Tir Chonaill Gaels 1-15 Kingdom Kerry Gaels 1-8
Carr focused on creating history after TCG triumph
Tir Chonaill Gaels 1-15
Kingdom Kerry Gaels 1-8
London SFC final
By Tony Tighe
Whatever talking points have emanated from this year’s senior championship, there can be no debate over whether the best team won. The cup is back in Greenford, and deservedly so.
Tir Chonaill Gaels have been a cut above this year, and yet you feel there is still another gear in this side. They were convincing seven-point victors in Sunday’s county final against Kingdom Kerry Gaels, but the winning margin could easily have been double that.
The Kingdom were no simply match for the men in red and white, with manager Paddy Carr getting his tactics spot on. A strong start to proceedings forced their opponents to adapt a more positive outlook, which provided space for lethal marksmen Eoin O’Neill and Kevin McMenamin to thrive in. Their defensive marked KKG’s big guns out of the game for large spells, while Mark Gottsche was colossal around midfield.
McMenamin’s goal capped off a dominant first quarter for TCG and although KKG fought back in the remainder of the half, with Kevin Waldron starting to prosper around midfield, the same player killed off his side’s hopes of a comeback with a moment of madness in first-half injury-time.
Having already been involved in a schmozzle with O’Neill, picking up a yellow card, Waldron lost his cool and decked the London forward with a punch. It allowed TCG to extend their lead to 14 points after the interval, ruthlessly exploiting space, with KKG halving that advantage through a late flurry.
“What happened out there today was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the hard decisions that these lads have made,” said Carr. “I would often talk to them about creating a new normal here in London, where it’s normal to perform at that level, and give the kind of commitment that the lads have. There is maybe a perception at home that London is not taken as seriously. Well I’ll just give you an example of what we’re talking about.
“On Thursday night, two lads drove two and a half hours to get to training and then back again. You wouldn’t have guys at home doing that, and that’s the kind of commitment we’ve asked for. That’s why these guys are getting their rewards.
“There’s been a huge emphasis into buying into something bigger than themselves. There are no egos in that dressing room and that has been a huge help. It’s a very special day. It gives us a launch pad to get everything right for what should be an epic game here in December.”
During their three-year period of dominance at the end of the last decade, TCG came mightily close to becoming the first London club to win an All-Ireland senior club football championship quarter-final. Crossmaglen and Kilmurry-Ibrickane were both given frights, and despite there being a huge turnover in terms of players, the determination to add that string to their bow remains.
“I’ve done this journey before when I was with Kilmacud, and I know it’s a cliff face we’re facing at the moment,” said Carr, who led the Dublin club to All-Ireland honours in 2009.
“But these guys are very ambitious, they love their Gaelic football. They spend a lot of time together and Tir Chonaill Gaels is their family now.
“We will really step things up. It’ll be intense for the next six weeks or so. We believe we’re going to be in as good a shape as any London team ever was (for an All-Ireland quarter-final).”
TCG were 18-point winners when these sides met in the 2007 final, and at one stage they looked like surpassing that total. McMenamin’s goal, which came following a great take and pass by O’Neill, practically killed the game off, and despite a slack final 10 minutes to the first half their lead still stood at a healthy 1-6 to 0-2.
Eight successive points soon after the restart put TCG in the comfort zone, and they again took their foot off the pedal in the closing stages. It allowed KKG to put some respectability on the scoreline, with Lloyd Colfer refusing to throw in the towel and Peter Atkinson firing a wonderfully-crafted goal. Colfer had a penalty claim for a foot block waved away late on, where a goal would leave four points between the teams, but the outstanding McMenamin put the icing on the cake late on with another confident finish.
It was a fantastic way for the club mark their 50th anniversary year – a record 14th senior title. But the team want more. The Munster champions are coming to Ruislip in December; once this week’s celebrations die down, the focus and drive that won them the senior championship will return.
Carr has been in charge of some fine teams during his career, but he believes there is something special in this crop of players. For the next six weeks, he’ll be doing his utmost to ensure they fulfill their talent.
“When impresses me about these guys is that they’re doing everything possible to fulfill their potential,” he said. “If we can play to the absolute max of our potential we’re going to be there or thereabouts.
“Obviously the team coming from Ireland has the advantage of having come through a tough provincial campaign, so we’ve got to be very imaginative in getting ourselves right for what’s ahead.
“They have strengths here that no other club would have; I’m not talking about London but at home. They spend so much time together.
“We’ve had a good run through the championship. We’ve dominated games. Many of the lads are new to London, which just echoes the situation at home. But you can see the ghra they have for Gaelic football. Whatever else they left at home, they didn’t leave that.
“I think there are good days ahead for London football.”
Scorers – Tir Chonaill Gaels: K McMenamin 1-2, M Gottsche (2f, 1 ‘45’), E O’Neill (1f) 0-3 each, J McNicholas, J McGrath (1f), B Mitchell, 0-2 each, P Sherry 0-1.
Kingdom Kerry Gaels: L Colfer 0-5, P Atkinson 1-1, A Dillane, C Colhoun 0-1 each.
Tir Chonaill Gaels – B McBrearty; T Gribben, P Callaghan, B Collins; E McConville, M McConville, P Sherry; M Gottsche, C Doyle; J McNicholas, J McGrath, B Mitchell; B Reilly, E O’Neill, K McMenamin.
Subs: C Boyle for Reilly (32), L Kavanagh for McGrath (41), D Harrington for Gribben (42), D McGreevy for Collins (49), A Concannon for Callaghan (52).
Kingdom Kerry Gaels – G Reidy; D McCarthy, P Horkan, N O’Connell; P Kelly, S Browne, R McStravick; K Waldron, S Sheehan; M Mullins, A Dillane, C McCallion; N Traynor, C Colhoun, L Colfer.
Subs: P Atkinson for Sheehan (21), P Stack for McStravick (26), M O’Shea for Traynor (ht), R Ashe for Dillane (43), M Galvin for Colhoun (46).
REF – R Whelan (Tara)