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

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