PREVIEW: London SFC final, Tir Chonaill Gaels v Kingdom Kerry Gaels, Sunday, Ruislip, 3.30pm
IF YOU had predicted a final appearance for Kingdom Kerry Gaels at the end of the group stages of this year’s London SFC, serious questions would have been asked of your sanity.
Aside from a battling display against Fulham Irish, the Kingdom had been dismal, even in their win over Round Towers that was enough for them to book a place in the quarter-finals.
A heavy defeat to Tir Chonaill Gaels, coupled with the subsequent departure of manager Noel Dunning, prior to a quarter-final meeting with Fulham was expected to signal the end of their championship aspirations.
But it turned out to be the kick up the rear-end the players needed. They’ve gotten their act together and worked hard to see off both of last year’s finalists to move into this weekend’s final against Tir Chonaill Gaels.
It remains a shame, however, that it required the departure of the club’s manager to ignite their season. Noel Dunning has given an enormous amount of time and effort to the club and has waited a long time for another crack at a county final.
The odds aren’t in Kingdom Kerry Gaels’ favour this weekend, but neither were they against Fulham and in the semi-final win over Parnells.
Against the latter they performed abysmally yet stole the win with three added-time points. Given the calibre of individuals at Kingdom’s disposal, there’s a feeling that the best may yet be to come.
They’ve got some big names up front – Colfer, Colhoun, Mullins, McCallion, Atkinson – but they’ll need to deliver a lot more if Tir Chonaill Gaels are to be denied.
Kingdom have averaged less than 10 points a game in this championship, which won’t be nearly enough to defeat Sunday’s hot favourites.
But it’s in defence where they’ve been particularly impressive in the knockout stages, conceding just 21 points in three games.
Tir Chonaill Gaels’ name seems to have been on the cup from the outset this season. After a two-year absence from the London SFC final, the Greenford club have gone to great lengths in their efforts to mark their 50th anniversary with a 14th title.
They have all the tools to do so too, defeating St Kiernans by 2-17 to 0-5 last time out. If the contrast in the quality of the two semi-finals is anything to go by, Tir Chonaill Gaels should have it easy this weekend. But sport is never that simple.
Tir Chonaill Gaels have the ability to put up big scores, averaging over 2-15 in their four championship games so far, so they’ll look to put their opponents away early on as they did when the teams met in the 2007 final.
But the longer KKG can frustrate them, the bigger the doubts in the TCG minds will become. The safe money is of course on the title returning to Greenford, but Kingdom haven’t shown much respect for the odds recently.
A team with nothing to lose is always a dangerous proposition. Don’t write them off.
* See this week’s Irish Post for more on this match, including interviews with TCG, London and former Fermanagh defender Peter Sherry and Kingdom’s Ciaran McCallion – an All-Ireland Minor championship winner with Derry.