Reserve Championship final Report
Tir Chonaill Gaels 2-10
Fulham Irish 2-6
By Tony Tighe
Tir Chonaill Gaels captured their first reserve championship in four years after overcoming bitter rivals Fulham Irish at Wormwood Scrubs Park.
Despite the hosts netting inside one minute of the throw-in, the Gaels held a six-point lead at the interval courtesy of maximums from corner-forwards Ciaran Carr and Kevin Downes.
TCG had Declan Alcorn sent off 12 minutes after the restart but still led by six as the game entered its final stages. Liam Sheehan’s second goal with three minutes left gave Fulham hope, but an injury-time point from substitute Vivian Browne secured victory for the Greenford club.
Fulham had denied TCG a clean sweep of senior trophies by defeating them in the Tipperary Cup final, but their second string came up short in attack last Sunday. They enjoyed plenty of first-half possession but butchered a plethora of chances, which was in stark contrast to the visitors.
Fulham couldn’t have asked for a better start. After winning the throw-in, a high ball into the area caused havoc. The ball ended up in the net, with Sheehan looking to get the final touch, but it was criminal defending from TCG, as those in the nearby prison would concur.
However, the Gaels’ response to that early setback was excellent as they hit five points without reply. Alcorn potted two frees before some wonderful passing and interchange resulted in the full-forward line of Carr, JP Boyle and Kevin Downes all getting on the board.
David Connolly stemmed the tide with a tidy point for Fulham on 12 minutes, but their forward line was nowhere near as cohesive as the men in white and red. Brendan Friel and Keith Morrow were working their socks off around midfield, with the former covering a huge amount of ground over the 60 minutes, while Boyle began to drop deep as the half progressed and his superb vision crafted a number of scoring chances.
TCG should have had fired their first goal on 19 minutes when Carr was played in by Boyle, but frantic Fulham defending saw his shot blocked, with Downes pointing from the rebound to ensure the move didn’t go unrewarded.
Carr didn’t have long to wait though. Less than a minute later, Downes gathered a rare miskick from Boyle, before returning the ball to the onrushing full-forward. He shimmied past two defenders and unselfishly fed Carr, who coolly finished past Paddy Curran.
Ciaran Wall missed a glorious chance for a second goal after latching onto a breaking ball inside the area, the half-forward pulling his shot past the far post, but in the second minute of injury-time TCG delivered a late sucker punch.
The bounce of a dropping ball deceived two Fulham defenders and was gratefully received by Downes. The Cavan native, who trains the TCG and London senior teams, showed he still possesses a killer instinct in front of goal, rifling a shot to the top corner of the net to give the Gaels a 2-6 to 1-3 advantage at the interval.
The slight breeze favoured Fulham in the second half and they began brightly, with Connolly and Rory Costello pointing in the early stages. Padraig Bogues also had a sniff of a goal chance but fired wide after being crowded out by TCG defenders.
A Wall point was TCG’s only score for 17 second-half minutes and although they still held a healthy lead, they were dealt a blow when Alcorn picked up two yellow cards in four minutes.
But Fulham struggled to make the extra man count on the scoreboard. Instead, two Boyle frees – the first a wonderfully-struck effort off the ground from 45 metres – re-established his side’s six-point lead with 12 minutes remaining.
Fulham weren’t as assured from frees, full-forward Costello emerging as a late contender for miss of the season by firing wide from a 13-metre free in front of the posts. But they set up a grandstand finish when Sheehan struck a second goal, the corner-forward latching onto Owen Henry’s long punt and finishing from close range.
It would prove too late. TCG starved their opponents of possession as the game entered injury time, confidently passing the ball across the pitch, and they secured victory when Browne split the posts.
The reserve championship is back in TCG’s cabinet for the first time since 2008, and with a league final to come, a league and championship double at both senior and reserve level remains on the cards.
Scorers – Tir Chonaill Gaels: K Downes 1-2, C Carr 1-1, JP Boyle 0-3 (2f), D Alcorn 0-2 (2f), C Wall, V Browne 0-1 each.
Fulham Irish: L Sheehan 2-0, D Connolly, R Costello (2f) 0-2 each, O Henry, J Enright 0-1 each.
Tir Chonaill Gaels – D Friel; D Donnellan, H Cunningham, R Nadine; R McAtarnsey, R Walsh, B Quinn; K Morrow, B Friel; C Wall, D Alcorn, N Gilleece; C Carr, JP Boyle, K Downes.
Subs: D Cannon for Carr, M Mullen for Walsh, C McElwee for Gilleece, V Browne for Downes.
Fulham Irish – P Curran; S Dowling, N Tiffney, T Johnson; E O’Hare, O Henry, C Ryan; F Bonner, P McKernan; J Enright, D Connolly, P Bogues; M Ruby, R Costello, L Sheehan.
Subs: A Lavery for Dowling, M McElroy for Ruby.
REF – G O’Shea