Tir Chonaill Gaels 2-8
Fulham Irish 1-8
Proper game of football this; with more drama than the sum total of everything club match that’s happened in London so far this season. We had a first-minute penalty, an injury-time winning goal, a red card, some fine point taking, some even better defensive hustling and more thundering collisions than you’d find at a typical cage fighting weekender.
The dispute between these proud clubs last week over the scheduling of this game meant it was always going to be a tasty contest. Indeed, the decent Friday night crowd in Ruslip got a group game with a bullet.
It was a throwback to an era of no groups, no back door; just one shot. The two best sides in London left nothing on the concrete-hard pitch and when the final whistle sounded moments after Ciaran Boyle bundled Ciaran Bonner’s short-falling shot to the net to give the 14-man Gaels victory, you had to pause to inhale. It didn’t seem like an hour plus half-time since the ball was thrown in and, from an early free, Tir Chonaill full-forward Eoin O’Neill was put through on goal.
The London star hit the ground hard after being taken out by keeper Declan Traynor. O’Neill hobbled on for a few minutes before he was helped off, just nine days before the Exiles face Leitrim here.
John McGrath slotted the penalty. With a stiff wind at their back, Gaels set about building a lead to defend in the second half. Dualta Molloy floated a point on the breeze soon afterwards.
But before Tir Chonaill could find their stride, Marty Hughes found the net for Fulham with a stunning shot from an acute angle.
Points from McGrath and Molloy stretched the Gaels’ lead again. Harry Murphy kept Fulham in touch with a fine free from the right flank. Eoin Mageean fisted another point for Tir Chonaill to leave the score at 1-4 to 1-2 with 25 minute gone.
The Greenford side couldn’t shake off their South London rivals; forwards John Ryan and Hughes were linking up well and Lorcan Mulvey was at his incredible-hulk best around centrefield. The Cavan man was winning possession, carrying the ball magnificently and giving his county teammate Mark Gottsche a chasing. On 28 minutes he lashed a superb shot from far out on the right wing into the wind and over the bar.
Murphy tied the scores with a free and it needed a point from Boyle in stoppage time to put the Gaels ahead by one at the break.
The succinct analysis of Tir Chonaill’s predicament at this stage was they were goosed.
However, Fulham proved to be just as unable to convert the elemental advantage into scores. Their long balls to the inside line were a touch aimless and there was nobody of the physical stature of Mulvey on the edge of the square to act as a focal point.
Peter Sherry and David McGreevy led a stout-hearted Gaels defence. The half-back line chased and harried and Mulvey’s influence waned as the game progressed.
At the same time, Gottsche was putting himself about and linking play well for the Gaels. A fine run from the midfielder from the second-half throw-in resulted in a free that was slung over by McGrath.
Stephen Molumby cut the gap to the minimum again but, once more, the Gaels struck next. Struck being the key word, Luke Kavanagh pointed after what in rugby would have been a decent hand-off on his marker. In Gaelic football, it’s generally not allowed but the pugilistic nature of this game meant that a certain amount of aggro had to be tolerated. Sales of ice packs around Greenford and Clapham tomorrow morning will be brisk.
Fulham pointed again in the 44th minute, a ball from Mulvey found Sean Maguire and the captain found the range from 30 metres out.
Dean Gordon edged Tir Chonaill two ahead before Murphy dragged them back with a point from distance on 47 minutes.
With four minutes of regulation time left, McGrath saw red for a stamp on Shane Mulligan.
Fulham’s danger man Murphy tied the scores a minute later; his long ball in bouncing up and over the bar. 15 v 14, the wind and the momentum at their backs; Fulham seemed set for a happy ending, but there was another twist to the script.
Injured star-signing Bonner was sprung from the bench. A few moments later he was in possession on the right wing towards the goal line. The Donegal man has kicked scores from more outlandish positions, so he twisted and shot, his hamstring immediately giving way again. The ball caught in the breeze, and up went Boyle …
Tir Chonaill Gaels: Brian McBrearty; Brian Ross, Peter Sherry, Dave McGreevy; Niall Travers, Coleman Hands, Thomas Gribbon; Caolan Doyle, Mark Gottsche; Mark McCoy, Luke Kavanagh (0-1), Dualta Molloy (0-2, 1f); John McGrath (1-2, 1f), Eoin O’Neill, Eoin Mageean (0-1). Subs: Ciaran Boyle (1-1) for O’Neill, Dean Gordon (0-1) for Travers, David Harrington for Gribbon, Benny Reilly for Mageean, Ciaran Bonner for McCoy
Fulham Irish: Declan Traynor; Roger Morgan, Steven Walsh, Ken McGrath; Seamus Hannon, Mark McCaffrey, Shane Mulligan; Lorcan Mulvey (0-1), Conor McClean; Fearghal McVey, Harry Murphy (0-4, 2f), Stephen Molumby (0-1); John Ryan (0-1f), Sean Maguire (0-1), Marty Hughes (1-0). Subs: Dean O’Neill for McVeigh, Tom Lowry for Maguire, David Lally for Hughes.
Ref: Mattie Maher (Moindearg)