produced the ball of the match to play in Waters, only for McBrearty to save.
But Water’s shot was only partially blocked by McBrearty, who could then only watch helplessly as the ball rebounded off the post, with Austin Concannon quickest to the loose ball to clear the danger.
With that went Kiernan’s last lingering hope, and David McGreevey closed out the scoring for the Gaels.
Teams & Scorers
Tir Chonaill Gaels: Brian McBrearty; Damien Donnellan, Patrick Callaghan; Gerard Geraghty, Niall Travers, Conor Beirne, Austin Concannon; Brendan Friel, Gavin McEvoy; Gary Kane, John Collins (0-1), David McGreevey (0-1); Kevin McMenamin (0-2), Liam Gavaghan (0-6, 5f), Kevin Downes. Subs: Stevie Boyle for Geraghty, Ronan Walsh for Donnellan, Clive Mills for Collins, Benny Quinn for McGreevey.
St Kiernans: Brendan Mulrooney; Tom Donoghue, Chris Byrne, Gary Horan; Richard Harrington, John Gallagher, Billy O’Mahoney; John Myler, Derek Hagan; Tom Waters (0-1), Mark Mulholland (0-1), Kevin Canty; Adrian Moyles (0-2f), Kevin O’Leary, Tony Hogan. Subs: Frankie Collopy for Mulholland, Richard Butler for O’Mahoney, Wayne Sullivan (0-1) for Hogan, Mulholland for Hagan, James Callery for Harrington.