Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cárna/Caiseal footballers to visit Boston

Next Saturday, November 4, Connemara connections on either side of the Atlantic will be restored when a visiting Cárna/Caiseal team plays the Connemara Gaels in a challenge for the Coley Lydon Memorial Cup at the Irish Cultural Center.  The relationship between Boston and Connemara is long and deep, and the area west of Galway city has left an indelible mark on the Boston area over the decades.  Wander into several bars around the town and conversations taking place in the native tongue are commonplace.  Martin Walsh, Mayor of Boston, and boxer Sean Mannion, the subject of the acclaimed movie “Rocky Ros Muc”, are as synonymous with Connemara as they are with Boston. 
The Cárna/Caiseal team for the 2005 Galway senior football final.
It is very fitting that the cup the teams play for be named in memory of Coley Lydon.  A native son of Carna, and one of many who made and continue to make, the 3,000 mile journey west across the ocean, Coley was a Gaels stalwart and the contribution he has made to the club cannot be understated.  Coley was a dedicated servant to the Gaels in every way imaginable, both on and off the field.  There is not a committee position in which Coley did not serve and in many ways his tireless work with the club has helped to ease the culture shock that many others who have made the same journey felt, leaving the familiar surroundings of home to come to Boston.   The Gaels club continues to be a home away from home to emigrants from the area, and this year it was evident with 4 Cárna/Caiseal men in the Gael’s starting lineup for their opening senior football championship match.  Coleman Mulkerrin, James Flaherty, Kieran Killeen, and Sean Corbett would also be team mates with Cárna/Caiseal, and with Pauric McDonagh also involved with the Gaels, the connection between the clubs is as strong as ever.
The Cárna/Caiseal club was formed with the amalgamation of Carna and Naomh Conaill in 1987, a move that was necessitated by the emigration of many young people from the area.  At the time the club competed at junior B, went up a level to junior A the following year, and in 1996 made the leap to Intermediate.  2002 was a big year for the club competed at senior football level for the first time.  The big prize was almost captured in 2005.  Coming into the Galway county final as underdogs, Cárna/Caiseal faced a Salthill team that was led by Michael Donnellan and included Finian Hanley.  The Connemara men fell by three points to a team that went on the win the All-Ireland the following St. Patrick’s Day, beating Antrim’s St. Galls in the final.  Subsequent years have seen the club move up and down through the levels, currently competing at Intermediate level.  Emigration has hit the club harder again recently, as was evident from the composition of the starting Gaels side in 2017.
The game is next Saturday, November 4 at 2:00 at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton, and will be followed by food and entertainment at the ICC.   There will be plenty of other opportunities to renew acquaintances and welcome the team and traveling party this week.  JJs Irish Bar and Grille on Dorchester Ave. will host the travelers on Tuesday, Oct 31.  Wednesday night it will be the 12 Bens in Dorchester, and Thursday the party will be at the Goal Post in Quincy.  
By Rory O'Donnell

Monday, September 4, 2017

Blues and Tipp Bring the Silverware Back East.

San Francisco hosted the 2017 North American GAA finals on Labor Day weekend.  The games were played at Pairc na nGael on Treasure Island, San Francisco GAA’s home facility.  Treasure Island is a man-made island in the middle of San Francisco Bay that was created from dredging the harbor to make for safer shipping channels.  The island was created in 1937-38 and the Golden Gate Exposition was held there in 1939, from which a lot of art deco style buildings remain.   The island was also the home for a naval station, and the San Francisco GAA opened their fields there in 2009.   It is accessible by road via the Bay Bridge and is just a short drive from downtown San Francisco.

Six teams from the Boston Northeast division made the 3,000 mile journey west to participate in the finals.  In senior competiton were the Shannon Blues footballers, Fr. Tom Burke’s hurlers, and Boston Shamrocks Ladies footballers.  Cork competed in the junior A football, Tipperary in junior A hurling, and Donegal in junior B football. 

A Great First North American for the Shannon Blues.
Saturday saw two Boston teams progress into the finals.  The Shannon Blues had a convincing win against Donegal Philadelphia with goals from James Feeney, Kieran Hurley and Darren Wallace seeing them to a 6-10 to 0-6 win.  Tipperary also made the Junior A hurling final with a 4-18 to 1-5 win over Vancouver. 

The Shannon Blues captured the senior football championship for the first time in the history of the club on Sunday.  The Boston side faced host team, Sean Treacy’s in the final.  The Blues fielded 5 of the starters from the Boston final two weeks earlier, and included no less than 6 players from the junior team in the starting 13.  Playing with the wind in the first half, the visitors built a sizeable six point lead at half time.  Kieran Hurley swung over some well taken efforts, with Darren Wallace doing some great running.   A goal from Hurley just before half time saw the Blues into a 1-7 to 0-4 lead at the break, but Treacy’s would have that wind advantage in the second half. 

The home side made the push and the game was tied coming down the stretch.  With the Blues struggling to make headway against the breeze, Treacy’s won most every midfield ball and capitalized on the possession.  Eventually a penalty brought it to two points, Mike Moriarty got his fingertips to the ball, but the kick had too much behind it and the it found the back of the net.  The Blues back line was under extreme pressure and had to dig in.  Two more points made it level and Treacy’s had the momentum, but wasted several golden chances to go ahead.  There was a late push in the Blues however, and the Boston side wet into a one point lead after substitute Jimmy Maher put them ahead. Fresh legs from Pat Moriarty also helped the Blues cause.  After the sides were level again, Moriarty won a scrappy kickout and set Darren Wallace free for a point to put the Blues one to the good again. 

After Treacy’s missed another chance, a quick kickout to Barry Hartnett set up a goal in a move involving Wallace and Moriarty, and finished with emphasis by none other than maestro, Hurley.  Treacy’s had one last chance to score and the shot flashed across the face of goal.  And so it was the Blues 2017 North American Senior Football champions by a score of 2-11 to 1-10.  It was a great victory to top off a season that saw them grow into the Boston championship and come good at the right time. 

The Blues team that captured the first ever North American Senior Football Championship for the club was:  Michael Moriarty, Derek O'Brien, Fionn Herlihy, Trevor Wallace, Barry Harnett, Conor Kerins, Pat Murray (AB), Maurice Young (AB), Steven Conway, Darren Wallace, Conor Fitzgerald (AB), Steven Conroy, Kieran Hurley.  Jimmy Maher, Pat Moriarty, James Feeney, Mike St. Bernard (AB), Shane Kelly, Conor Mullen.

Tipperary ended up capturing the Junior championship with room to spare after great overall team performance.  Facing an Auston Texas side, the Boston lads had put plenty of daylight between themselves and the Cowboys by half time.  With captain Jimmy Maher on form, and Seanie McGarr and Cathal Madden tight at corner back, it was a 4-10 to 1-8 half time lead for the Premier county.  Sean Delaney pulled off two wonderful saves and at the other end of the field the bulk of the scores went to Russell Quirke.  The Cappaghwhite man tallied 7 points from frees and ended with a haul of 4-7.  Joseph O’Sullivan tallied 3-3 in the other corner, while Cronan Dempsey chipped in with two points from center back. 

Fr. Tom's came up against a strong Naomh Padraig side from San Fran.
Cork junior A footballers were unlucky to get knocked out at the semi-final stage by a last minute goal having led by 0-16 to 0-14. The Boston Shamrocks came up against a very fit Charlotte team, which contained just 2 Irish born players, and an Olympian playing in goals.  The Shamrocks came back with the help of goals from Sara Jane McDonald and Eadoin Connolly after falling behind early, however the Charlotte keeper proved to be a game saver as on two occasions in the final stages.  With the Shamrocks putting the pressure on, Sara Jane McDonald and Shannon Mullen were through only to be denied by point blank saves.  The final score was Boston Shamrocks 3-6 Charlotte 5-9.  Donegal junior B footballers were also denied a place in the final following a 2 point loss to San Diego.  Diarmuid Moyne and Matthew Cutliffe were on form up front, and at the back Ciaran McDevitt and Sean Winston defended well.  There was a chance to win it at the end, however, Gerard O’Kane’s shot blazed wide with the keeper to beat.  Fr. Tom’s also went out at the first hurdle to a strong home team in Naomh Padraig who went on the win the championship. 

And so, the end of another Boston and North American GAA season with 2 national trophies headed back to the New England.  A year from now the finals come back east with Philadelphia hosting.
By Rory O'Donnell

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Junior C Hurling Final - Barley House Wolves v Worcester

Worcester v Barley House Wolves

There was no separating these teams when they met earlier in the year, and for most of this final it looked like it was heading towards another draw. But three goals in the second half lifted Worcester to victory, and their captain Liam Kelly lifted the cup on a 3-06 to 0-08 scoreline. 

Worcester Captain Liam Kelly raises the junior C hurling cup.
The Barley House Wolves, from Concord NH, opened the scoring in the day’s first match through a Sean Naughton free. The Wolves were the more physical side in the first half and Michael Gregoire stretched to the max on more than one occasion for a diving block. 

Naughton would add two more frees before the halftime whistle and Barley House led 0-05 to 0-02 at the break. It could have been more if not for a brilliant Mike Default save that denied Barley House’s John Mullen at close range. Worcester’s points came from a C. Kenny free and a fine effort from Liam Kelly on the run. 

Worcester’s Seamus O’Shaughnessy scored the first point of the second half and it was the score of the day. The center forward plucked a sideline cut out of the air and fired a curling point over his left shoulder to get his side moving. Pat Naughton answered with a point for Barley House to keep them in the lead, but the match flipped on its head shortly after. 

Worcester’s corner forward was dragged down inside the box, and C. Kenny stepped up to the spot and blasted home to draw his side level at 0-06 to 1-03. Minutes later Worcester added another as Liam Kelly caught a long ball in and finished to the back of the net with his marker hanging off him. 

Pat Naughton answered with a point for Barley, and both sides ramped up the ante in the game’s closing minutes. A thunderbolt of a shoulder from one of the Western MA men left a Wolf lying in the grass, and Worcester put the finishing touches on their championship with another goal from captain Liam Kelly. 

Worcester: M. Dufault, D. Smith, K. Moriarty, J. Alef, C. Kenny, J. Croleau, S. O’Shaughnessy, D. Cawsely, L. Kelly, S. O’Shaughnessy, J. King, Z. Jack, P. Heffernan

Barley House: A. Foley, D. Williams, J. Stasz, R. Nickerson, M. Gregoire, T. Lennon, S. Naughton, S. Dejarlias, M. Mizorski, P. Naughton, S. Durfee, D. Polowski, J. Mullen

By Mark Dunphy

Junior A Hurling Final

Tipperary v Offaly

Offaly started this match very brightly and for most of the first half it looked like Tipperary might have been California dreamin’ too early. But going a man down early seemed to spark the Premier county men and they’re off to San Francisco with cup in hand after raising their game near the heights shown all year.

Stephen Brown struck the sliotar cleanly, and Offaly struck first with a stylish early score. They jumped out to a 0-03 to 0-01 lead on the back of points from Stephen Hallissy and another free from Brown. Tipp’s Patrick Moriarty, one of several men on both sides playing their second match of the day, sent over a fine score from near the sideline. 

Tipp’s Paul Morris picked up his second yellow card before halftime for a love tap on an Offaly knee. Stephen Brown didn’t let the resulting free go to waste, but Tipp came to life after Morris was shown red. They moved into the lead on the back of points from Russell Quirke, Sean Stafford, and Kieran Lowry, and Tipp led 0-14 to 0-08 at halftime. 

Offaly’s Cathal Cusack was handed a red card shortly after the restart. Brown made the most of Offaly’s man advantage with two more frees, but the advantage disappeared after Alan Bergin was sent off. Both sides finished with eleven players. 

Tipp increased their lead with a Cronan Dempsey point, the center back putting his name on the score sheet after steeling his side all day. Stephen Brown kept Offaly in touching distance with a beautiful free, and Chris McMahon buried a goal to cut Tipp’s lead to just two points. 

Tipp needed a score and got two from their center forward, Jimmy Maher, who powered the ball over the line to send the green flag waving. Tipp were made to sweat in the final minutes, but raised the cup with a 1-20 to 1-15 victory.

Offaly: G. Sherlock, B. Dempsey, C. Cusack, J. Murray, J. Rigney, T. Rigney, A. McRedmond, S. Brown, A. Cleary, C. McMahon, S. Hallissy, A. Bergin, M. Blake

Tipperary: S. Delaney, S. McGarr, C. Madden, P. Moriarty, C. Dempsey, P. Morris, S. Kennedy, K. Lowry, D. Nyland, J. Maher, F. O’Carroll, S. Stafford, R. Quirke, 

By Mark Dunphy

Junior A Football Final: Cork v Shannon Blues

Cork v Shannon Blues

Cork relied on an injury time penalty last week to reach this final, and the Rebel men made it interesting once again as they scored a last minute goal to claim this thrilling decider by a single point. It was the club’s first win in this competition in twelve years, which will make the refreshments tonight in Cambridge taste all the sweeter. 

Cork made it all the way in 2017 o win the junior A championship.
Neither team had been in this final recently, and it took a few minutes for the nerves to ease and the game to open up. Shane Connaughton created the match’s first point with a silky run through the middle that ended in a free for the Blues. Cork’s Colm Daly tried to answer quickly but his fisted effort dropped under the bar and the goal was disallowed. Still, Cork won the midfield battle early and pressed their advantage with three smooth points off Cathal Arnold’s left boot. Arnold was a handful for the Blues defense all day, and he played a huge role in keeping them within striking range at the end. 

Stephen Conway replied with two frees off the ground for the Blues each side of a Mark Dalton point. Connor Fitzgerald shifted the dynamic of the first half as he spun past his marker and slipped the ball past Cork’s outstretched keeper to send the Blues into a 1-05 to 0-07 lead at the break. 

A Cathal Arnold free kicked off the second half for Cork, and he added to his growing tally with a beautiful looping point moments later. However, the Blues had a strong breeze at their back and made the most of it. Jack Goulding and Michael Rolston pointed for the Shannon side from play, and Stephen Conway was deadly accurate from dead balls off the ground. 

The Blues led by a point with ten minutes to go, and Cork threw numbers forward in search of an equalizer. They were nearly caught out at the back as Ollie Murphy was forced into a diving stop, but the keeper in red and white held Michael Rolston to a point. 

Cork drove forward again and, with the whistle to the referee’s lips, Jack Lynch had the ball in his hands. A swarm of Blues’ jerseys closed in on him, but the American kept his head and found Colm Daly unmarked on the edge of the square. Daly didn’t hesitate. He blasted past the Shannon Blues’ keeper and sent the Cork crowd into a frenzy. The Blues had one more chance to level the match, but their last kick of the ball went wide and it was the Rebel men raising the silverware as the scoreboard read 1-12 to 1-11.

Cork: Ollie Murphy, I. Crowley, M. Corolon, S. Loftus, C. Cagging, D. Donovan, J. Long, J. Lynch, S. Flynn, C. Arnold, L. Cunningham, C. Daly, M. Dalton

Shannon Blues: M. Moriarty, S. Kelly, S. Connaughton, C. Mullen, M. Young, P. Murray, C. Fitzgerald, P. Moriarty, S. Conway, M. Rolston, J. Goulding

By Mark Dunphy

Senior Football Final - Shannon Blues v Aidan McAnespies

Shannon Blues v Aidan McAnespies

The sun was setting on a perfect summer evening as the champagne-soaked Shannon Blues raised the cup. It was a physical encounter, more tactical than thrilling, but the Blues fully deserved to go through to the North American finals. Brian ‘Biscuits’ Kennedy had his charges in shape and in tune for this final, and Boston GAA Chairman John Farrell described him as a legend as he handed over the silverware. 

Captains Darren Wallace and Eoin Delmer with Pa O'Driscoll.
Josh Ryan put one hand on that trophy in the first couple minutes with a flying run straight through the heart of the Macs defense. He picked up possession 50 meters out, put his head down, and charged forward untouched until he roofed the ball into the net for the first score of the match. The Blues jumped on the kickout for another point and the tone was set. 

Both teams boasted well-drilled defenses and sat back around their own 45 meter lines. There was very little room for attacking mistakes, and every score demanded quick decision making and an even quicker release. 

The Blues had everyone bar the corner forwards behind the ball, and forced the Macs into hopeful long range efforts. The Macs had the same defensive structure, and equally suffocating man markers, but the Blues were more patient and hand passed their way into frees and better opportunities. The best chances of the first half, for both sides, were on the break, turning the ball over and sprinting forward before the defense had time to set up. 
For the Macs, Robbie Croft knocked over two points off the ground and Dan McBride split the uprights from beside the corner flag. The Blues saw Kieran Hurley point twice before Brian Fanning carried through a maze of Macs defenders, swerving past shoulder tackles and curling over another point for the Blues. The Shannon men led 1-07 to 0-03 at the break. 

Kevin Hurley added to their lead shortly after the restart with a gorgeous side step that left his marker grasping at thin air. Hurley hammered his shot just over the bar, then threw over a free after referee Pa O’Driscoll spotted his defender holding him inside. 

Pat Clifford reduced the deficit for the Macs with a fine point after Robbie Croft stormed up the sideline with two men in his wake, but the writing was already on the wall. It was a muted conclusion in the end as the Blues marched to a 1-15 to 0-11 victory, but don’t tell that to the Blues supporter who lost his shirt in the celebrations. The Macs supporters can hardly fault their team after a brilliant win last week in the semifinal, and they fought bravely till the final whistle of this match as another Canton summer faded into the rearview mirror.


Aidan McAnespies: P. Coakley, T. Breaton, P. Clifford, P. Daly, E. Delmer, F. McGeough, D. McBride, S. Breslin, M. Walsh, M. Mongan, N. Rooney, C. O’Donnell, R. Croft. Subs: B. McGee, J. McCusker, J. Gallagher, J. Rigney, C. Wallace, S. McKenna, D. Flood, D. Kane, G. O’Neill

Shannon Blues: D. O’Shea, F. Herlihey, T. Wallace, B. Fanning, B. Harnett, D. McElligott, W. Guthrie, B. O’Seanachain, L. O’Donoghue, D. Wallace, G. Horan, K. Hurley, J. Ryan, W. Hurley, S. Conway, P. Murray, S. Conroy, C. Fitzgerald, J. Craig, M. Young, D. O’Brien

By Mark Dunphy

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Boston Northeast GAA Finals Next Sunday

Sunday August 20 - Irish Cultural Center, Canton Mass.

4:00 Senior Football Final – Shannon Blues v Aidan McAnespies

McAnespies have made it this far against the odds - can they take the final step?
So, we are down to the last two teams standing after a very close run senior football championship.  Starting with the Shannon Blues.  The Blues have at times looked unstoppable this year, and at other times disjointed and perhaps a little uninterested.  Most of these players have played together over the last several years in Boston, and know each other’s style and tendencies.  The Blues can play physical and can play fast.  All positions on the field are more than adequately covered with the starting 13.  With the diamond of Barry Hartnett, Wayne Guthrie, Brian O’Seanachain, and Darren Wallace, the Blues are sure to win plenty of possession around the middle of the field.   Kieran Hurley and Josh Ryan can convert in the full forward line, while Greg Horan and Lee O’Donoghue can take the scores from farther out the field.  Brian “Biscuits” Kennedy has taken the Blues to the promised land before and the team is on a 4 game winning streak.  The Blues beat McAnespies earlier this year, however, this will be a different game. 

McAnespies made it to the playoffs as the sixth team in the door, and have made the final the hard way.  An extra time game against the Connemara Gaels, and a physical battle with Donegal have been character forming and in these games, the team has shown considerable mental resolve.  One thing McAnespies can do, and do it very well, is defend.  A strategy of getting behind the ball and forcing turnovers or poor percentage shots has worked the last 3 games.  Players such as Robbie Croft have been in an unfamiliar role deep inside their own defence, but have adapted well to winning possession and keeping it.  What McAnespies will be missing is Brian Breslin, who will be suspended for the final following last Sunday’s red card.  However, Marty Mongan has proven to be a goal threat on the edge of the square, and with points engineered by the running of Ferghal McGeough, Michael Walsh, and Niall Rooney, and the leadership of Danny McBride, McAnespies have found a way to make it work. 

The Blues will be the favourites in this one, however, we have learned not to write McAnespies off.  If it still close coming into the final 15 minutes be prepared for anything.

Junior A Football

1:00 Cork v Shannon Blues

Shannon Blues Juniors take the field for a final for the first time since 1999.
Cork have made the junior A football for the first time since 2014.  The rebels scraped through against the Connemara Gaels in the semi-final last week, but for the reprieve of an injury time penalty, Cork could have been on the outside looking in.  Cork showed resolve in reining in a wide Gaels lead, and the experience of that should stand to them in the final.  Cork’s talisman is their all-rounder, Cathail Arnold.  Arnold is the go to guy when the chips are down.  The Mourne man makes a difference whether playing in the middle of the field or in a more forward position, and close to goal the alarm bells ring when he has the ball in hand.  Paudi O’Shea is another dangerman.  O’Shea usually plays at corner forward and knows the way to goal, whether from play or frees.  In the middle of the field Jack Lynch has developed into a strong player.  Lynch has been an underage talent to keep an eye on over the years, and now is starting to deliver on that potential.  At the back club stalwarts Seamus Loftus, Colm Caffrey, and Darren O’Donovan will be tasked with holding the fort in the face of a determined Blues challenge, and will be looking to keep the goals out as this has been their Achilles heel recently.

The Blues have not been here in almost 20 years and now is a chance for dedicated clubmen and local youth products such as Pat Murray, Conor Fitzgerald, and Maurice Young to take the field in the biggest game of the season.  The Blues have a team that can play some nice football.  Mike Moriarty is steady in goal, and the experience of Shane Kelly, Derek O’Brien, Pat Moriarty, Conor Mullen and Mike Ralston will stand to the Blues in the heat of a final.  Combined with the talented Shane Connaughton (nephew of Bernie), and up front, Jack Goulding, the Blues make a strong case to claim the Pat Callaghan Cup.  Last week’s semi-final saw the Blues dethrone a good Donegal team with room to spare.  This game could go down to the wire.

Junior A Hurling Final

2:30 Tipperary v Offaly

Tipperary won the Sheehan Cup in June - can they add the junior championship on Sunday? 
Offaly beat Tom’s out to make it to the final to face Tipperary next Sunday.  The semi-final went to extra time, and with an extra man Offaly eased through in the additional period.  Jimmy Rigney is the first player that comes to mind when thinking of Offaly.  Rigney has the experience and know how, as well as a deft touch that can make all the difference.  Offaly’s half back Iine did well in the semi-final with Rian Dempsey, Jack Murray, and Adrian Cleary the starting point for Offaly attacks.  Along with a solid goalkeeper in Gary Sherlock and Stephen Brown at the other end capable of putting up more than a few scores, Offaly will be hoping to give Tipperary a rattle.

For their part the Premier County boys have been just that all season – the Premier Team.  Tipp have won every game by double digits.  Offaly managed to keep them to 10 points earlier in the year, and that is as close as anyone has got.  Whether Tipp will be held remains to be seen.  Tipp have a handful of seasoned campaigners at the senior level in Sean Delaney, Sean McGarr, and Cronan Dempsey.   Their major strength is at the corner forward positions with Russell Quirke and Sean Stafford liable to rack up the scores and put the game out of sight within a short period.  Along with Pat Moriarty, Kieran Lowrey and captain, Jimmy Maher, at center forward, Tipperary will be confident that Sunday will deliver the junior A championship.  Few would predict that it will turn out otherwise, but, stranger things have happened.

Junior C Hurling Championship Final

Barley House Wolves and Worcester will meet for the 2017 Junior C Hurling title at stake.
The junior C hurlers from Worcester and Concord NH will be on the main field Sunday to battle for the Northeast championship.  The Barley House Wolves from Concord finished top of the table, and Worcester close behind with 2 less points.  Their encounter during the season finished in a tie, so all signs point to a close game between these two teams.  Each side contains plenty of talent, and at this stage, plenty of stalwarts for their club’s cause.  Expect some fireworks from this one, the Sean Naughton, Dan Hannah, Alec Foley, Michael Gregoire and Co will be eager to defend the title they won last season and make it two in a row for the BHW.  Worcester, will be just as committed to taking it away down the Mass Pike. 
By Rory O'Donnell

Monday, August 14, 2017

Senior Football Semi-Final: Aidan McAnespies v Donegal

Aidan McAnespies 1-10 Donegal 0-11

It was a game that contained the best of the game – and the worst.  There were ugly scenes in the first half as two major melees broke out.  The result of both was a plethora of yellow cards, and one sending off.  The best of it was the heart and determination shown by McAnespies, when a man down, and after losing their key midfield men, how they buckled down and against the odds, and made it to the 2017 final.  The re-entry to the game of a taped up Danny McBride to see them over the line added a dramatic twist that the tale deserved.

Ferghal McGeough on the move for McAnespies
It was an incident packed first half in which there were numerous yellow cards were issued and one sending off.  It was shaping up to be a good game of football before two melees broke out.  One in the McAnespies goalmouth and shortly afterwards, in the Donegal half of the field.  Referee Pa O’Driscoll was the center of attention as he took several minutes to try and sort out who was responsible for what, such was the degree of kicking, punching, and shoving from most of the players on the field.  In fairness to O’Driscoll, he would have been justified in calling the game, but decided to issue a red card to Brian Breslin as he was adjudged to have been the starting point of the row.  Others got away lightly with yellow cards, which at least players were on notice.  Had reds been issued it could have been a 7 or 8 a side game, which was not what people turned up to see.  We carried on in the hope that a game of football would break out.  At the end of it, the crowd was treated to drama seldom seen in Canton, even among the numerous dramatic games over the years.   On the football front McAnespies had netted through Marty Mongan who fisted a high ball over the line from the edge of the box, and playing the ball well from the back, McAnespies converted three points.

Stephen McBrearty Shoots.
Just before the fighting, Danny McBride had to leave play due to a wrist injury and, after the red for Breslin McAnespies lost their second midfielder.  Few gave them a chance with a man down and their two most important players of the season on the sideline.   Donegal had pointed through Ted Furman and a beautiful curler from Enda Varley.  But McAnespies kept it tight in their own half of the field, and Donegal did not have not whole lot of room in which to operate.  At the break it was McAnespies by a point, 1-3 to 0-5, and the buzz in the stands was all about the scenes that ended the half.

The second half saw McAnespies hold their own, and over the first 10 minutes outscored their opponents.  Niall Rooney, Robbie Croft (2 frees) and Ferghal McGeough capitalized on opportunities from breaking out of defence.  One felt that with the man advantage and the pedigree of players in the forward line, it would just be a matter of time before Donegal caught up.  Fatigue was visibly wearing on players from both teams, but Donegal would have an edge down the stretch with that extra man.

Catch up they did.  Brian Donnelly, McBrearty, Kevin Toner and McBrearty again pointed as Donegal found routes through the clogged McAnespies defence.  McBrearty’s second point put Donegal one to the good and surely it was now a matter of adding a few more in the final minutes and preparing for a final.  It was not over however.  Like Larry Bird coming back into the game for the Celtics after getting getting hurt in 1991 or Paul Pierce coming back on the floor in 2008 after leaving the game in a wheelchair, Danny McBride reentered the game with his wrist taped to the cheers of the McAnespies supporters.  McAnespies rallied and McBride immediately pointed from a free to level the scores.  McAnespies got the lift they needed for the last 5 minutes with the game on the line.  As the defence did its job and continued to make life difficult for Donegal, McAnespies forced Donegal into turnovers and patience saw them work the ball within scoring range.  Donegal were forced into fouling when Che O’Donnell or Michael Walsh were on the ball and McAnespies capitalized by pointing a free (Croft) to put them ahead.  To cap it off Fergal McGeough put the insurance over from out on the wing with a wonderful score.  It was an amazing end to the game and McAnespies supporters have not exhibited such a level of delight in many years.  Donegal will be wondering how the game slipped away from them, while McAnespies will be taking stock and tending to their wounds over the next week when they get ready to face the Shannon Blues.

Macs:  Paddy Coakley, Tommy Brearton, Paul Clifford, Seamus Breslin, Eoin Delmer, Fergal McGeough, Brian Breslin, Danny McBride, Michael Walsh, Martin Mongan, Niall Rooney, Che O’Donnell, Robbie Croft.

Donegal:  Christy McLaughlin, Jason Noctor, Conor Burke, Sean Doherty, Jack O’Brien, Derek Maguire, Eoghan Lafferty, Brian Donnelly, Sean Donnelly, Stephen McBrearty, Mike Finnegan, Enda Varley, Ted Furman.
By Rory O'Donnell