Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 A year of firsts for Boston GAA

2016 will be remembered as a year of firsts in the sporting world.  The Chicago Cubs, Leicester City, and Cleveland Cavaliers were among high profile winners in the professional world, and it was no different on the local front for the Boston Northeast GAA.  The Wolfe Tones won their first ever senior football championship, and Offaly hurlers won the junior championship in their maiden season.  From a Boston and Northeast perspective there was a lot to feel good about with regard to the state of affairs, however there were warning signs as well.  Two new hurling clubs joined the ranks in Providence and the aforementioned Offaly, but there was one less club in football as Kerry pulled out this year.  At underage level there was much to feel encouraged about with a team representing Boston at the U14 Feile in Ireland for the first time in 8 years, and there were successes from the local underage clubs at the CYC in Chicago. 

Having started off on an unsteady note following the AGM in February, the season passed successfully, and without major incident, under the leadership of Joe Lydon.  Kerry, who have been in existence for over a century, were added to the list of long standing Boston clubs that have bitten the dust in recent years. There are rumors that the Kingdom may be making a comeback for 2017, and please God, we will see the green and gold back on the field at Canton.  Offaly and Providence were added to the ranks of hurling clubs, bringing the total to 10 – outnumbering the men’s football clubs by one, with 9 playing football.  Indicative of how Americans are embracing the ancient game of CuChulainn, there are now 5 junior B and C hurling clubs representing all but one New England state – a club in Vermont would mean representation in each state in the region. 

Offaly hurlers won the junior championship on the first try.
There were firsts for the Wolfe Tones footballers and the Offaly hurlers.  In their third successive final, the Wolfe Tones faced a strong Galway team, a team that would have been strong enough to come out victorious in years past.  With each team coincidentally looking for their first senior championship in 27 years, the Westerners had the misfortune of taking on a Tones side that made sure that this year there would be no doubt about the outcome.  The Tones had a professionalism about them that was unparalleled and despite a gallant Galway performance, the Tones victory was comprehensive in the end.  Galway hurlers won the senior hurling, and the Boston Shamrocks their first ladies senior football championship since 2012.  The most exciting final of the weekend (from a neutral perspective) was the junior A football where Donegal defeated the Connemara Gaels by a goal.  In the much expanded junior A hurling championship, new side Offaly, made their mark straight away with a win over Galway, who themselves fielded at junior level for the first time in many years. 

Boston Shamrocks had a good year, winning a haul of 3 trophies.
A team of American Born players traveled to Philadelphia to play in an All American football competition early in the year, and were unlucky to narrowly lose out to New York in the final.

At Youth level the Boston/Northeast region sent a team of U14 boys to the Feile Competition, the first team to travel in 8 years.  The team had representatives from 5 underage clubs in the region and did well, winning 2 games and losing 1 in making the quarter finals of their section.  However a strong Hertforshire team come out on top in the quarter final following a one hour trip from Tralee to Kanturk.  The team were hosted by Ballymacelligott and the visitors could not have expected more from the local club who went well beyond the call of duty in making the American visitors feel welcome.

Boston Northeast Feile Team in Kanturk before the Quarter Final.
There was much success at the CYC for local clubs.  The competition was held in Chicago Gaelic Park, which has to easily be the largest GAA facility in North America.  For four solid days acres of sun (and rain at times) soaked fields were filled with boys and girls from all over the United States playing football and hurling.  The Irish Sports Youth League, St. Brendan’s, and Trinity Milton brought 7 national championships back to the Boston area.  The West Seneca Soccer Complex in Buffalo NY is the destination for 2017’s CYC and is eagerly anticipated by the local clubs.  (Good news for parents is that there is a Dunkin Donuts 2 minutes away from the fields – or 12 if you care to walk.)

It was a year for celebrating for the Wolfe Tones with their first senior championship.
Wolfe Tones capped off the year with a victory banquet at Florian Hall in Dorchester.  It was an emotional Gerry Prior who took the stage to address the assembled crowd with a heartfelt speech after years of disappointment.  Guests included three of the Dublin All Ireland winners – Philly McMahon, James McCarthy, and Dean Rock, Sunday Game pundit and former Derry footballer, Joe Brolly, and former Meath player, Bernard Flynn.  A great night was had by all, having the chance to rub shoulders with the visitors and listen to some very entertaining stories from their playing days recounted by Brolly and Flynn.   

A trip down memory lane:  Boston GAA Schedule for the month of May, 1973 that was published in the Boston Irish News (Courtesy of Billy Kelly).
No All-Star Game or Fenway Hurling in the Fall this year, but with changes to the registration deadline and home based requirements following the North American Board Convention, clubs will have to be on their toes to get their panels of players lined up for 2017.  AGM in February, registration deadlines in March and April, and it is on to another hot GAA summer in Boston!      

By Rory O'Donnell

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sun Aug 28 - Senior Football Final: Wolfe Tones v Galway

Galway 2-11 Wolfe Tones 3-16

Wolfe Tones made history winning their first senior football championship with a controlled, professional performance.  The Tones scored when they needed to score and slowed things down when things needed slowing.  All around the Tones did well, from corner back to corner forward, but for the second week in a row, it was Rathnew man, Leighton Glynn, whose imprint was all over the Tones performance.  The game almost resembled last week’s semi-final when the Tones put the game to bed in the latter stages of the first half.  This week, however, Galway put up a spirited second half performance and gave themselves a glimmer of hope five minutes to go, reducing the gap to five points with time left, but the Tones erased that hope with a goal in response almost right away.

Gerry Prior lifts the Pat Mulvihill Cup with Ronan O'Driscoll and Mike O'Brien.
It was a cagey enough opening period.  Galway played patient build up football, while the Tones moved in bursts of speed.  Galway edged into a one point lead after the early exchanges.  Michael Daly, Eoin Finnerty, Barrry McHugh and Kevin Cummins had a share of the spoils for the Tribesmen.  For the Tones Leighton Glynn was again instrumental, the oil that greases the machine.  Along with Paddy Keenan in midfield and Kevin O’Brien in the half backs, the Tones started to take the game over in a manner reminiscent of last week’s semi-final.

Galway had a couple of slack passes out of defence and were punished on the second one with a goal from Shea Tennyson after a back and forth with Glynn.  The Tones then proceeded to tally seven unanswered points while Galway searched for openings that did not present themselves as the Tones swarmed in defence.  A handful of chances were missed by the westerners.  Tennyson, Glynn, Keenan and Gerry Troy were on the mark for the Tones and it was a 9 point lead at the break.

Galway got the start they needed to the second half.  Quick points from Finnerty and Daly were followed by a goal from Cillian O’Sullivan.  O’ Sullivan had been well marshalled all game, but again, it was a bad pass out of the Tones defence that presented the opportunity, and the Meathman finished well.  The Tones kept their patience however and did not let the flurry of scores rattle them.  The response to the goal took the form of three points, Furlong and Keenan the scorers, and the benefit of the goal for Galway was erased.

All in as the team and supporters celebrate the first Wolfe Tones senior football victory.
The final quarter saw the Tones hold on to their 2 goal lead as the teams swapped points, but the breakthrough that had the Tones supporters preparing to celebrate the first championship in the history of the club came when substitute, Tomas O’Connor, won a ball in his corner and use his strength to beat his man and plant the ball into the far corner of the net.  Galway pushed to end and a glimmer of hope briefly opened when a Kevin Cummins goal reduced the gap to five points with five minutes to go, but true to form the Tones replied immediately with a goal from Leighton Glynn as Galway had numbers upfield.  It has been a long wait for the Tones for their first championship, but for all of their supporters in Canton on Sunday, it was well worth it!

Galway:  J. Kelly, J. Kennedy, K. McDonnell, S. Cullen, P. Naughton, C. Mannion, E. Kavanagh, E. Stritch, M. Daly, C. O’Sullivan, B. McHugh, K. Cummins, E. Finnerty.   Subs:  Subs:  J. Kehoe, J. Naughton, L. Kelly, G. McCoy, G. Lundy.

Tones:  L. Molloy, M. Grady, B. Fortune, S. Driscoll, K. O’Brien A. McDonnell, I. Whelan, P. Keenan, M. O’Brien, L. Glynn, G. Troy, S. Tennyson, S. Furling.  Subs:  R. Driscoll, J. Naughton, T. O’Connor, D. McCabe, G. Brilly.

By Rory O'Donnell

Sun Aug 28 - Senior Hurling Final: Galway v Tipperary

Tipperary 1-10 Galway 3-12

Galway dethroned Tipperary in a senior hurling final that was shaping up for a grandstand finish but just as quick, hopes for an exciting finale fizzled.  Galway held a six point lead that Tipp had reduced to four when two Tipperary players were given their marching orders for off the ball incidents.  Galway, who had the edge on their opponents to that point, now had two additional men to see them through to the finish, and it was a delighted captain, Dan Lordan who lifted the cup to start the celebrations.

Galway Senior Hurlers - 2016 Boston Champions
An early goal gave Galway first half momentum.  Paul O’Dwyer’s close range shot appeared to have been saved at first, however, the umpire signaled that the ball had crossed the line and the goal was awarded.  It was helter skelter stuff, neither side willing to give an inch.  About 15 minutes into the game a minor fracas broke out that took a few minutes to untangle, and a yellow was shown to Sean Nally – handbag stuff really.  Mark Ellis scored two mighty points for Galway, one a free from inside his own 65 and another from a sideline 45 yards out.  Galway played the ball well, 2 scores coming from patience and intelligent use of the ball. 

For Tipp Tommy Heffernan was on the mark with the frees, accounting for 3 of Tipp’s four, and with less than 10 minutes left in the period the Premier men had pulled the goal back.  It was Mark Kavanagh who finished into the far corner.  The Tribesmen restored their advantage 2 minutes later after Hugh Lawlor made a lengthy run, the Kilkenny man found Pat White who made no mistake with the goal at his mercy.  Galway’s defending was impressive with Ellis, Lawlor, and Dan Lordan denying Tipp room.  Points were added by Darragh Murray and White to put Galway into a two goal half time lead.  Galway 2-4 Tipperary 1-4.

With just over 10 minutes played in the second half Tipeprary lost the services of Barry Nash with a red card for an off the ball incident.  Cian Lynch had just taken a point off Galway’s six point lead when Nash got his marching orders.  A few minutes later another Tipperary man was shown the line, this time Andrew Ryan for a similar incident.  It was a shame as Tipp had just made it a four point game and with the final stretch of the game coming up were now down 2 players.

Galway netted a third goal, it had more than an air of good fortune.  Ellis launched a bomb into the Tipp goalmouth from distance and defenders and keeper alike left it to each other, the ball went untouched into the net.    Galway had loose men all over the field now, and each Tipp attack was met with a wall of maroon shirts as, with options reduced, each of the Premier men tried to make his own opening.  Cian Lynch pointed twice for Tipp, but Galway had Niall Mullins, White and Kenny to maintain the gap between the sides.  Galway kept their lead intact to the final whistle and it was a delighted Galway team that brought the cup back to Brighton for the celebrations.

Tipp:  J. Maher, M. Carey, C. Neville, C. Ryan, A. Ryan, S. Nally, B. Troy, C. Dempsey, B. Nash, C. Rafferty, M. Kavaangh, C. Lynch, T. Heffernan.  Subs:  E, Moriarty, P. Ryan, Jason Bergin.

Galway:  J. Loftus, D. Quirke, C. Daly, M. Ellis, H. Lawlor, D. Lordan, R. Fitzpatrick, N. Mullins, K. Kenny, P. O’Leary, D. Murray, P. O’Dwyer, P. White.  Subs:  E. Feeney, Brian McGuane, Ray Grealish, Niall Galvin. 

Referee:  Ger Hoey, Co. Clare.

By Rory O'Donnell 

Sun Aug 28 - Ladies Senior Football Final: Boston Shamrocks v Connacht Ladies

Boston Shamrocks 5-5 Connacht Ladies 1-11

Boston Shamrocks secured the Ladies senior football championship with a four goal second half salvo.  Connacht Ladies held a 2 point half time lead, but before the second half was 10 minutes old were looking at an eight point deficit.  Kelly Boyce Jordan at wing back, and Mairead O’Driscoll, and Sara Jane McDonald in the forward line, were full of running and the Shamrocks eventually broke down the Connacht defences to deliver the first title in 4 years.

Boston Shamrocks had an unbeaten season and captured all 3 trophies in 2016.
It was a hotly contested first half with Connacht Ladies not letting the Shamrocks settle into any kind of rhythm, and really held the advantage on the balance of play.  The westerners defended in numbers and when in possession attacked with speed.  Aisling Reynolds at full forward looked dangerous in the early going and opened the scoring for her side.  Shortly afterwards she set up a score for Roisin Curran.  The Shamrocks eventually started to put pressure on the Connacht Ladies goal, and Maria Bannon netted after being found by Mariead O’Driscoll with a ball across the face of goal. 

Two happy Shamrocks veterans.
The defending champions responded well however, Ruth Cox got the score right back following a sweeping downfield move.  The Shamrocks pointed three times on the trot through Rebecca Mongan, Sara Jane McDonald and Aoife Darcey, but their opponents continued to keep up the pace.  Rose Boyle and Reynolds were very involved in the forward line, however shooting let the Connacht Ladies down on a handful of occasions.  Connacht held a two point lead at the break after Reynolds and Ruth Cox pointed and must have felt confident heading into the second period.

The second half saw the Shamrocks vaunted attacking line come into its own and take advantage of the sin binning of Roisin Boyce, banging in three goals in quick succession.  Aisleen Cunningham had moved to the middle of the field and after netting a goal, was involved in another tremendous goal that was finished by O’Driscoll.  With Sara Jane McDonald and O’Driscoll running well in the forwards, and Kelly Boyce-Jordan covering ground from wing back, Leanne McCrystal finished off another move for the Shamrocks with a 3 pointer to put them into an 11 point lead. 

After Boyce reentered play, Connacht had a player advantage as Cunningham was sin binned for a high tackle.  There were 10 minutes to try and claw back the large gap.  Connacht Ladies pulled two points back through Reynolds and Jane Ward, and had a goal chance after Ailbhe Finnerty was pulled down in the box.  Reynolds tried to place the ball but it curled the wrong side of the crossbar.  The Shamrocks defence was alert to Connacht’s efforts as the westerners pushed for a goal, and saw out the game to reclaim their first title since 2012.

Shamrocks:  L. Crowley, C. McEleaney, L. Larkin, C. McCormack, K. Boyce-Jordan, M. Collins, M. Hagan, L. Kiernan, L. McCrystal, S. McDonald, A. Cunningham, R. Mongan.  Subs: S. McDonnell, B. Maguire.

Connacht:  J. McDonagh, C. Boyle, A. Egan, H. Ennis, E. Hannon, M. Peel, S. Cleary, J. Ward, R. Boyce, R. Curren, R. Boyle, A. Leahy, M. Mullen, A. Reynolds, R. Cox.  Subs: A. Kerr, M. Kelly, A Finnerty.

By Rory O'Donnell

Sun Aug 28 - Junior A Football Final: Donegal v Connemara Gaels

Donegal 2-14 Connemara Gaels 1-14

Donegal recaptured the Pat Callaghan Cup after a tremendously exciting game with the Connemara Gaels.  The Gaels got out of the gates with a fast start but as the westerners tired, and Donegal grew into the game, the northerners restored parity by half time.  Two second half goals from Christy McLaughlin opened a gap between the teams that the Gaels made a brave effort at closing with time running out, but Donegal ended with back to back points from Cian Clinton to claim the title.

Celebrations for Donegal Junior A team and young supporters!
The Gaels got off to a flying start and after 10 minutes were ahead by five points.  Damien Doolan at wing back put back to back efforts over from out on the wing, Phil O’Sullivan put two frees over, and the balance of scoring came from Kenny Gavigan and Tommy McDonagh.  The Gaels began to tire eventually, and Donegal came into the game with some well worked points, Christy McLaughlin and Cian Clinton put back to back efforts over, Karl Archbald another, and with Half time approaching Donegal had turned the tables and held a one point lead.  O’Sullivan leveled matters just before the break, but Donegal held the momentum going into the second half.

Ann Callaghan and family present the cup named after her late husband
and Donegal man, Pat Callaghan, to Donegal Captain, Declan McBride.
The second half saw the Gaels come out strong again, pointing three times on the trot.  Gavigan and O’Sullivan found the mark early.  It was then that Donegal hit back with force, following two points to reduce the gap to a single score, the Tir Chonaill men rocked the Gaels with two goals.  Twice Christy McLaughlin saw the opening and on both occasions his shot was partially blocked, but each time had enough behind it to make it over the line and into the net.  Donegal with a decided edge now.

The Gaels could not get anything going and could not mount an attack of consequence.  The Donegal backs were on top and the Donegal’s speedy forwards had the Gaels on the back foot.  The lead grew to seven after Clinton and McLaughlin pointed, but the Gaels had life left in them, even as both teams started to tire noticeably.

PJ Kelly, who entered as a sub, started the rally with a hard earned point, and after Mulgrew found Tom Sally McDonagh there was just a goal in it with the ball nestling in the corner of the net from the boot of the Leitir Mor man.  Donegal had lost Brian Kelly to knee injury and Tom Caldwell to a black card, and Gaels still had a chance.  Gavigan and O’Sullivan reduced the gap to a solitary point in injury time.  Each possession was crucial now, and it was Donegal who won the critical possessions.  Clinton pointed twice to leave the Gaels needing a goal to force extra time, but with the kickout the final whistle ended a very exciting final.

Gaels:  P. Sweeney, D. Black, F. Cassidy, D. Doolan, P. McNicholas, S. O’Reilly, J. Farragher, K. Gavigan, S. Murray, C. Mulkerrins, T. McDonagh, P. O’Sullivan, D. Mulgrew. 

Donegal:  J. Byrne, P. McNulty, D. McBride, A. Camon, M. Canney, D. Doherty, D. Kelly, B. Kelly, T. Caldwell, R. Diver, K. Archibald, C. Clinton, C. McLaughlin.

By Rory O'Donnell

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sat Aug 27 - Junior A Hurling FInal: Offaly v Galway

Offaly 2-17 Galway 0-9

The Eddie Treacy Cup went to Offaly at the first time of asking.  The faithful county men opened up a nine point lead early in the game, and by the time they settled down, Galway could not eat into the deficit.  Offaly dominated the game from start to finish and never looked in danger of relinquishing their lead.

Offaly Hurling Club celebrate the junior A championship.
Offaly held a sizeable lead at the break.  It was almost all one direction stuff, Cathal Mahon was strong in the middle of the field, and the forward line displayed a level of expertise that the Galway defenders had a hard time coping with.  Stephen Brown’s goal was a great example, just as it looked as if the first touch had let him down in front of the net, Brown adjusted accordingly and made the tap into the net look easy.

Andy McRedmond hoists the Eddie Treacy Cup.
Offaly had a built a 1-6 lead before Galway, who had lost the services of their Beagh contingent during the week, scored.  Brown, Cathal Mahon, and James Kilmartin were on the mark.  Conor O’Brien opened Galway’s account, and the latter part of the half was a more evenly contested affair.  JJ Doyle and Mark Devine brought Galway’s total to 3, while Offaly took the break with a goal and 10.

A Galway comeback looked a possibility for a time early in the second half.  Seamus Loftus and Cian Clifford did well in the back line and Galway as team looked more settled.  Also, Offaly missed a couple of chances, the type that they were hitting in the first half.  Points from Devine and JJ Doyle reduced the deficit, however, Offaly regained control before long.

James Rigney did a lot of work in his own back line, and Gary Sherlock stepped up when called upon.  A second Offaly goal was scored in unusual circumstances.  Stephen Brown’s pickup from a 21 yard free dropped to the ground, and the former Offaly county player pulled on it to drive the ball into the back of the net as the Galway defensive wall was caught off guard.  The Offaly lead of 14 points was now almost unassailable.  A faithful first in Boston, and a great maiden season for the Offaly club.

Offaly:  G. Sherlock, A. Bergin, J. Murray, T. Rigney, A. McRedmond, A. Camon, C. Mahon, R. Reynolds, M. Markham, L. Kiely, J. Rigney, J. Kilmartin, S. Brown.

Galway:  R. Grealish, M. Lennon, D. O’Leary, C. Clifford, S. Loftus, E. Daniels, B. McGuane, T. McCluster, A. Murphy, C. O’Brien, M. Devine, G. Walsh, JJ Doyle.

By Rory O'Donnell

Sat Aug 27 - Junior C Hurling Final: Hartford v Barley House Wolves

Barley House Wolves 0-12 Hartford 2-4

It was a final of two halves as the Barley House Wolves erased a large deficit to come back in the second half and capture their first junior C hurling trophy since 2012.  An emotional team captain, Dan Hannah, thanked his teammates for their efforts, and Hartford on a great game.  It is the first piece of silverware heading across the New Hampshire border in 4 years.

Michael Gregoire has a shot for the New Hampshire men.
Hartford came out of the blocks fast and within the first 15 minutes had netted 2 goals.  Barley House Wolves pointed through Sam Durfee, but for a long time that was all that the Concord side could muster.  Tadgh McNilis was the man on the mark for the Connecticut side with both goals, and added a brace of points to open up a nine point lead.  Eventually the Wolves settled down and came into the game, and before half time were level in the points column.  At the break it was 2-4 to 0-4 in favor of Hartford.

The second half saw the Barley House Wolves mount a comeback.  The Granite State men held their opponents at the four points, while they went to work reducing the gap.  Sean Naughton, who had started in goal, was moved outfield and was a key element on the resurgence.   Naughton accounted for 3 of the Wolves points and on numerous occasions was helping out in the half back line. 

Joe Lydon presents the Cup to captain, Dan Hannah.
Hartford had chances to try and stem the tide, but some good goalkeeping and a few narrow wides meant that the Connecticut side could not add to their tally.  Will Mullen and Michael Gregoire took their chances well with some impressive points as the Wolves tied up the game, and had the momentum at that stage.  Pat Naughton put the Wolves ahead with a well taken point and his brother, Sean, added another for insurance.  Time was not on the side of Hartford, and it was a delighted Barley House Wolves that greeted the final whistle.

BHW:  S. Naughton, A. Foley, D. Hannah, M. Wilson, M. Gregoire, D. Williams, R. Nickerson, S. Durfee, D. Polowski, W. Mullen, M. Masz, S. Mullen, T. Starmer.

Hartford:  J. O’Brien, M. Culligan, R. Doton, D. Putman, C. Lee, A. Putman, M. Larza, C. Massie, R. Reed, C. Madson, R. Williams, T. McNilis, F. Brady.

By Rory O'Donnell

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Boston Northeast GAA Finals Previews

Sunday August 28

Senior Football Final

4:30 Galway v Wolfe Tones

The top two teams at the end of the group stage meet in the final next Sunday.  For Galway this is their first time in a final since 1989 when the Brighton based club last won the championship.  Coincidentally, Wolfe Tones are also waiting 27 years.  Founded in 1989 the Tones have never won a senior football championship, and are in their third final in a row.

Jerry Troy and the Wolfe Tones looking for their
 first senior championship.
In their regular season meeting the Tones came out on top, banging in 5 goals, but a lot has changed since for both clubs.  Galway have gelled and looked impressive in the final 15 minutes in their semi-final with Donegal.  After Donegal went ahead with a second half goal Galway responded in kind, and then some.  Fielding a balanced team, Galway have some match winners in Michael Daly (son of the famous Galway footballer from the 1980’s, Val Daly) and the home based Kevin Cummins.  With a lively half back line that are willing to run all day Galway will keep the Tones on their toes.

Wolfe Tones look serious in their quest to claim the senior title, and have loaded up in that mission.  A team that can afford to leave Kildare’s Thomas O’Connor on the line has some serious talent.  Their last outing left Connemara Gaels in the dust as Wicklow’s Leighton Glynn and Louthman Andy McDonnell had their side humming.  The Tones took it up to a level seldom seen in Canton, and with a deep bench and expertise on the line the Tones have the tools.  They will have to bring it on Sunday though as Galway are not likely to give away anything easy.  This is a tough one to call, it could be close all the way and the team that does not make the big mistake down the stretch will be lifting the cup at about 6:00 Sunday evening.

Senior Hurling Final

2:45 Tipperary v Galway

Defending champions Tipperary reached the final by way of a semi-final victory over Fr. Tom Burke’s at the ICC last Sunday.  Galway won the North American Final the preceding year, and with their juniors in Saturday’s final this is a big year for the Brighton based hurling club as they are in the hunt for a senior and junior double. 

Tipperary's Mark Kavanagh in action versus Tom's.
In the last outing between the teams in early August Galway came out on top, tallying a haul of 26 points – impressive scoring.  The defence is led by Corkman, Mark Ellis while up front fellow rebel, Patrick White, has a keen eye for the posts.  Darragh Murray is another lining out for the Tribesmen who can split the posts from distance and Galway will not be hurting for scores.  Galway will have to cope with the loss of Jamie Coughlin who returned to Ireland recently, with the star forward in the lineup Galway would have had a distinct edge, but his loss evens things up a little on the field.

Tipperary have a number of weapons in the Arsenal that could turn the tide in their favor on Sunday, not least Nenagh man, Tommy Heffernan.  Heffernan has been a major asset to Tipperary at corner forward this year, and farther out the field, young Limerick stars Cian Lynch and Barry Nash have the skill to carry Tipp forward.  The Premier county side will be looking to captain Cronin Dempsey the lead the charge against what will be a very tough test.  Most would probably give Galway the edge on Sunday, but if Tipperary can knock them off their stride early they have every chance.

Ladies Senior Football Final

1:00 Connacht Ladies v Boston Shamrocks

Boston Shamrocks already have the Orla Benson Cup in the bag, as well as the junior football championship and will be looking for a clean sweep of trophies when they face the Connacht Ladies Sunday afternoon.  For their part, the Connacht Ladies are the defending ladies senior football champions and will not be in any mood to see their rivals walk away with the cup.

Connacht Ladies Jane Ward.
The Shamrocks have yet to be beaten and one more win will return the club to the halcyon days of the 1990s and early 2000’s when they dominated ladies football in the town.  The Shamrocks have a potent forward line spearheaded by Donegal native, Aisleen Cunningham.  Cunningham has plenty of talent around her including Rebecca Mongan and Sara Jane McDonald, and will keep the Connacht Ladies back line busy for the afternoon.  With Leanne McCrystal in the middle of the field, and veterans Cathy McEleaney and Brittany Maguire in defence the Shamrocks look well positioned to carry the day,

Connacht Ladies have plenty of ammo with which to try and deliver a second championship in a row.  Jane Ward is the first name that comes to mind, the Tyrone girl covers a lot of ground and is a great finisher.  Local girl Aisling Kerr, along with Aisling Reynolds and Rose Boyce will be doing their best to upset the Shamrocks early and make them pay for any mistakes.  Starving the Shamrocks forwards of the ball will be the key to a Connacht victory as the defending champions cannot afford to find themselves chasing the game early.  Ladies finals in Boston have been known to produce classics, we might see another one Sunday.

The weekend will also see three junior championships up for grabs.  At 11:30 on Sunday the Connemara Gaels meet Donegal in the junior A football final.  The Gaels have not been here for a while and have a very talented team that should give Donegal a run for their money.  A handful of players who last year lined out for the senior team have transformed the Gaels’ juniors fortunes.  Coleman Mulkerrins and Damien Doolan, along with Niall Loughman in the middle of the field could be key for the Gaels, along with Phil O’Sullivan at corner forward.  Donegal have youth an talent in their corner with Mark Canney at the back, Dean Kelly in midfield, and up front Karl Archibald at center forward and Cian Clinton on the wing will cause no end of headaches for the Gaels defenders.  An intriguing contest awaits.
Saturday will see two junior hurling finals contested.  Junior A between Galway and new boys Offaly will be an interesting encounter.  Offaly have plenty of talent in their lineup with Tommy Rigney and Andy McRedmond at the back, and Stephen Brown, Jimmy Rigney and the dangerous James Kilmartin up front.  There are plenty of scoring options for Offaly, however Galway can match their opponents in that respect.  The Beagh trio of Tommie McKeown, Padraig Landers and John Moylan will have the tribesmen motoring their their quest for the first of what could be a weekend double. 
The junior C hurlers of Barley House Wolves from Concord NH and Hartford CT, all homegrown players who took up the sport in recent years will open the weekend’s action on Saturday afternoon.  Hartford find themselves in the final for the first time and face a Barley House Wolves will be looking to reclaim the cup after losing out to Portland ME last season. 

Finals Schedule (at the Irish Cultural Center, Canton Mass.)

Saturday August 27
3:30 Junior C Hurling Final:  Barley House Wolves v Hartford
5:00 Junior A Hurling Final:  Offaly v Galway

Sunday August 28
11:30 Junior A Football Final:  Donegal v Connemara Gaels
1:00 Ladies Senior Football Final:  Connacht Ladies v Boston Shamrocks
2:30 Boston Youth Board - U14 Feile Team parade
2:45 Senior Hurling Final:  Galway v Tipperary
4:15: Boston Youth Board - CYC parade

4:30 Senior Football Final:  Galway v Wolfe Tones

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Youth Board Blitz

By Rory O’Donnell

The Boston Northeast youth board held its year-end blitz on August 20 at the ICC.  Hundreds of boys and girls from U6 to U16 from the Irish Sports Youth League, St. Brendan’s and Trinity Milton competed in the games of hurling and football in what was a great day out to end the outdoor season.  State representative, Walter Timilty, was also on hand to make presentations honoring the achievements of the clubs at the Chicago CYC last month.

State Rep Walter Timilty, Ellen Joyce, and Tara Walsh.
There was great excitement for the U12 football game featuring Trinity Milton, and St. Brendan’s and Irish Sports Youth League.  There was a dramatic finish to the game with the Trinity kids leveling the game with a point from the last kick.  There was also plenty of action for the U6s showing off all that they have learned through the guidance of their coaches.  U8 and U10 teams got a chance to compete, with the ISYL national champion U10s looking very impressive.  The hurlers capped off the day with a game featuring some very skillful youngsters who clearly are developing nicely.

Martin Riordan talks to his U12 footballer team
after a dramatic game.
The U14 and U16 footballers from all 3 clubs had the chance to play a 15-a-side game on the main field, the first time main field has accommodated a full game between the underage kids from the local clubs.  These kids are on the cusp of adult football and many will be lining out for adult clubs on that same field in the coming years.  The teams were managed by Chipper Bannon and Martin Kerr, and a big thanks to Jim Howard who stepped in to referee at the last minute. 

St. Brendan's and Trinity U8 in action.
During the Boston finals next Sunday, the U14 Feile Team and the underage clubs’ successes at the CYC will be honored at the Boston finals next Sunday before the senior hurling and men’s senior football matches.  Many thanks to the coaches and organizers and families from all of the underage clubs, and the supporters of youth development for contributing to the future of the games in the region. 

Action from the U14/16 game.

ISYL and Trinity Players 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Senior Football Semi-Final: Galway v Donegal

Donegal 1-11 Galway 4-12

Brighton is all abuzz as the Galway footballers reached their first final since 1989 in a tight game against a fancied Donegal team.  The game was neck and neck until the final 10 minutes when Galway outscored Donegal by 2-4 to 0-3.  Michael Daly, Eoin Finnerty, and James Kennedy were the goal heroes in a strong finish that saw the westerners into the final.

Eoin Bradley has an eye on the goal early in the second half.
The first half was as tight as could be.  There was never more than two points between the teams.  Both teams defended in numbers, however, there were plenty of well taken scores between the teams.  Donegal went into an early two point lead following points from Darragh Kavanagh (2) and Eoin Bradley.  Donegal looked like the better side in the early going but eventually Galway settled.  Cillian O’Sullivan and Michael Daly drew the teams level, and Donegal had a couple of let offs as Galway broke the defensive cover on two occasions only to see the chances go awry.

Galway eventually netted after Daly was pulled down in the area and Kevin Cummins put the spot kick away.  Donegal answered immediately with fine scores from Paddy Bradley and Eoin O’Connor, and it was Galway’s turn to defend.  On a number of occasions a goal was on the cards for Donegal only to see a Galway defender intervene at the last minute and snatch the opportunity away.  Galway went in at the break with a 1-5 to 0-7 lead.

Colm Mannion in possession for Galway.
The second period was no different with the crowd treated to an exciting 30 minutes of football.  Galway needed to get Michael Daly more involved, and the Mountbellew man came up big when needed.  After the sides traded points Eoin Bradley got inside his man and netted to the top corner.  Would the score turn the game in Donegal’s favour?  Galway answered almost immediately with a goal from Daly who had one thing on his mind.  Donegal missed a handful of chances, while Galway twice pointed to put themselves a goal ahead going into the final 15 minutes.

Eoin O’Connor and Kevin Cummins pointed once for each side, and Galway started to play keep ball to try and kill the clock.  The tribesmen picked their moments and finished strong, three points on the trot from Cummins, Finnerty, and Daly was capped by a Finnerty goal.  Cillian O’Sullivan latched on to a loose ball in the middle of the field and combined with Daly to find the open Finnerty who palmed the ball into the open net.  With less than five minutes left Galway led by 2 goals. 

The last few minutes saw Galway add another goal after corner back James Kennedy ran the length of the field and his shot looped into the corner of the net and the celebrations began for Galway.   It was a win that sees Galway into their first final since 1989, when Galway footballers last won the Boston senior football championship.  Wolfe Tones, who looked very well drilled in their victory over Connemara Gaels, provide the opposition.  A great final lies in store at 4:00 next Sunday at the ICC.

Donegal:  B. Flynn, C. Byrne, J. Noctor, C. Russell, G. Brennan, G. Gallagher, R. Caldwell, B. Donnelly, T. Durnin, E. Bradley, E. O’Connor, D. Kavanagh, P. Bradley.   

Galway:  J. Kelly, J. Kennedy, K. McDonnell, S. Cullen, P. Naughton, C. Mannion, E. Kavanagh, E. Stritch, M. Daly, C. O’Sullivan, B. McHugh, K. Cummins, E. Finnerty.

By Rory O'Donnell

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

Fr. Tom Burke’s 0-15 Tipperary 3-13

Tipperary eventually saw off the challenge of Fr. Tom’s with a second half display where they asserted themselves on the game.  It was always going to take a goal to break open the game, and for Tipp it took two.  Having already bagged one, and the teams neck and neck in the second half, Tommy Heffernan netted a second to open a three point lead and Tipp used it a platform to see themselves into the final.   Tom’s challenge waned after the score and Tipp went on to win by seven.

Tipperary had too many weapons for Tom's on Sunday.
The fireworks began early between the teams.  Five minutes into the game a schmozzle broke out at one end after which warnings were issued.  The game remained close all the way through, and the yellow cards had to be issued more than a handful of times.  The only goal of the half went into the Tipp column.  Cian Lynch pulled on the ball from the 21 and after Owen Webb O’Rourke got a hurl to it, the ball ended up in the back of the net.

The teams relied largely on their free takers for scores as the game was tight and did not have a lot of flowing hurling.  Alex Morey for Tom’s tallied seven of Tom’s nine first half points, while Tommy Heffernan for Tipp was on the mark four times.  Andrew LaTouche put a lovely sideline over the bar for Tom’s and Barry Nash a great score from play.  At the break it was 1-5 to 0-9 in Tipperary’s favor.

Tommy Heffernan was Tipp's man on the mark.
The second half saw Tipperary start to pull away and the game slip away from Tom’s.  Barry Nash, Brian Troy, and Andrew Ryan began to get a hold of the game.  A second goal from Heffernan put Tipperary into a lead that they extended.  Colin Ryan and Heffernan pointed five times between them before Colin Ryan turned his man and put the ball into the bottom corner of the net for a third goal.

It will be a Galway Tipperary final with Tipp looking to defend their Boston title.  It has been neck and neck between the two all season and with the top class talent on each side, Sunday’s encounter holds the promise of treating the locals to a superb spectacle of hurling.

Tom’s:  O. Webb O’Rourke, K. Hanifan, C. Bergin, G. Brennan, K. Kennedy, G. Forde, A. laTouche, L. Lyons, S. Kilduff, S. Howley, A. Morey, R. Hanley, C. Joyce-Power.

Tipp: J. Maher, S. McGarr, C. Neville, M. Carey, A. Ryan, M. Kavanagh, B. Troy, C. Dempsey, B. Nash, C. Rafferty, C. Lynch, T. Heffernan, C. Ryan.

By Rory O'Donnell

Senior Football Semi-Final: Connemara Gaels v Wolfe Tones

Connemara Gaels 1-8 Wolfe Tones 3-17

Wolfe tones played their best game of the season to get themselves into their third senior football final in a row.  The Connemara Gaels played second fiddle throughout, although had one of the Gaels early goal chances went in the game might have taken on a different complexion.  As it turned out the Tones were on top in all facets of the game and got some great performances from Leighton Glynn in the forward line and, Andy McDonnell and Mick Grady in defence.

Wolfe Tones head into their third senior football final on the trot.
Wolfe Tones went into the break with a commanding lead.  The game was well balanced over the first 15 minutes, and the Gaels could have had three goals.  Thanks to a great save from Lorcan Molloy from Ronan Rafferty, and a couple of close calls the Tones remained clean in the goals against column.  It was the Tones who netted early.  Shea Tennyson finished into the roof of the net after a great burst forward from Kevin O’Brien.  The Gaels managed four points, and seemed to be well in the game, when the Tones turned up the gear a couple of notches.

Paddy Keenan can only watch as John O'Brien
pounces on a loose ball.
Leighton Glynn in the half forward line was everywhere for the Tones and there seemed to be acres of space as the South Boston side moved like a well-oiled machine.  Jerry Troy was the man on the spot to play the role of finisher on four occasions as the Tones were first to breaks and sliced through the Gaels defence.  Additionally Ryan Rafferty was well marshalled by Mike Grady and a major Gaels threat was kept quiet.    10 points on the trot seemed to drain the will of the Gaels and saw the Tones to a 1-12 to 0-4 half time lead.

The second half turned into a formality, especially following a second Tones goal about 10 minutes in from Sean Furling.  The Gaels were playing for a bit of pride, with Ryan Hyde, Joe O’Shea, John O’Brien, and David Larkin working hard.  The Tones were surely looking ahead to next week’s final where they meet a Galway team that had put Donegal to the sword earlier in the day.  Galway are looking for their first senior championship since 1989, while the Tones are looking for the first in the history of the club – which, coincidentally, was founded in 1989. 

Based on this performance it looks as though the Tones have figured out where the pieces fit and there was no lack of motivation from the players.  Next week’s final holds a lot of promise, Galway’s young guns of Michael Daly, Colm Mannion and Cian O’Sullivan against the experience of Paddy Keenan, Leighton Glynn and Andy McDonnell. 

Gaels:  E. Connolly, Lee Cullen, F. Cooney, J. O’Shea, D. Larkin, R. Caffrey, R. Hyde, C. Davey, C. Sheehan, N. Graham, J. O’Brien, R. Rafferty, R. Kennedy.

Tones:  L. Molloy, M. Grady, B. Fortune, S. Driscoll, K. O’Brien, A. McDonnell, I. Whelan, P. Keenan, G. Troy, L. Glynn, M. O’Brien, S. Tennyson, S. Furlong.

By Rory O'Donnell

Junior A Football Semi-Finals: Donegal v Cork; Connemara Gaels v Shannon Blues

Connemara Gaels 2-16 Shannon Blues 2-4

It was brother v brother Sunday when the Connemara Gaels and Shannon Blues met in the junior A football semi-final.  Pat and Stephen Murray lined out on opposite sides, with Stephen earning the household bragging rights as the Gaels came out on top.  With the win the Gaels earned a crack at the junior A championship where they will face a talented Donegal side.  Signs of a Gaels victory came early as the Connemara men found their groove the scores seemed came with frequency.  Niall Loughman in midfield, along with corner forwards Darragh Mulgrew and Phil O’Sullivan, were the axis that kept the Gaels on top throughout.

Connemara Gaels Junior A Team
The Gaels went into the break with a nine point lead.  The westerners dominated the half behind the midfield play of Niall Loughman and, with Phil O’Sullivan and Darragh Mulgrew, busy in the full forward line possession was turned into scores.  O’Sullivan and Mulgrew accounted for eight of the Gaels 11 points, and there could have been two goals but O’Sullivan was twice denied.  First a great save from Mike Moriarty and soon afterwards defender Simon Sinnott stepped in to block from close range.

The Blues struggled to create chances, points from Maurice Young and Conor Mullan the sole reward for their efforts.  Conor Fitzgerald was in at one stage with a half chance for a goal, but the ball ended up going just wide of the posts. 

The Blues would need a major turnaround to have a chance as the Gaels lead stood at 9 points starting the second half.  The O’Sullivan – Mulgrew machine continued to purr along nicely.  At the back the Gaels defenders were alert to everything coming in and stifled most of the Blues endeavor.

After Conor Fitzgerald was black carded the Gaels were awarded a penalty that O’Sullivan slotted away to the keeper’s left.  The game was pretty much in the bag at that stage, though the Blues scored a couple of consolation goals in the final minutes. 
The Gaels will face a Donegal team that eased through their semi-final the night before, in the final next Sunday.

Gaels:  P. Sweeney, D. Black, F. Cassidy, D. Doolan, K. Gavigan, S. Reilly, N. Loughman, J. Farrragher, T. McDonagh, C. Mulkerrins, S. Murray, D. Mulgrew, P. O’Sullivan.

Blues:  M. Moriarty, D. O’Brien, S. Sinnott, S. Eustace, J. Craig, P. Moriarty, J. Walsh, P. Murray, P. Duffy, M. Young, C. Mullan, C. Fitzgerald, K. Barry.

Cork 1-6 Donegal 1-18

Donegal strolled into the junior A football final against a hapless looking Cork side.  By half time the northerners led by 1-11 to 0-2 as Cork did themselves no favours with turning over possession in their own half and failing to take advantage of what chances came their way.  The rebels turned the ball over on countless occasions trying to play out of defence and Donegal punished them.  Donegal dominated the middle of the field and the forwards capitalized.  Cian Clinton at wing forward put some well taken points over the bar, and the goal came from a Christy McLaughlin penalty following a foot block in the box.

Things got not better in the second half for Cork, any chances that came their way were fluffed.  It was only in the final 10 minutes that Cork managed to show what they were capable of during the season and picked off a handful of points and netted a late goal to make the scoreboard look a bit more respectable.  With a sold side fielding, Donegal must fancy their chances heading into the final.

By Rory O'Donnell