PAUL COGGINS has hailed the character of his Tir Chonaill Gaels Junior side after they dethroned St Clarets to lift the McArdle Cup at Colindale on Sunday.
The Gaels had lost by 11 points when they first met in the group stages of the competition, but last year’s winners St Clarets were unable to build on their past success in this tournament.
In his first role since leaving his post as London senior football manager last year, Coggins already has a trophy to his name, but he wants more from his young charges, many of whom are London-born.
“That (11-point defeat) showed us that we had work to do and there’s huge character in this team,” he told The Irish Post.
“I’ve only been with them a short while and they’ve had some good seasons under their previous management. They’ve always had talent, but I’m just trying to change a few things with them and show that they have that character and take it out of them more.
“They worked hard, played some good football, but they need to keep at it and keep improving – it’s only one cup, we’ve got to keep going.
“We’ve got at least four of them guys in the senior set-up and they’ll be togging out this year. They might not be starting, but people like Killian Butler, Ryan Kearney, Gerry Geraghty, Rory Jennings – and there are more of them – have to stay with the juniors for a year or two yet, get ready, and drive forward, but it will happen and it will be great for the future of the club.
“These guys were born here, bred here, and to come out and put on a performance like that and their parents to be so proud of them is great.”
Ryan Elliot was the first off the mark, handing TCG the lead three minutes into the match, but Sean Killeen cancelled it out moments later in the searing Colindale heat.
The score remained one point apiece for another 20 minutes, with the Gaels wasting multiple chances to pull ahead – registering five wides in that time – three courtesy of Ryan Elliot.
Killian Butler – a beautiful striker of the ball – finally got a chance from a close range free after drawing the foul himself, and he duly popped it over to edge the Gaels in front once more.
Soon after, corner back Rory Jennings was lucky to escape with a yellow card when hauling down his opposite number Lawrence Weir of St Clarets. A black card would have seemed more appropriate.
Nonetheless, Shane Buckley drilled over the resultant free off the ground, levelling the sides up for the second time in the match.
It was to be the last time Clarets would be level though as the next score proved crucial; Kieran Cunningham blasting past Gerald Lynott in the Clarets goal after being teed up by Butler on 25 minutes.
Clarets midfielder Killeen went into the book shortly after for firing verbals at the referee, and from this point onwards the game became somewhat heated, perhaps fittingly so given the 25 degree temperature.
Ryan Elliot made amends for his three consecutive wides earlier in the half with a fine point from play, adding to TCG’s tally, but Patrick Lynott’s free for on the stroke of half-time sent the Clarets into the break a goal down at 1-3 to 0-3.
The second-half picked up where the first left off; hard hits and bad tempers on show, which made for entertaining viewing for seizable crowd of onlookers.
The quality of the play dipped though, with no scores in the opening 10 minutes of the restart until Donal Geraghty put that matter right with a lovely take from the left side, moving TCG four points ahead.
Killeen clawed the deficit back to three with a huge drive from distance, but Clarets suffered a blow when key forward Buckley was given a black card for clattering an opponent by the touchline.
Partick Lynott then reduced the gap to just two points with his second free of the game as Clarets looked to be working their way back into contention with 12 minutes remaining.
However, with the momentum behind them, their ill-discipline got the better of them at the wrong time. Killeen tripped up Kieran Clark at full pelt on the sideline, sparking a mass melee involving both sets of players and management.
Somehow, no cards were dished out once order had been restored, but tempers threatened to boil over again as TCG then claimed a disputed point.
Butler floated a free into the box, which was palmed back across the square. At least one umpire signalled a wide, but the referee overruled and allowed play to continue, from which TCG popped over another score.
Thankfully, it wasn’t to prove decisive, as Butler added a sublime free late on to round off the win for the Gaels on a scoreline of 1-6 to 0-5.
Coggins shrugged off the commotion of the temperamental incidents, highlighting that it proves how much people care.
He said: “You’ve got all the excitement – parents here, people getting involved – but it just shows you that everyone cares for our great game. It brings out passion in people, that’s sport for you.”