Friday, August 22, 2014

Boston Finals Weekend Begins

Eight games involving twelve of the clubs in the Boston Northeast division will be played this coming weekend at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton.  Saturday kicks off with what promises to be a keenly contested junior C hurling final between Barley House Wolves and Worcester.  The junior A hurlers of Wexford and Fr. Tom’s follow, with Wexford looking to make it three junior championships in a row.  Football caps off the day with reigning junior B champions, Donegal, defending their title against the Shannon Blues.  The ladies juniors of Tir na nOg and Boston Shamrocks battle for the Boston championship and the right to represent the division at the following North American Finals at the ICC.

Sunday sees four finals on the card.

Senior Football Final – Sunday August 24 4:00pm

Wolfe Tones Gaelic Football Club will experience its first senior football final day on what will be the biggest day for the club since its founding.  Junior and Intermediate championships have been won and celebrated in the past, but until now the senior crown has eluded the South Boston outfit.  The Tones have done it the hard way to get here, beating last year’s champions, Connemara Gaels, and arch rivals, Aidan McAnespies.  Last week’s comeback victory from nine points down was so not what we are used to seeing from the Tones that the word “destiny” might spring in the minds of many.  The loss of key defender, Sean Higgins, will hurt the Tones chances for sure and players will have to step up as Dan McCabe did last week after coming on for the black carded Michael Argue.  A pacy forward line is the hallmark of the team, Lee Carr, Darragh McVeety and Glenn O’Connell can open up the spaces in the opposition defence.  Some experienced heads on the field will be an asset for the Tones before and during the game to try and keep the minds focused on the task ahead to capture a first Boston championship. 

Shannon Blues have had plenty of success in recent years and with the North American Finals on home turf in Canton, this year represents a great chance for their first North American Championship at senior level.  The Blues have been to the national final three times, and not come away with the title.  This team is powerful all the way from the full back line to full forward.  The Blues came through in the semi-final against an extremely good Donegal team that were favourites in the minds of many.  The side has a distinct Kerry flavor, no less than seven Kerrymen made up the first team in the semi-final, some of whom could be playing on a bigger stage in years to come.  One player who has stood out for the Blues this year is James Walsh, an efficient operator who rarely wastes the football.  Sean “Coco” O’Connor is another of the Blues key men who when on the ball is a reassuring sight to managers and supporters alike.  Others to watch for the Blues are Gareth Ryan, Sean Moriarty, and Niall Murphy. 

As for calling a winner, take your pick.  The experience of the Blues, many of whom on the line and on the field have been here before, will stand to them.  For their part the Tones have shown that they can last the pace this year and have taken the key scores in the last two games, but they cannot let the occasion get to them to be successful.  Instinct tells me the Blues, but the Tones have proven my instinct wrong in both playoff games this season.

Senior Hurling Final Sunday August 24 2:30pm

Fr. Tom Burke’s v Galway

This is one to look forward to as two great Boston rivals meet in a bid to capture the Boston title and try to win a North American on home turf.  Not only that, this year is a chance for whichever side comes through to deny Na Fianna of San Francisco four national titles in a row.

Galway contest their fifth consecutive Boston final, while for Tom’s it is the first since 2005.  Galway last won the Boston title two years ago, and will probably go into this game as slight favourites.  The tribesmen got off to the slow start this year, but came good in the latter half to finish second in the standings.  Where else would you start with this team but with James Skehill.  A puckout that lands inside the opposing 21 and a great shot stopper are the hallmarks of the Galway goalkeeper.  Greg Lally at center back is another key player on this team, as are James Regan in the middle of the field, Rory Hickey at center forward, and John Moylan.  Given an inch of room from the middle of the field forward Galway can tally the scores quickly. 
Tom’s have not played in anger for three weeks having finished top of the table and earning the bye to the final.  With an additional weeks of rest compared to Galway, it could be a factor a factor early in the game.  Like Galway, Tom’s have a reliable man between the posts in Alan Keating.  The Tom’s side contains some keen competitors in Cahir Healy, Seamus Higgins, and Shane Howley.  The jewel in the team is Laoisman, Zane Keenan.  Keenan’s skill with the dead ball, be it a free or sideline, is second to none.  Cormac Joyce-Power is another key man.  The Limerick native is having a great season at center back for Tom’s.  Tom’s will have their work cut out for them on Sunday and will need all their players on their game to beat Galway.

Ladies Senior Football Final – Sunday August 24 1:00pm

Connacht Ladies contest their third senior final in a row, three for three since the club was founded.  Unlike the past two years, they enter the game as underdogs.  After a slow start to the year, and looking very much like a third place finish, the westerners made a late rally to earn a playoff game against Boston Shamrocks.  A ten point win sees them to another final and who is to say that it could not be three in a row.  With Jane Ward, Catriona Foley, and Sinead Greene manning the forward line scoring should not be an issue.  The full back line will be under pressure from Tir na nOg and if that pressure can be weathered, the westerners have a chance.

Tir na nOg have had a long layoff, but it is hard to see that affecting them such has been the level of their performances this year.  This team is solid all the way through and the results have borne that out.  One more win will mean a return to the top of the pile, and a crack at the North American title.  Last time out the Boston side lost out to Mairead Farrell’s of Philly in San Francisco after mounting a late comeback.  Full forward Jenny Byrne is complimented by Shaune Jackson, Caroline Nee, and Tessa Mullen in a powerful forward line. The half back line poses a difficult barrier to penetrate, Alison Taylor, Niamh Daly, and Louise Bergin have done well all season.  It will be a surprise if Tir na nOg do not run the table and win out on Sunday, however, games are played for a reason as we have seen so often in the past.

Junior A Football Final – Sunday August 21 11:30am

Cork v Donegal

Donegal are looking to add another junior A title to the one last captured in 2012.  The northerners have a strong team to accomplish the task.  Jonathan Byrne is a reliable performer between the sticks, and the half back line is as strong as you will see at this level in Boston.  Hugh Devine will be keyed up for the game and lead from the back.  Once he gets going, Christy McLaughlin at corner forward will have to be watched, while Pauric McLaughlin covers a mountain of ground from wing forward.  With American born youngsters Mark Dunphy and Ciaran McDevitt in the side, Donegal will be the toughest hurdle for Cork.

This year marks progress for Cork who are in the first junior final in a decade.  The rebels came through a strong challenge last weekend from the Connemara Gaels, and did it without the services of three first choice players.  The services of Eoin Barry, Mick Lyons, and Colm Caffrey will be at the disposal of management for the final.  Cork lost out to Donegal in the final game of the regular season, a result that could have gone either way.  Cork have shown themselves to come in and out of games.  A consistent 60 minutes will be required to prevail on Sunday.

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