Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Super 11s Hurling Underlines Huge Potential for GAA/GPA in USA

By Rory O’Donnell

The Super 11s hurling extravaganza at Fenway Park has to go down as having exceeded all expectations.  The crowd of 28,000 were on their feet cheering Galway’s winning score by the time the game was reaching its climax.  The game itself had plenty of everything, - spectacular goalkeeping, skill and action, and a grandstand finish.  It was intensely contested and even had a scrap thrown in for good measure.  Generally the day left people with a good feeling,  and signs are that organizers and spectators alike are looking forward to the next one.  Whole thing left me with the undeniable message that with the right support and exposure, the GAA in the United States has an unprecedented opportunity to break out of the traditional support base and attract participation and support among a whole new audience.

 Youngsters from the local underage teams welcomed the players on to the field. (Courtesy Sportsfile).

Several factors would have contributed to the success of the event itself.  The location is a central one, Fenway Park is an iconic stadium in one of America’s most Irish cities.  The teams would also have been a major factor.  Boston has a large contingent of people originally from Galway and with Galway connections. Mayor Marty Walsh, whose parents hail from Connemara being the foremost of the Galway Bostonians.  The counties involved are also rivals in the Leinster championship and this year a replay was required to separate the teams, which has to have contributed to the genuinely competitive manner in which the game was played – there seems to be little love lost between the sides.   Finally, the exposure that the game received from all of the major news channels in the weeks and months leading up to it was huge.  With major sponsors AIG, and the marketing resources of the Fenway Sports Group (owners of NESN) on board, there was no shortage of awareness in the region thanks to the extensive publicity leading up to the game.  It was mentioned during Bruins (Ice Hockey Team) broadcasts, news features covered the game, and there was awareness to the point that American friends of mine, who would have little interest in any sport, were asking me if I was going to the hurling match.  Bottom line, whether going or not, everybody knew about it.  By contrast, several hundred core GAA supporters attended the All Star football game at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton this time last year, an event that did not contain any of the above elements.

Some of the local youngsters got to play a half time game in front to the 28,000 who attended the game.
The GPA is looked on with suspicion as to their motives in some quarters, and there are plenty who have reservations about the Super 11s exercise.  Some have passed it off as a junket for the players and officials, others say that it is simply a tool for the GPA to go after the big money in the United States, and others feel that the 11-a-side format is a bastardization of what is truly a wonderful game to behold when played in its proper form.  Others have written that it is a waste of time as Americans will not take up the sport anyway, and that anybody who thinks otherwise is dreaming.

Yes, the players and GPA officials get a trip out of it, the GPA has attracted big sponsors with big money, and no, it is not proper hurling (my initial impression of the manner in which the game was playing out was that it resembled lacrosse with hurls).  However, what cannot be denied is that hurling (albeit in this short field format) received unprecedented exposure in New England and the United States with last weekend’s events.  When you marry that with the fact that hurling is being taken up by Americans in ever increasing numbers all across the country, and that there is a hunger for a competitive sporting outlet for all ages and abilities, a confluence of factors might just mean that the time is ripe to put some serious resources into promoting GAA games over here.  

There never has been any consistent attempt to do that.  An All-Ireland final 60 years ago, and annual NY Connacht championship game, or an All-Star trip here or there, is not going to get the job done in that regard, and nor has it thus far.  The GPA may have the right ingredients here.  A stadium close to the hearts of the locals, with some big time promo on sports channels, and sponsorship, will generate interest among new followers.  Which brings me to a big point.

The raison d’etre of the GPA is to improve the lot of county players, however, there are plenty of reasons to involve the local GAA communities abroad in such events going forward.  There are people all over the planet doing the grunt work on the ground to build up these games.  For them, an event like the one we saw at Fenway Park is a godsend in spreading that gospel.  It is akin to Moses coming down from the mountain.  These folks operate within the infrastructure that is already in place to bring in new participants and supporters, and have the ready made expertise and knowledge to do that.  This side of the Atlantic there is massive competition from other sports, and it is a teak tough challenge to attract people from outside of the traditional audience to the games in order to develop a lasting, grass roots following beyond the circle of emigrant and first generation Irish.  Just as at home, busy people volunteer their time to coach children, organize clubs and competitions, and raise funds to promote and play the games.  By attracting this new audience, Super 11s hurling represents an unprecedented opportunity for the local GAA to break the mold and expand the supports and participant base.  For the GPA, it is an opportunity to build a solid, dedicated base of support that will lead to increased opportunity for future sponsorship and support for the top tier players.

The local GAA was not left out in the cold on this by any means, and managed to get some exposure from this year’s event.  The opportunity to spread awareness was not lost.  The day before Galway and Dublin players did some coaching for underage kids and held an open training at the Irish Cultural Center.  The youth leagues were well represented.  Kids in full gear greeted players as they entered the field and played a half time exhibition.  The captains of the winning adult clubs were recognized during the interval and an information booth was in place so people could learn about the local organization and get to swing a stick or hold a ball.  For many in Fenway park, it was news that games were organized and played at underage and adult level in the region.  This event provided an incredible opportunity to spread that news.

Bottom line.  If GAA games in the United States were to get this kind of attention on an annual basis, the potential to grow the games within the already existing and developing framework is huge.  If the GPA and Super 11s hurling is the way to do it, all the better.  An annual game, or even a 4 team tournament over a weekend or two weekends, played in 2 or 3 different major stadiums could expand from local to national attention.  County teams are the way to go.  Galway v Dublin in Fenway, Cork v Tipp in Yankee Stadium, imagine the possibilities….. someday, the USA v Ireland?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Big Weekend Ahead for Boston GAA

By Rory O’Donnell

Next Sunday, November 22, sees the much anticipated Super 11s hurling exhibition at the oldest, most famous baseball stadium in the world, Fenway Park.  The event is sponsored by AIG, the Fenway Sports Group, and the GPA and follows Saturday’s sold out (American) football game between Notre Dame and Boston College at the same venue.  Galway and Dublin will meet as part of a weekend celebrating Irish culture that will also feature Boston’s Dropkick Murphy’s providing some added entertainment to the day.  With more than 18,000 tickets already sold, it is fair to say that the game has captured the imagination of the locals and is one of the biggest GAA events to come to Boston in recent years. 

The locals will get the chance to meet the
Galway hurlers at the ICC Saturday.
The Super 11s format was conceived by the GPA to allow the skills of hurling to be showcased in stadiums outside of Ireland that are not large enough to host a full hurling match.  Notre Dame University hosted a Super 11s game two years ago between Leinster and Munster.  The strategy is to elevate the profile of the sport in the United States and build a base of support.
With heavy hitting sponsors and promoters behind the event, combined with the novelty of gaelic games at Fenway, the game is getting the attention of a whole new audience, in addition to the local GAA community.  With local sports stations and media outlets giving the game exposure, and a heavy media presence at the game, it represents a golden opportunity to promote the games at grass roots level in the region.  

The local GAA will get a chance to showcase the tremendous efforts that are underway to grow the games from the ground up.  Under 6 to Under 14 players from the region’s youth teams will escort the players on to the field and some lucky kids will have the opportunity to display their gaelic football and hurling skills on the famous turf during half-time games.  The adult board will also have the chance to distribute information about the more than 20 clubs operating in the New England area and the 2015 Boston champions in all grades will be recognized before the game.

It will be a return visit for several of the players who are traveling next week.  Members of both counties have played in Boston in recent years; Galway’s Iarla Tannian played for a number of seasons with Fr. Tom Burke’s, while Andy Smith togged for the Galway hurlers.  From the Dublin team, Ryan O’Dwyer has played multiple seasons with Wexford, and fellow Dublin players Liam Rushe and David “Dotsy” O’Callaghan played with the Galway Hurling Club. 

There will be no fraternizing with the enemy in the lead up as the panels are being kept apart before the game.  However, there will be a great chance for the locals to get up close and personal with the Galway players on Saturday.  The Galway Hurlers will hold an open practice at the Irish Cultural Center, the home of the Boston GAA, at 11:00am, in preparation for Sunday’s game.  The players will also conduct coaching for underage players, and all are welcome to meet and greet the players. 

While it is primarily a hurling weekend, there will be an added treat, for Dubliners especially.  The All Ireland Football Champions will also be in town at the weekend.  Paddy Andrews, Dean Rock, Mick Fitzsimons, John Small, Tomas Brady and Eoin Culligan will be bringing the Sam Maguire to Boston.  There will be a reception Saturday evening at Porter Belly’s in Brighton and then again on Sunday night at 6:00 at The Grand Canal in downtown Boston.  All are welcome to meet the players and take photos with the cup.    

So, there is something for everybody to enjoy on what promises to be a weekend to remember.  

Tickets are available online at http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ticketing/irish_festival.jsp

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Boston Northeast GAA Golf Outing

Winning Team - Team Green Briar
  Luke, Desssie, Matt and Ross 
The Boston Northeast GAA would like to thank all of the teams and sponsors who participated in the first annual Golf outing on Friday, October 9.  The event ran smoothly and an enjoyable day was had by all with a round of golf at Sandy Burr Country Club followed by dinner at the Green Briar.  There were prizes for the winning teams, longest drive, and closest to the pin. 

A special thank you for the support of The Green Briar and Magners Cider, and a big thank you to all of our sponsors whose support ensured a successful event.  

Dinner Sponsors: Feeney Brothers, Donegal Boston, Metropolitan Cabinets, and John McDevitt.  

Ann Holland:  Longest Drive
and Closest to the Pin.

Second Place:  Darren Fitzgerald,
Tom Kenny, Johnny Hayes.

Hole sponsors: Ardmore Masonry, Ballyheane Construction, Briar Group, www.cakepopsboston.com, Caroline Heraty, CK Construction, Clover Tiliny, Colman Connelly, Cunningham Plumbing & Heating, D. Roland Construction, Darren Duffy, Dave Hession, Dempsey Carpentry, Feeney Brothers, Ferguson Plastering, Fine Finish Carpentry, Fr Tom’s Hurling, Gaby & Sharon Jones, Gareth Ruddy, Harbour Carpentry, John Flannery Construction, John McCarthy, John O'Connor, Josephine Murphy, Karny Construction Design, Kayla Donovan, Landscaping, Keegan Family, Kelly's Cellar, Kevin Walsh Plastering, Mark Mathers and Family, Martin Family, McGrath Concrete, Mike Costello, Nicolas Smith, Ollie Garry, Ollie Guarke, Paddy McDevitt, Padric Lydon, Pat Nee, Paul Curran, Paul Ryan, Pauric Boss McLaughlin, Peadar Nuggent, Porter Bellys, , Porter Bellys, Sean Davoran, Sean O'Brien, Shamrocks, The Banshee Bar, Tim Peters, Timmy O'Neill, Tir Na Nog, Tom Devlin, Tom Kenny Electrical, WCI Corp, William Leary, Tommy O’Donnell, Worcester Hurling, and Mike O’Connor.
Third Place:  Team Charles McCarthy
Jamie Kehoe:  Closest to the Pin.

The Boston Northeast Board would also like to recognize the hard work put in by all of the adult and underage clubs with keeping the games alive and growing in the area.  Our division is the largest in the North American Board with 36 teams competing in 8 competitions, and with an increasingly competitive underage section an incredible amount of work is put into the games each year at all levels.  

Longest Drive:  Tom Kenny
The scope of the Boston Northeast GAA is also ever expanding, with clubs in 4 of the 6 New England states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine).  With plans for a hurling club in Rhode Island in 2016,  a fifth state will be in the umbrella of the board, as well as a second club in New Hampshire.   Supporting youth development is also a growing component of the Divisional board’s scope.  Proceeds from the golf outing will be critical in helping the board meet the growing needs of facilitating the running of competitions and with the continued developing the game at adult and underage levels.

Rory O'Donnell - PRO

Friday, October 9, 2015

Handball Exhibition at Boston Athletic Club

Cork's Killian Carroll
For Boston based handball fans there will be an exhibition game between 2 of Ireland’s biggest stars on Sunday October 11 at 9:00 am.  Killian Carroll (Mallow) and Steven Cooney (Ballaghadreen) will meet at the Boston Athletic Club.  At 22 and 23 years of age respectively these players are rising stars on the Race 4 eight tour.  It promises to be a treat for followers of the game
NY Based Steven Cooney

Sunday, September 6, 2015

2015 NACB Finals

2015 North American Finals – Chicago

Gaelic Park, in the Oak Forest suburb south of Chicago, hosted the finals for the first time since 2010.  Clubs from all over North America, which included the Hoboken camogie club in New Jersey, made the journey to compete for national championships in several categories from Junior D football to senior footall, camogie, and hurling.  Six teams traveled from the Northeast division and contested Men’s and Ladies Senior Football, Junior B football and Junior A, B and C hurling.  It turned out to be a barren weekend trophy wise, with just Connacht Ladies making the final and falling to a very talented San Francisco team.  Chicago took both men’s senior trophies with Harry Bolands and McBrides coming out on top in hurling and football.

Friday the action began with the Junior B Hurlers from Concord NH scoring a great quarter final victory over Raleigh by a score of 1-16 to 2-5 early in the morning.  The Donegal junior B footballers were knocked out on the first try by Baltimore, while the Portland Junior C Hurlers had to get through 2 games to make their semi-final.  Portland had an easy win over Seattle at 9:20 in the morning, and at 3:00 faced Denver.  Denver were playing their first game of the weekend, however, Portland looked the fitter, sharper side and with Larry Maher, Dan Flanagan, and Joel Wezowicz firing on all cylinders the team from Maine advanced on the back of a 4-9 to 2-1 win.

Hoboken Guards Camogie Team won the senior championship Sunday.
Saturday saw Madison knock out Portland with a convincing 0-16 to 1-5 win, while Barley House Wolves also fell in the final seconds to a last minute goal.  The Wolves were well on top in the game and led at one stage by nine points.  Twin Cities, however, banged in 4 second half goals, the last coming with seconds left, to leave the Concord men bitterly disappointed.  Donegal had the three time winners, Ulster, reeling with 3 first half goals however eventually succumbed to a 10 point defeat. 

Connacht ladies were left to fly the Boston flag on finals day, however, a fast and fit Fog City Harps team took full advantage of sin bin infractions losing out by a score of 1-5 to 4-20 in the end.  A disappointing weekend in terms of results and will be Seattle getting a turn at hosting the 2016 finals.  Here’s hoping that at least a trophy or two will be heading from the Pacific Northwest to the New England region 12 months from now. 

Portland 1-5 Madison 0-16

Dan Flanagan in action for Portland.
Portland’s hopes of making the final, and coming home with a North American trophy, were dashed Saturday morning.  The lads from Maine faced a skilled Madison WI in the junior C hurling semi-final.  Perhaps the exhertions of playing two games the previous day took their toll as Portland got off to a slow start and spent the remainder of the game playing catchup.  Matters were not helped after Joel Wezowicz had to leave the field of play due to a foot injury, and Portland were without a defensive leader. 

Madison built up a considerable lead while the Mainers struggled to find their range.  Early in the second half it was a 0-14 to 0-3 lead for the Wisonsonites as points were put over the bar from distance.  Portland battled hard to keep the dream alive as Flanagan, Matt Anderson, Conor Boyle and company put numerous balls into the danger zone, however shots drifted wide or were well saved as Madison buckled down in defence to hold on. 
A goal did provide a measure of hope late in the game, however, time was running out and the gap between the teams was too wide to bridge at that stage.  Portland bow out at the semi-final stage to their evident disappointment.

Barley House Wolves 2-14 Twin Cities 5-7

The Junior B hurling championship ended in bitter disappointment for Barley House Wolves as the Concord men lost out to a last minute goal.

Sean Naughton on the break for BHW.
The first half saw Barley House Wolves build up a solid lead.  At center forward Pat Naughton was involved in everything, battling for every ball and accountable for several scores.  There was a slight slope on the field, which provided the Wolves with an advantage.  Steve Dejardain in the middle of the field was also very much involved, while the defence with Alec Foley and Dan Hanna anchoring the corners played tight and let very little go by them.  At the break it was a 2-8 to 1-2 lead and everything seemed to be going to plan.

The second half was a mirror image of the first.  This time it was the Concord side that were on the back foot as Twin Cities banged in two goals and what had looked like a comfortable lead was now anything but.  As the Minnesota side edged closer with some well taken points, and a handful of near misses, the Wolves managed to tally a couple of scores in the latter stages to possibly hang on.  With time almost expired the New Hampshire side held a two point lead, a Twin Cities converted free reduced it to one. 

Then the unthinkable happed for the Wolves as a shot from a very tight angle sneaked inside the near post and over the line.  The Wolves had one last chance to try and retrieve the situation, however, it was not to be.  As the final whistle sounded it was the St. Paul/Minneapolis side celebrating a magnificent come-back win, and heartbreak for the boys from the Northeast.

It was a weakened Wexford junior A hurling side that took the field against Indianapolis and were knocked out at first without much of a fuss.  

Donegal 3-8 Ulster 3-18

Donegal went out at the semi-final stage on Saturday, but not without giving the 3 time North American Champions a scare.  Though the team bore no resemblance to the side that lifted the Boston championship the week before, it was a decent looking side that took the field for Donegal. 

Gavin Gallagher in action for Donegal v Ulster.
Ulster, as was expected, eased into a five points to no score lead.  Michael McGinty pointed and shortly afterwards put a goal into the back of the net.  Donegal now showed a level of belief.  Mal McDermott, Emlyn Mulligan, and Gavin Gallagher were well involved and a second goal was fired in from Harry Loughran.  Donegal looked the better side at this point and played the ball well through the middle.  A third goal was put away as the Ulster defence was carved open and the San Franciscans were reeling.

Ulster settled however and slowly chipped away at Donegal’s lead until by half time it was Donegal still on top with 3-5 and Ulster with 0-9.

The second half saw the Ulster side assert themselves and pull away to end up 10 point winners.  Donegal ran out of steam, while Ulster brought in fresh legs to keep their momentum going. 

Ulster had established a one point lead with 15 minutes to go, but the floodgates opened then.  There were a couple of close efforts at goal early on as Ulster got inside the Donegal defence, and eventually what was close turned into scores.  

Donegal tried to respond but ran into dead ends, the dismissal of Gallagher for a high tackle did not help either.  The anxiety on the San Fran sideline lessened with each goal that went in, and in the end it was a 10 point difference between the teams. 

Connacht Ladies kept the Boston flag flying for the Sunday by overcoming the local St. Bridgets side with a 6-13 to 2-7 semi-final win.  The big guns were all on form in the Saturday game.  Jane Ward, Ruth Cox, Aimee McGuckin, Clara Fitzpatrick and Catriona Foley firing on all cylinders.  By half time the Connacht girls had built up a big lead, and continued from where they left off in first half.  However, it would be a formidable San Francisco side they would meet in the final where they faced Fog City Harps.  

Ladies Senior Football Final

Connacht Ladies 1-5 Fog City Harps (SF) 4-20

Clara Fitzpatrick runs at St. Bridgets defence.
The Connacht Ladies were undone at the final hurdle by a very talented and fit Fog City Harps who traveled from San Francisco.  The game was well within reach of the Boston side at half time.  There was a seven point differential.  The San Francisco side got going early in the second half, and at one point held a 3 player advantage as the sin bin held 3 Connacht ladies players.  It was one sided thereafter and with the result in the bag, the San Francisco side piled it on over the final 10 minutes.

The game began brightly for the Bostonians, Jane Ward and Amy McGuckin pointed.  Fog City answered with a point each from center forward Carol Hegarty and corner forward Laura Connaughton, these two would prove to be a deadly combination as the game wore on.  The San Francisco side had most of the possession, however, Connacht defended well and prevented the shot on goal though conceded several frees.  The Boston side went into the lead again, Ward pointing two frees and the game looked to be settling into a tightly contested affair.  However the frees began to cost the Boston side as four conversions in a row put San Francisco two to the good.

Cathal Moriarty with the final pep talk.
Ward was shown the yellow with just over 20 minutes gone, and the west coasters capitalized, the goal came after Hegarty found Connaughton with a pass and the two point difference became 5.  With Connacht finding it hard to get past the extra defender to set up scores, the five points seemed a big gap to try to close.  Fog City ended the half with two more points, both from center back Jordan McGee who was at liberty to roam forward.
With Connacht needing an early couple of scores to settle back in, and Ward due back on the field in a matter of minutes, there was certainly hope.  The hopes were dashed as in quick succession an additional 2 players were sin binned for heavy challenges.  Connacht now down to 12 for a brief period.  Fog City started to pull away as the scores piled up.  Two quick goals back to back put the outcome beyond any doubt and by the time the Boston side was back to full strength it was as good as over.

The celebrations began at the final whistle as the ladies senior cup heads back to the west coast after a year back east.  So ended the Boston interest in the North American Finals for 2015, and although there were no cups heading back to Boston, the efforts of the clubs who made the journey and kept the Northeast flag flying are to be appreciated.  It will be Seattle getting a turn at hosting the 2016 finals, and here’s hoping that at least a trophy or two will be heading from the Pacific Northwest to the New England region 12 months from now.

By Rory O'Donnell

Senior Hurling Final:  Naomh Padraig (San Fran) 0-15 Harry Boland’s (Chi) 1-16.

Men’s Senior Football Final:  McBride’s (Chi) 2-11 Ulster (San Fran) 0-10

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Senior Football Final: Donegal v Wolfe Tones

Wolfe Tones 1-9 Donegal 1-10 (After Extra Time)

Donegal and Wolfe Tones produced another game that went down to the wire, this time it was Donegal who pulled off a tremendous victory, and it required extra time to do it.  The Tones led by two points coming into injury time, yet Donegal managed to force extra time with 2 quick points.  In the extra time period the Tones enjoyed a two man advantage in personnel but could not overcome the one point advantage that Donegal held.  Donegal got their 10 outfielders behind the ball when the Tones were in possession, and chased down the field when they won it back.  The Tones had a chance to force a replay, however, a last minute Neil Flynn free, from a difficult angle and about 45 yards out, drifted wide of the posts and with the final whistle it was time for Donegal to celebrate their first Boston Championship since 2010.

The Victorious Donegal Senior Team.
The first half was filled with off the ball episodes and the football never had a chance to get going.  Referee Pat Casey spent time consulting with umpires and linesmen, several yellow cards were issued to players from both sides, and the only player who had to leave the field was Sean George for a black card offence, Donal Nugent replaced the Ballymun kickhams man.  Scoring was at a premium as was any semblance of good football, there were a total of 5 scores the pick of which was a sublime goal from the outside of Ciaran Hurley’s boot into the far corner of the net – probably one of best Canton has seen in many years.  Hurley had gotten outside his man to the end line and from a tight angle the Edenderry man chipped the ball over Mickey Boyle’s head and it floated for what seemed an eternity before dropping into the far corner of the net.

Donegal had a goal and a point to their credit at that point, Jason Whelan involved in both scores.  Whelan had pointed, and shortly afterwards found his partner at the other corner, Lorcan Connor who blasted the ball into the net.  Charles McCarthy accounted for the Tones other score, a solo effort from distance and Whelan a second point for Donegal.  There were several Donegal misses, one in particular after Whelan had got behind the defence and with the keeper to beat, the shot skidded just wide of the far post.  1-2 to 1-1 for Donegal at the half, and still the game yet to really take off.

It was all square with 15 minutes to go.  The focus was more on football now, and there were well taken scores on each side.  Nugent and Conor Moynagh put the Tones into a one point lead, before Mulligan put a smooth finish between the sticks to square it again.  Neil Flynn, who just entered the fray, and Mulligan traded points, it was 1-4 each with 15 minutes to go.  Play was moving up and down the field now with each side trying to gain the upper hand.  After Neil Flynn pointed a dead ball from an incredibly difficult angle, Mal McDermott, another player who entered from the line, fielded the kickout and Nicky Kelly pointed the chance - the subs were having a big influence on the game.

The Tones opened a two point lead with the game going into injury time, Flynn and Conor McCormack with the points, it looked like the Tones had the championship in their grasp.  Donegal managed to force extra time, though could have stolen the game.  Donegal broke downfield as the Tones coughed up the ball while trying to maintain possession in their own half.  Darren McDonnell pulled off a fine save to keep the ball out of the net, and deny Donegal a last minute victory.  Surely it would be the moment that captured the Tones first championship.  Not so as Donegal kept themselves alive. Mal McDermott pointed the 45, and the kickout broke to Emlyn Mulligan who earned his keep with a very well taken point from a good distance out and the championship on the line, and quite incredibly sent the game to extra time.
There was a lot of emotion as Nuala Mulvihill
presented the Pat Mulvihill Cup to Donegal.
The first period of extra time ended with Donegal ahead by a point.  Nicky Kelly was thrown down in the penalty area and the ensuing penalty kick from Mulligan was put over the bar with force, the Leitrim man went for power and got under the ball.  Kelly and Mulligan added one more each to the tally before Marty Farrell and Nugent pulled the Tones within a point.  Just before the mid-way point Gavin Gallagher was shown a red card for a challenge on Neil Flynn.  The second period of extra time saw Donegal lose another player, Matt Smyth to a red card after pulling down Conor McCormack.  The Tones had 10 minutes and 2 extra men to pull out a score, or two. 

Donegal dug deep into their reserves to see out the game to the final whistle, chasing back to get behind the ball, and forward as needed.  Needing a score to at least force a replay, the Tones failed to capitalize on the extra personnel as, with players exhausted, the attack did not have the support required when in possession – shades of Galway 1983.  There was a chance to level the scores in injury time as the Tones won a free about 45 yards out, however, Neil Flynn’s effort was a little wide of the posts.  Donegal delight at the final whistle, and heartbreak for the Tones.  It will be another crack at the North American senior football title in Chicago for the men from Tir Chonaill and Malin.

On a separate note, best wishes to Marty Farrell and family who will be starting anew in Chicago.  It was a pleasure to watch one of the best home based players in town for these past eight years. 

Tones:  D. McDonnell, E. Powderley, P. Faulkner, C. McCormac, S. George, C. Moynagh, C. McCarthy, D. Hyland, M. O’Brien, G. Brilly, C. Hurley, T. O’Connor, M. Farrell.  Donegal:  M. Boyle, J. Noctor, C. Burke, T. McCleneghan, M. Smyth, D. Green, R. Kavanagh, B. Donnelly, P. McAteeer, E.Mulligan, G. Gallagher, J. Whelan, L. Connor.

By Rory O'Donnell

Senior Hurling Championship Final: Tipperary v Fr. Tom Burke's

Tipperary 2-25 Fr. Tom Burke’s 0-16

It was a dominant Tipperary that took the senior hurling championship trophy Sunday afternoon with a masterclass performance.  Willie Egan was unparalleled on the field, at center back Egan dictated the game and set the stage for a victory that sees Tipp capture all of the senior trophies on offer in 2015.  Tipp effectively put the game away at the end of the first half, the Premier men were quick, sharp, and deadly from any angle or range.

Tipperary put on a clinic in the first half.  There was no position where Tipperary did not impress.  From Clinton Hennessey in goal, who on a couple of occasions not only made a fine save, but also distributed the ball to the right person.  David Reidy and Alan Quirke at corner forward were quick and deadly, a scorpion like sting with every whip of the hurl.  The pair were very hard for the Tom’s corner backs to contain and between them accounted for 1-7, half of Tipperary’s score for the half.

Seanie McGarr presented with the Eddie Flaherty Cup.
Egan at center back was probably the man of the match, play flowed to and from the Kilbrin man.  John Coughlan at wing forward was also on top form.  For Tom’s frees from Paul Winters accounted for all of the scores, as there was nothing opening up from play; the Tipp defence swarmed every time Tom’s were in the attacking zone.  Tom’s had already started looking for goals before the end of the first half, which in a way suited Tipp as the space to shoot was tight close in to the goal.  Although Tipp’s lead had already ballooned, perhaps a few scores would have settled the defending champions with something to hang their hat on at half time.  Heading into the break it was a fourteen point 2-14 to 0-6 Tipperary lead.

Tom’s would need a good start to the second half if they were to make any inroads into the lead.  Tom’s brought in Dylan Costello and Kevin Flynn.  Flynn tallied a couple of well taken points, however, it seemed as though the work that Tom’s had to put in to yield a point was much harder than Tipperary, from whom the points seemed to come easy.  Tom’s had put four over to one for Tipp at one stage, but as quick as you like Reidy and Morrissey put back to back scores over to reassert the Tipperary dominance.

Tipperary celebrate the 2015 Senior Hurling Championship.
The final quarter saw Tom’s improve the complexion of the scoreboard, and did so with points from Flynn and Winters.  Joyce-Power almost netted, but his shot from inside the box was blocked by Damien Moloney.  Tipperary make it a sweep of cups with the senior championship trophy to add to the New York sevens and the Sheehan Cup. 

Tipp:  C. Hennessey, S. McGarr, D. Moloney, J. Rigney, W. Egan, T. Rigney, S. Molumphey, C. Dempsey, A. Morissey, J. Coughlan, A. Dempsey, R. Quirke, D. Reidy.  Tom’s:  A. Keating, S. Og Lyons, S. McClelland, S. Dolan, K. Kennedy, C. Burke, P. Winters, L. O’Neill, K. Dunne, N. Burke, C. Joyce-Power, S. Howley, D. O’Mahoney.

By Rory O'Donnell

Ladies Senior Football Final: Connacht Ladies v Tir na nOg

Connacht Ladies 2-15 Tir na nOg 1-6

Connacht Ladies reclaimed the senior football championship in a surprisingly one sided game against champions Tir na nOg.  The Brighton side were without a defensive leader with Lisa Brick out injured, as well as dangerous forward Shauna Jackson.  The high point for Tir na nOg was an early Maggie Sayers goal, however from that point on it was all Connacht Ladies.  Dominant in the middle of the field and with all forwards firing on all cylinders it was pretty much all over early in the second half. 

Connacht Ladies Captain, Jane Ward, presented with the
Mickey Coyne Cup.
The game started with a bang, two in fact.  First came a goal from Maggie Sayers who finished low to the near corner, and it was answered almost immediately with a Catriona Foley goal.  Connacht Ladies held the advantage thereafter.  Midfielders Tori McLaughlin and Clara Fitzpatrick caused no end of problems for their opponents, while up front the forwards feasted on a healthy supply of ball.  Jane Ward, Aimee McGuckin, Ruth Cox, and Nicola Donnelly each accounted for scores.  Niamh Hynes was called upon to make two fantastic saves to prevent the distance between the teams from growing.

Tir na nOg ran into issues when trying to move the ball into the opposition danger zone and promising looking developments tended to come to naught.  Fiona Morrissey accounted for a point, and Niamh Daly, Sayers, and Caroline Nee tried hard to turn the tables and change momentum, but it was all with Connacht Ladies.  At the break there was a 10 point gap, 1-11 to 1-1 for the Connacht Ladies.

Celebration Time!
Tir na nOg made a better first of it in the second half, though the 10 point difference was a big ask to make up.  Chloe Ryan and Shelly Walsh pointed, however, the Brighton side labored while Connacht Ladies looked comfortable in seeing out the game.  A second goal with less than 10 minutes to go put the cap on the win, and it is Connacht Ladies reclaiming the senior football championship and going for a crack at a first North American.

Connacht:  J. McDonagh, J. Conroy, C. McNabbb, K. Lynch, C. McMahon, H. Poff, E. Hannon, T. McLoughlin, C. Fitzpatrick, A. McGuckin, N. Donnelly, R. Cox, J. Ward, C. Foley, M. Mullan.  Tir na nOg:  N. Hynes, J. Davoran, R. Stapleton, C. Kelly, N. Daly, A. Taylor, F. Ni Bhriain, F. Morissey, R. Stapleton, M. Sayers, C. Nee, S. Bannon, C. Ryan, L. Bergin, S. Walsh.

By Rory O'Donnell

Junior A Football Final: Wolfe Tones v Donegal

Wolfe Tones 1-5 Donegal 0-7

Cormac-Joyce Power was the hero for Wolfe Tones in the Junior A Football final.  Having entered the game was a sub with the outcome very much in the balance, the big full forward from Limerick put the final two points over the bar for the Tones, the winning score coming in injury time.  It was a scrappy, but exciting, game with each side accountable for several missed chances that had they been taken, could have swung the result either way. 

Tones Captain, Kenny Rega, presented with the Pat Callaghan Cup
by Ann Callaghan.
There was not a lot between the teams in a low scoring tentative first 30 minutes.  Each side had chances to score that went astray, Donegal probably the guiltier party.  Donegal closed the spaces down well in their defensive area, and kept the Tones endeavors at finding the room to get off a shot to a minimum. 

Aaron Curly, Ciaran Diver, and Darren Doherty were prominent for Donegal in the opening half, Diver and McLaughlin tallying the early scores, while for the Tones it was Kyle Lynch and John Carroll with the points.  At the break Donegal had the odd point of five to their credit.  It came from Christy McLaughlin, who earlier had a chance at goal and forced a fine save from Pauric Miskell. 

The Tones got off to a great, though fortunate, start for the second half.  After Donegal had won a free in their own half, the kick went straight to the Tones Fergal O’Brien square in front of goal, and O’Brien who could hardly believe his luck, punished the northerners with the maximum return.  Kenny Regan followed with a point and the Tones were now a goal to the good.  Donegal answered with points from Michael McGinty and Brian Kelly, who had just entered play.

Wolfe Tones celebrate the junior a football championship.
Again the misses piled up for each team, a few more in Donegal’s column.  Eventually Diver, who was full of running for the hour, levelled matters with a well taken point.  With possession breaking fairly evenly around the middle of the field the game was very much in the balance.  Wolfe Tones introduced Joyce-Power who was deployed at the edge of the square; it proved to be a decisive move.  Marty Kelly, another new entrant to the game, worked hard to keep the ball and the pass found Joyce-Power who restored the Tones lead by splitting the posts.  With the 30 minutes almost played, Diver then found McLaughlin to level the scores again but it was not all over yet.  The next possession was won by the Tones and the ball ended up in the hands of Joyce-Power and the Shannonsider had no hesitation in taking the responsibility to put the winning score over the bar.

The result denied Donegal a historic sweep of football championships and and off the Chicago for the National Finals for the Tones juniors.  Best wishes to Donegal goalkeeper and utility man, Eamonn McCarney who is heading back across the pond, Canton is going to miss you!

Tones:  P. Miskell, C. Corrigan, A. Rooney, K. Regan, K. Gorham, L. Kiley, P. Collins, N. Crowe, C. Moriarty, D. O’Callaghan, F. O’Brien, K. Lynch, J. Carroll.  Donegal:  E. McCarney, D. McBride, A. Camon, D. Doherty, E. Quigley, H. Loughran, T. Caldwell, A. Curley, C. Bell, M. McGinty, C. Diver, C. Hughes, C. McLaughlin.

By Rory O'Donnell

Junior Hurling Final: Wexford v Fr. Tom Burke's

Wexford 3-12 Fr. Tom Burke’s 2-8

Wexford captured the Eddie Treacy Cup in a tremendously exciting junior A hurling final.  Wexford deserved the win in the end, who got a brilliant performance from Dominic Magill at center back.  Magill had just played 60 minutes of a junior B football final and rolled back the years.  Fellow veteran Peter Ryan had a fine game at center forward, though Tom’s could have stolen the game as with 4 minutes to go it was all square.  Wexford, however, netted a goal and two points in those final minutes and will be the Boston Northeast representatives at next weekend’s NACB finals in Chicago.

Wexford junior hurlers  celebrate three in a row.
It was Wexford doing all the scoring in the opening quarter of the game.  With 15 minutes gone it was a 1-3 to no score Wexford lead.  Peter Ryan at center forward was central to much of the positive things happening for Wexford.  Ryan pointed the first score, and for the goal did well to find Colm Kerins and take the return pass to kick the ball into the net.  His fellow club veteran, Dominic Magill also did well at center back, and accounted for a point from a 65.  Michael Collins in the middle of the field accounted for the third point.
Fr. Tom's Junior Hurlers almost staged a comeback in the final.

James Dooley was in great form at corner back for Tom’s and on several occasions sent incoming fire back in the opposite direction.  Tom’s had a handful of wides early on, and eventually, in the 17th minute were rewarded with a goal after Ciaran Moore got a second bite at the cherry from inside the box and made no mistake.  Chris O’Donoghue sent two fine efforts over the bar and Tom’s were well off the mark.  With Collins playing well in midfield Wexford kept in the ascendancy and again racked up three unanswered points from Magill, Jason Foley and Collins himself.  At the break it was a 1-7 to 1-3 Wexford lead, with Tom’s hanging in.

The second half had the crowd on their feet for the final 10 minutes.  Tom’s had kept it close and with the clock ticking there was just a goal between the teams.  Tom’s picked up their performance for the second period and after 5 minutes had the gap down to a point after scores from Higgins, Alan Camon, and a Moore free.  Wexford were under pressure as Tom’s were on the verge of turning the game on its head.

Wexford found their feet again, and in large part thanks to the performance of Magill.  The Lavey man was not only in the right place at the right time, but his delivery into the forward line was quality.  Kevin Joyce and Kerins brought Wexford three points to the good again, and after Kerins was pulled down in the box a chance to really deliver a blow was there for the Slaneysiders.  Denis Brennan’s powerful shot was a foot too high though and the lead was four. 

Coming into the stretch Wexford held on to the one goal lead. Tom’s had scored the odd one of three, and crowd were on their feet in anticipation of a grandstand finish as Tom’s kept up the pressure on the Wexford defence.  Eventually the breakthrough was made after a long free was dropped into the box a Tom’s stick got a touch and it was all square with 4 minutes to go.  Declan Bindon had an immediate answer for Wexford however.  From the puckout Peter Ryan won possession and delivered the pass for Bindon to finish and wind that had filled Tom’s sails proved to be a only a gust.  Two more Wexford points ensured that the Brighton based club would celebrate its third junior championship victory in a row.

Wexford:  G. McGovern, P. Breen, J. Taggart, D. Magill, G. Lundy, J. Foley, M. Collins, C. Kerins, P. Ryan, D. Bindon, B. Dalton, K. Joyce.  Tom’s:  K. Flynn, J. Dooley, T. Doran, S. O’Brien, S. Higgins, D. Burke, P. O’Sullivan, J. Costello, C. O’Donoghue, J. Dowling, G. Kelly, C. Moore, A. Camon.

By Rory O'Donnell

Monday, August 31, 2015

Junior B Football Final: Aidan McAnespies v Donegal

Donegal 3-12 Aidan McAnespies 1-9

Donegal captured the junior B football championship, the first of 3 finals in which the club would be competing, in a dogged game against rivals Aidan McAnespies.  There was a contrast in styles, with Donegal having the speed to employ the running game, while McAnespies used a more direct approach.  Three goals put the game away for Donegal, the third came just as McAnespies were making a second half comeback.  McAnespies had put three points in a row over the bar and crept within four points before John Duggan canceled them out with one kick of the boot.

A very happy Donegal Captain, Seamus Sweeney, accepts the trophy
from Boston Northeast Chairman, John Cunningham. 
If not for the butt of the Donegal post there would have been just two points in it at half time rather than the five that separated the teams.  Early in the half Neil Donaghy’s shot had Christy McLaughlin beaten but the ball cannoned off the foot of the post with McAnespies leading by two points to one.  Soon afterwards John Duggan dispossessed Niall Duffy and poked the ball across the line, and from that point on Donegal were in front.

McAnespies survived off the free taking of Ryan McCrystal who tallied their first three points from the dead ball – and ended up with seven of McAnespies points from frees.  Donegal had a little bit more of youth and fitness on their side and moved the ball well.  A point from Jason Costello and a second goal from Duggan were the result of sweeping downfield moves involving multiple handpasses till the ball reached the scorer.  Adam Kellet battled well in the full back line for McAnespies, as did Rory O’Donnell at corner forward, as McAnespies tried to undo the Donegal advantage.  Eventually, just before the break, an early ball from Donaghy to Peadar Nugent was buried by the veteran into the far corner to keep McAnespies in it.  At the break it was Donegal 2-6 and McAnespies 1-4.

Donegal tallied the first 2 points of the second half as the speed of the forward line opened up the McAnespies defence again.  Mattthew Cutliffe and Duggan pointed.  McAnespies dug in however and delivered several balls into the hands of Nugent at full forward.  Donegal’s fouling led to three points from the boot of McCrystal and the gap between the sides was closed to four points.

Donegal had another goal up their sleeve.  The ball was worked into the hands of Duggan who sidestepped the keeper and shot into the open net.  Immediately following the score, with Donegal ahead now by seven points, a row broke out that led to the marching orders for Michael McNally, and McAnepies had 12 minutes to try to make up the difference with a man down.  It was not a day for miracles and Donegal shepherded the win home with four points down the stretch to take the junior B football trophy for the second time in 3 years.

Donegal:  C. McLaughlin, S. Sweeney, P. McNulty, M. McBride, H. Devine, T. McConnell, P. McLaughlin, J. Byrne, R. Shovlin, R. Ivers, J. Costello, M. Cutliffe, J. Duggan.  Macs:  N. Duffy, E. Daly, A. Kellet, S. Clifford, P. McCusker, M. McNally, N. Donaghy, R. McCrystal, D. Slevin, P. Nugent, G. McAlinden, D. Magill, R. O’Domhnaill.

By Rory O'Donnell