Monday, August 27, 2018

Sun Aug 26 - Senior Football Final: Wolfe Tones v Donegal

Wolfe Tones 1-12 Donegal 0-17

In front of a crowd of 2,000 or so, on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon and with a light breeze blowing, Donegal answered questions that hung over this team in the season finale.  Despite having won their previous 5 games, performances were not entirely convincing.  Wolfe Tones had assembled a team that had a lethal set of forwards, and had a very balanced look about them.  As it turned out the Donegal defence put in a superb performance, limiting the vaunted Tones forwards to 13 hard earned scores.  At the other end of the field, Dermot Connolly turned it on and put on a display of passing and shooting that showed why he has, hands down, been the best footballer there is for that past several years.

Captains Jason Noctor and Mike O'Brien with referee David Hickey.
The game was probably the best, most exciting display of football on U.S. soil in recent years.  The scoring, defending, passing and fielding from each side was second to none and the ball moved from end to end with speed and skill.  The most there was between the sides was 4 points and lead changed hands five times over the course of the game as each team vied for the advantage.  Dermot Connolly pointed 12 of Donegal’s 17 points, with left foot or right, and evenly split from frees (many were earned himself) and play, it was the best performance of the summer from the St. Vincent’s man.  Derryman, Niall Keenan at corner back, was also in contention for a man of the match performance, and along with Liam Silke frustrated the Tones corner forwards for the hour.  Worthy of note was that in such a game, Jack Lynch and Paudie Kenneally, both home grown players who lined out in the Tones back line, each had excellent performances and looked right at home on a field laden with top tier footballers.  
The opening exchanges were tight and there was little to no room for either side to gain an opening.  It took the best part of 10 minutes to open the scoring.  Lee Carr got Donegal off the mark with a point from play, and for the Tones it was Aaron Elliott who answered.  Things opened up gradually as the minutes ticked by.  Jason Noctor had the unenviable task of marking Tones dangerman, Thomas O’Reilly.  O’Reilly finished the game with 4 points, all in the second half, but along with Neil McEneaney and Sean Doherty, the all home-based Donegal half back line performed well. 

Donegal Celebrate a Great Championship Victory.
The Tones tried to get their running game going, but each time it looked as though there could be breakthrough, Keenan or Silke were there at the last line to snuff out the danger.  Shane Carthy on another occasion tracked back to deny possession to Ronan Jones who would have had the goal at his mercy.  With the scores at 3 points each, Dermot Connolly clipped over a lovely point.  Connolly was on song, the passing, shooting and decision making of star player was impeccable.  Chris Sallier answered with a hard earned point for the Tones to restore parity.  Donegal gained an initiative in the latter stages of the half.  Ciaran McFaul, Connolly, and Carthy pointed one each, to a single score from Thomas Beckett, in the run in to the break to put Donegal in a 0-7 to 0-5 half time lead.

After Donegal extended their lead by 2 more points to the largest lead of the game, the first score a brilliant Connolly strike from out on the wing, the Tones needed a goal and they got it.  Beckett found Jones with in rare space with a cross field ball, and the Meath youngster gave Hugh Boyle no chance with the shot.  O’Reilly leveled it with a well taken point and it was game on again.  The intensity level never let up, and Donegal’s corner backs continued to play well to weather the Tones endeavors.  Dean Curran and James Dolan were introduced to try and get some change out of the Donegal defenders, and Beckett put the side ahead with another point.

The tension was palpable around the grounds in Canton as the teams could not be separated entering the final stretch, however big players step up and big moments, and so it was as Connolly turned up the heat.  Each time the Tones went up by one, Donegal answered through Connolly.  With the game entering the last 5 minutes Donegal pushed out a two point lead.  O’Reilly, who was the stand out player for the Tones, put his side up by one, but Oisin O’Neill leveled.  The score of the game, and the eventual winner, came from Connolly who dummied right and shot left from 40 yards and the ball sailed high and true between the posts.  McFaul made it a two point lead with the game in crunch time, and it felt like the scales had tipped towards Donegal.  Curran had a couple of chances to pull back a score, but the Derry man snatched at the opportunities.  O’Reilly did make it a one point game, but two from Connolly on the cusp of the whistle left the Tones needing a goal to force extra time.  Elliott pulled one back, but the final kickout was won by Donegal and with it the final whistle sounded. 

It was jubilation for Donegal, and for the Tones huge disappointment.  For the folks who showed up to see the game, it was a rare treat to see such a great game, and a master of it, in the flesh.

Tones:  Shane Hayes, Paudi Kenneally, Kevin Maguire, Eoin Buggie, Jack Lynch, James McEntee, Ronan Jones, Paddy Keenan, Mike O’Brien, Thomas O’Reilly, Aaron Elliott, Thomas beckett, Chris Sallier.  Subs used:  James Dolan, Dean Curran, Robbie Cunningham, Oisin Kelly.

Donegal:  Hugh Boyle, Niall Keenan, Liam Silke, Neil McEneaney, Jason Noctor, Sean Doherty, Shane Carthy, Brendan Murphy, Ciaran McFaul, Michael Carroll, Sean Donnelly, Diarmaid Connolly, Lee Carr.  Subs used:  Oisin O’Neill, Dylan Wall, Owen McHugh.
By Rory O'Donnell

Sun Aug 26 - Senior Hurling Final: Tipperary v Fr. Tom Burke's

Fr. Tom Burke’s 0-16 Tipperary 3-20

Tipperary captured the senior hurling title with a lot to spare, but the difference on the scoreboard was very unfair to a Tom’s team that came out to do battle, and were with the Tipp lads step for step, but for a couple of softly conceded goals that delivered severe blows to their efforts.  Tom’s matched Tipperary in almost every facet of the game, but sometimes a moment or two of brilliance can change the complexion of a game.  These moments came from Russell Quirke who netted unlikely goals late in the first half and early in the second to deliver double body blows to Tom’s.  Quirke ended up with a hat trick, but the first 2 were the key goals that made the difference.

Boston Senior Hurling Champions:  Tipperary
The opening 30 minutes were close run and played in almost perfect conditions for hurling.  There was a great atmosphere around the place, and hurling was crisp and clinical from both teams.  Each side showed some great hurling and there were some well taken scores.  Tom’s got a great performance from Dean Earls at corner back, who needed to be on his toes with the aforementioned Russell Quirke his assignment.  Quirke got away for a couple of points, and also for Tipp, Dean Coleman, Shane Bennett, and big Joe Coleman found the space between the uprights.  Joe Coleman almost netted, but a great save from Tom’s keeper Kevin Flynn denied the Wexfordman from 20 yards.

Tom’s got some good scores from Stiofan McMahon, Joyce-Power and Ali Dooey and kept Tipp reined in as the focus and concentration was there.  Dean Flood put in a good 30 minutes to keep the Tipp back line on their toes and also tallied a point.  With the teams tied at seven points each and half time fast approaching, Tipp net with a goal from nothing.  Quirke blocked down Tom’s keeper Kevin Flynn as he was delivering what appeared to be a routine clearance, and all of a sudden Tom’s were in a 3 point hole.  Tom’s stuck with it and kept the intensity level up, ending the half with a McMahon point to make it a 2 point half time difference, Tipperary 1-8 Tom’s 0-9.

The teams traded points to open the second half, one a brilliant one handed effort from Joyce-Power after fielding in the Tipp penalty area.  The score reduced the gap to a single point.  However, each time Tom’s appeared to have the opportunity to gain the edge, Tipp answered with a score of their own.  It was ding dong stuff to that point.  Quirke answered Joyce-Power’s score quickly, and Joe Coleman added another.  McMahon reduced the gap to 2 points again, but Tipp answered through James Maher. 

With the game reaching the critical final 15 minutes, Tipp hit with 2 goals.  Both came from Quirke who really stepped up a gear at corner forward in the second half.  The first was a 21 yard free.  Quirke went for the goal, and caught the men on the Tom’s line napping as the shot hit the back of the net and made it a 7 point game.  The second came soon afterwards and really put the outcome to bed after smashing the sliotar into the far corner. 

Tom’s had to all to do now with 3 goals in the difference.  Joe Coleman added another superb score from distance as Tipp were in full flow now with the cushion.  Tom’s managed to cut the gap with points from Flood and McMahon, but every ball into Quirke had danger written all over it.  Tipp finished the game with a flourish, and substitute Harry O’Connor put over a couple of nice points.  Tipperary follow last year’s Boston Northeast junior title with a senior, and now try to do the same in Philadelphia at the USGAA finals.

Tipp:  Evan Condon, Daragh Fanning, Sean McGarr, Kieran Bennett, Jerry O’Neill, John Kindregan, Paul Morris, Cronan Dempsey, Shane Bennett, Joe Coleman, James Maher, Russell Quirke, Dean Coleman.

Tom’s:  Kevin Flynn, Dean Earls, Vincent Doyle, Aaron Moore, Cormac Joyce-Power, Dylan Costello, Jason Costello, Seamue Higgins, Dean Flood, Shane Howley, John Buckley, Stiofan McMahon, Ali Dooey.
By Rory O'Donnell

SunAug 26 - Ladies Senior Football Final: Connacht Ladies v Boston Shamrocks

Connacht Ladies 0-17 Boston Shamrocks 0-4

Connacht Ladies claimed the Ladies Senior Football Championship with ease and never looked to be in trouble from the throw in to the game.  To their credit, although it was a losing battle, the Shamrocks kept up the fight to the end.  Six points in a row to open the game from the Connacht Ladies set the tone for rest of the hour.

The Connacht Ladies opened a 6 point lead over the first 15 minutes.  Maedbh McGleenan, Jane ward and Ciara Heffernan each pointed as the challengers were well on top in the early going.  Connacht were alert to everything, and the defenders were first to every ball into their territory.  
Captains Shauneen McAleer and Laura Kiernan 
shake hands, with referee Philip Kelly.

The Shamrocks eventually managed to get into the game and passed the ball around well.  Laura McKiernan was the catalyst for the Shamrocks as the Westmeath native carried forward on several occasions.  There were a handful of chances, however just one went between the posts from Niamh Harney after 20 minutes.  With the Shamrocks trying to pull themselves back into the game Connacht extended the lead by another 2 points   Triona Kelly was in good form in the middle of the field for Connacht, and the half back line of Catherine Boyle, Hazel Poff, and Stephanie Gunn were in control.  At the break it was a 10 point to 2 lead for the westerners.

Connacht got the second half off in the same vein as the first with 5 on the trot to pretty much put the affair beyond the reach of the Shamrocks.  The trio of McGleenan, Ward, and Heffernan were the driving force for the eventual winners.  The defending champions kept up the fight however.  Cathy McEleaney and Laura Kiernan were very involved, and there were always possibilities with Niamh Harney in possession. 

Shauneen McAleer with the Cup.
Shannon Costello pointed for the Shamrocks with 15 minutes left, but with Connacht sitting on a very comfortable cushion it was goals that would be required, and the Connacht defence were not about to let that happen.  Each side brought in the substitutes for the run in to the final whistle and Connacht saw out the game to claim the 2018 championship. 

Connacht:  Rachel O’Driscoll, Catherine Cullen, Shauneen McAleer, Jackie McDonagh, Catherine Boyle, Hazel Poff, Stephanie Gunn, Aoife Heffernan, Aisling Kerr, Ciara Heffernan, Meadbh McGleenan, Kim Cobbe, Colette Folan, Jane ward, Triona Kelly.

Shamrocks:  Erin Cody, Katie McGovern, Cathy McEleaney, Anne Marie McDonnell, Alice Grennan, Stacy Fuller, Realtin McElhinney, Laura Kiernan, Shannon Costello, Chloe Baker, Nicola Judge, Niamh Harney, Ciara Murphy, Katie McKay, Meghan O’Loughlin.
By Rory O'Donnell

Sunday Aug 26 - Junior A Football Final: Cork v Donegal

Cork 2-14 Donegal 1-5

Cork won their second Junior A championship in a row with a convincing victory over Donegal.  The rebels were clearly up for the game.  It was neck and neck at half time with just a point between the teams, however, in the second half Cork netted twice and dominated all over the field, while Donegal failed to register a score until the 25th minute.

The Cork team hoist the Pat Callaghan Trophy.
Donegal got off to a great start with an Ashley Carr goal.  A Christy McLaughlin free dropped short and Carr was first react to the rebound and palm the ball home from the edge of the small square.  Cork answered with a Seamus Loftus point right away and played some very good football, but on occasion were wasteful and squandered several chances early on.  Eventually the rebels found some rhythm, and worked some good scores from corner forwards, Sean O’Donovan and Adam Ryan.

With the sides level Donegal regained the edge with Carr and McLaughlin frees, but Cork finished the half with four points on the trot to take the lead for the first time in the game.  Jack Lynch pointed once and O’Donovan, who was in great form, put the other 3 over the bar as Cork started to motor.  Eoghan McGettigan pulled one back for Donegal just before the half, and it was a 0-8 to 1-4 Cork lead at the break.

The Donegal Junior A Footballers.
Cork got the second half off to a great start.  Adam Kenny netted with a diving fist from close range after O’Donovan found him unmarked on the edge of the small square.  Cork with a 4 point advantage to get the second half going.  Cork added to the lead with points from Brendan Turley and O’Donovan and were very much were in the ascendancy, while Donegal made a couple of chances to keep in touch but did not take advantage.

A second Cork goal came a penalty after Adam Kenny was pulled down in the box and O’Donovan dispatched the kick well.  The game now slipped away from Donegal.  After Ryan pointed another it was a 10 point lead for Cork with 15 minutes to go.  Cork’s defence were on top of every ball into the danger zone and Donegal looked like a spent force that accepted the eventual outcome.  Cork cruised home in the end, and with the win it is off to Philly for the USGAA finals next weekend.

Cork:  Mark Farrelly, Mike Carolan, Stephen Lambert, Brendan Turley, Olan Murphy, Conor Jenkins, Jack Lynch, Cormac Clarke, Seamus Loftus, Adam Kenny, Emmet Smith, Adam Ryan, Sean O’Donovan.

Donegal:  Lee McCarron, Declan McBride, Gavin Reilly, Sean Winston, Darren Doherty, Aidan McLaughlin, Darren Grant, Mark Dunphy, Ciaran McDevitt, Rocky Ivers, Eoghan mcGettigan, Ashley Carr, Christy McLaughlin.
By Rory O'Donnell

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Sat Aug 25 - Junior A Hurling Final: Offaly v Galway

Offaly 2-16 Galway 4-15
Galway captured the junior hurling trophy with a victory over an Offaly team that kept plugging away, but could not quite make up the sizeable gap they had given themselves to overcome.  Four first half goals for Galway saw the Offaly team looking into a 12 point half time hole.  Offaly reduced the lead to a single score, but that was as close as the faithful county side got. 
Offaly Gave it a Rattle but Could not Catch Galway.
The teams matched each other for points in the opening 30 minutes, but Offaly were staring into a 12 point hole at the half after Galway netted 4 times in the space of 10 minutes to take a firm hold of the game.  JJ Doyle, who resurrected himself to almost legendary status goaled twice from corner forward for Galway.  Adam Kenny set Doyle up for the first one which the Wexford native buried, and for the second Doyle sneaked the ball into the far corner.  Jack Lyons and John Moylan claimed the others, each well taken strikes.
For Offaly it was Stephen Brown at corner forward, and Jimmy Rigney and Eric Finn on the half forward line who were the main threats.  Finn opened up room for himself with his speed to pop over twice, and balance were taken between Rigney and Brown.  Unfortunately for Offaly, there were many balls that dropped into the forward line that the Galway backs were alert to and cleared well.  Galway put them over the bar through Moylan, Jack Lyons, Mattie Brooks, Doyle, and Frank McCormack with a superb score to take the teams into the break.
Galway Hurling Club - Junior Champions
The second half saw much of the same woes befall Offaly with the Galway backs on top for most of the period.  Balls dropped in seemed to fall in front of a maroon jersey more often than not, but Offaly kept chipping away and eventually got some change from the Galway defence.  Finn pointed twice and Paul Clifford once to a single Galway score from Doyle before Brown netted.  Brown fetched a high ball and turned to fire the sliotar home.   It was still a dauting task to overcome though and the score made it a 7 point game.
Galway set about restoring their advantage with Moylan pointing from a free and once with a superb effort from play.  Adam Kenny also pointed for the westerners, but there was more to come from Offaly.  With the time fast running out Finn pointed twice, and Cormac Dunphy once with a great catch and strike before Brown hit with a second goal.  It came in similar fashion to the first and the 6 unanswered points put just 4 points in the game.  Rigney reduced the gap to a goal, and now it was a case of could Offaly net one more time before time ran out.  It was not the case as Galway pointed twice before the end, captain, Adam Kenny put both points over the bar to seal it for Galway. 
Offaly:  Gary Sherlock, Emmet Moran, Seamus Loftus, Jack Murray, Oisin McCormack, Jack Whelehan, Jack Dunford, Thomas Quirk, Eric Finn, James Rigney, Paul Clifford, Cian Clifford, Stephen Brown.
Galway:  John Coleman, James Kinsella, Cormac Dunphy, Peter Dolan, Trevor Lee, Frank McCormack, Mike Moylan, Ryan Garry, Jack Lyons, Adam Kenny, John Moylan, JJ Doyle, Mattie Brooks.
By Rory O'Donnell

Sat Aug 25 - Junior C Hurling Final: NH Wolves v Worcester Fenians

Worcester Fenians 2-9 NH Wolves 2-11

The Junior C Hurling final came as advertised, with hardly a puck of a ball between the teams.  There was a healthy contingent of supporters who came to the Irish Cultural Center, Canton Mass. from Worcester and Concord NH to cheer on their teams.  There was some excellent hurling and great scores – and saves.  It was a testament to how far these clubs have come since forming 10 short years ago.  It could have gone to either team, and in the end it was the New Hampshire side who came out winners.

The New Hampshirites Celebrate the Championship Victory.
The first half was as tight as can be with just a point separating the teams at the break.  The Wolves had the better of things in the early going, but missed several opportunities to point.  A goal from Pat Naughton maintained the Granite State boys advantage for the half.  After Mikhael Gregoire pointed, a hopeful long, high ball from Naughton sailed into the back of the net.  Mike Durfee followed with another point and the Wolves had a three point lead.  Worcester then came into the game.

The men from western Mass. outscored their opponents 5 points to 3 in the approach to half time.  Connor Green put some excellent scores over, one from a very tight angle after Worcester had almost netted.   Tom Lind also pointed from distance as the Worcester side had a slight edge and were hurling well.  Steve Desjarlais was very busy in goal for the Wolves and held his nerve well under many high balls, and delivered several lengthy clearances.  At corner back Alec Foley also did well to keep Worcester at bay and cope with the pressure.

Worcester got off to a great restart with a superb goal from Greene.  PJ Heffernan found Greene with a high cross field ball and Greene fetched and finished expertly into the far corner.  The goal put Worcester up a point, but the Wolves came right back.  Pat Naughton leveled the scores with a point, and then rifled the ball into the corner with a pull off the ground shortly afterwards.  Naughton at center forward was a force for the Wolves in the second half.  The teams traded scores with Worcester needing to catch up as the game entered the final quarter.

Zack Jacobs who entered as a sub for Worcester made an impact, pointing after entering play and driving his side forward, along with Dave Crowley who tried to find a way through the Wolves defence.  The Wolves held a 4 point lead, which seems huge in such a tight game, but Seamus O’Shaughnessy netted for Worcester and just like that it was a point in it with the clock winding down.  Jason Burpee got the insurance point after cutting in from the corner, and his goalbound shot was excellently saved by Mike Dufault and went over for a point.  Burpee had to leave the field following a heavy challenge after the shot for which Seamus O’Shaughnessy was sent off.

The Wolves held on to win It and in the end probably just about deserved to.  A great victory for the New Hampshire team, and on the Philly next weekend!

Fenians:  Mike Dufault, Dan Smith, Tim Jackson, Joe Nett, Liam Kelly, Jason Cretais, Sean O’Shaughnessy, Jeremy, Seamus O’Shaughnessy, Tom Lind, Connor Green, Dave Crowley, PJ Heffernan.

Wolves:  Steve Desjarlais, Alec Foley, Dean Williams, Torrie Lemon, Ryan Nickerson, Jason Stasz, Sean Naughton, Dan Hanna, Will Mullen, Pat Naughton, Sam Durfee, Mikhael Gregoire, Jason Burpee.
By Rory O'Donnell

Friday, August 24, 2018

Boston Northeast Finals Previews

By Rory O'Donnell
Sunday August 26

4:00 Senior Football:  Wolfe Tones v Donegal

This is the most eagerly awaited final in Boston in recent years.  At the end of it all there are few who would not agree that these have been the two best teams in town, certainly since the second half of the championship. 

Donegal have some of the biggest names in the game in the side, and generated much publicity at home and over here by adding Dermot Connolly and Brendan Murphy to an already strong panel of players at the end of June.  Added to that are Donegal’s Michael Carroll, Derry’s Ciaran McFaul and Niall Keenan, Galway’s Liam Silke and Dylan Wall, and Shane Carthy from St. Vincent’s, as well as Armagh prodigy, Oisin O’Neill from the famous Crossmaglen.  Their first real test since was last week in the semi-final where Aidan McAnespies made the Donegal men earn it, and Donegal passed with just about enough to spare.  The game will most likely have served them well in preparation for the Tones.  Donegal also got some nice scores out of the home based Lee Carr, and some great saves at the other end of the field from goalkeeper Hugh Boyle. 

Wolfe Tones themselves are laden with some serious top tier talent scattered throughout the field.  Westmeath’s Kevin Maguire and James Dolan, Laois man Eoin Buggie, and Meath trio of James McEntee, Ronan Jones, and Thomas O’Reilly will feature heavily Sunday.  Added to that is Louth’s Paddy Keenan, Derryman Dean Curran, with Dubliners, Aaron Elliott (Ballymun) and Chris Sallier (Thomas Davis).  Mike O’Brien and Jack Lynch have been key players for the Tones, who would appear to have the more balanced side. 

A factor not to be lost is that in such a high profile game with some of the best talent the game has to offer, there are home grown players who will likely play a part in the outcome.  Donegal have Ciaran McDevitt and Mark Dunphy who have featured all year, and for the Tones Jack Lynch and Paudie Kenneally are very much an integral part of the team. 

How will it all unfold is hard to tell and there are more questions than answers.  Can Donegal stem the Tones attack?  How will the Tones cope with such talents as Dermot Connolly, Brendan Murphy and Oisin O’Neill?  Who will make the wiser moves from the line?  This is certainly one to look forward to.

Prediction:  Donegal to shade it by 3.

2:30 Senior Hurling:  Tipperary v Fr. Tom Burke’s

The reigning North American junior hurling champions are the favoured side in Sunday’s senior hurling final.  Tipp have seen some home based players come back into the team with a bang, John Kindregan and Cronan Dempsey have been on form this year.  Dempsey is coming off a wrist injury, so it remains to be seen to what degree he will participate.  Joe Coleman from St. Martin’s in Wexford is the man to watch.  The big center forward can put the ball over from distance, and up front there are Limerick’s Dean Coleman and Russell Quirke, each able to open up a defence with speed and quickness.  Sean Delaney has been doing well in the middle of the field as Tipp have been fairly rampant all season.

Tom’s have earned their place in the final following a semi-final replay victory over Galway in the middle of the week, and already would have had their work cut out to deal with the firepower of Tipp.  Also having to recover from Wednesday night’s exertions will not be in their favor.  Tom’s will be looking for 100% from all quarters to pull off a win.  At corner forward Ali Dooey has been a factor for Tom’s, the speedy man from Dunloy, County Antrim can pop over scores when given a bit of room.  Clare man, Stiofan McMahon, will also be looked to for scores.  Though absent most of the season, Cormac Joyce-Power played in both semi-final games and may also feature in the final.  A big contribution will be needed Dubliner Dean Flood, and the home based Shane Howley, Dylan Costello and Jack Martyn.  Toms’ will have their work cut out and keeping the talented Tipp forwards in check will be key for them. 

Prediction:  Tipp by 5

1:00 Ladies Senior Football Final:  Boston Shamrocks v Connacht Ladies
The Ladies Final has a couple of possibilities due to the nature of the competition.  The teams played a best of 5 on a points basis, and Sunday sees game 5 of the series between the teams.  Connacht Ladies are ahead on points, having 2 more points than the Shamrocks.  This means that a Connacht Ladies win, or even a tie at the end of normal time, will see them crowned Boston Northeast Champions by virtue of having most points in the series.  The Shamrocks need to win to draw level in the points tally, which will force extra time to determine the champion.
The season has swung in the Connacht Ladies favour in the second half.  Early on it was the Shamrocks with the upper hand, however the last two games have gone to the westerners and they will be confident going into the final of sealing the deal after 60 minutes.  Corkonian Aoife Heffernan and Tyrone native Maedbh McGleenan in the middle of the field have been key to the efforts of the Connacht Ladies.  Catherine Boyle has been an anchor in the back line, while Aisling Kerr and Jane Ward up front have given the girls in blue and white a real advantage.

The Shamrocks are defending champions and will not be willing to let this go easily.  At the back Cathy McEleaney is still doing the business, and Laura Kiernan is a leader in defence.  Niamh Harney is also a key in the Shamrocks set up, who will have it all to do to turn the tide of this season.  So. Will it be Connacht in 60, or the Shamrocks pushing it to an extra period?  Sunday will tell all.

Prediction:  Connacht Ladies by 4.

11:30 Junior A Football Final:  Cork v Donegal

Defending champions, Cork, face a very good Donegal side who will be eager to reclaim the Pat Callaghan Cup.  Donegal won in 2016 and look well positioned to do so again on Sunday.  Donegal are strong down the middle with Darren Doherty, Darren Grant, and Rocky Ivers playing well.  Talented forwards Eoghan McGettigan, Ashley Carr, Ciaran McDevitt, and the wily veteran of many campaigns, Christy McLaughlin will have the Cork backs on their toes for the hour.

Cork have their share of scoring talent in Adam Ryan and Adam Kenny and the more Cork can keep the ball at that end of the field the better.  Keeper Mark Farrelly pulled of some great saves this season and is likely to be called on Sunday on more than one occasion.  The back line will need to weather the pressure and keep the Donegal forwards in check as much as possible and keep it tight.  The reigning champions will not make it easy for Donegal.

Prediction:  Donegal by 3.

Saturday August 25

3:00 Junior C Hurling Final:  New Hampshire Wolves v Worcester Fenians

There is very little between the top 2 junior C hurling teams.  During the season each side took a win, Worcester by4 and later in the year New Hampshire by 3.  This game is likely to be a hotly contested affair for top dog in New England.  These clubs are made up of American players who have taken up the hurl and honed their own skills over the years.  There are plenty of talented hurlers on each side and with nothing between the teams, this game may be one of the finals of the weekend. 

4:30 Junior A Hurling Final:  Offaly v Galway

Galway and Offaly have a chance to take some silverware home in the junior A hurling final.  Offaly beat out Wexford to reach the final, while Galway enter by virtue of finishing 3rd of the five teams.  Offaly have hurled well all season.  Emmet Moran, Jimmy Rigney, and Jack Dunphy have been key for the Faithful men this season, while for Galway Aidan Helebert, Jack Lyons and Adam Kenny have been to the forefront.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sun Aug 19 - Senior Football Semi-Final: Donegal v Aidan McAnespies

Donegal 0-13 Aidan McAnespies 0-9

Donegal and McAnespies played out a tense and testy affair.  It was an exciting game in that there was never too much between the teams, and although they spent the hour chasing the game, one felt that there was always a chance for McAnespies to catch their opponents.  Donegal had most of the possession, but had to earn this one, and also had Hugh Boyle to thank for some very good saves after McAnespies had got behind the Donegal defence.  Two sendings off for McAnespies will have them wondering what could have been, but in the end it was Donegal who deserved to advance to the final.

Michael Carroll lines up a shot for Donegal.
Donegal went into the break holding a lead that had it not been for Hugh Boyle it would have been McAnespies with the advantage.  After Donegal popped over 2 quick points from Dermot Connolly and Michael Carroll, McAnespies were in on top of Boyle twice, and twice Boyle denied a goal from point blank range.  Warner Mullen, who entered play following a black card to Eric Finn, opened the account for McAnespies with a point following one of the rebounds off a Boyle save.

The game settled down with Donegal pointing the next 4 scores.  Lee Carr was busy in the corner and fisted over nicely from an angle, with Connolly, Shane Carthy and Murphy following suit clipping over some well taken scores as Donegal edged away.  McAnespies hung in and Mullen floated over 3 nice points , but not before Boyle again saved Donegal, this time from Danny McBride who was clean through following a nicely worked move.  The game started to get testy, and Paul Clifford, who had entered as a sub was sent to the line following an off the ball incident and McAnespies job got that bit harder.  Mullen pointed once more as McAnespies defenders worked very hard to contain the Donegal attack.  It was a slender one point Donegal lead at the break, 0-6 to 0-5.

Warner Mullen shakes off the challenge of Jason Noctor.
The second half was tight.  McAnespies continued to work extremely hard at the back and goalkeeper Robbie Croft was called upon on several occasions to come off his line to intercept as Donegal runners were bearing down on goal.  When in possession McAnespies did well to retain it with patient build ups, however, with the man down there were few options up front and eventually turned it back over more.  Donegal had most of the ball and worked it well.  Carthy was the link man helping out in defence and going forward, but the Tir Chonaill men could not shake off their opponents.  Carr, Connolly and Sean Donnelly pointed for Donegal when the chances presented themselves, and it was Mullen and Johnny Lafferty for McAnespies.

There was just a goal in it with 10 minutes to go in spite of the Donegal dominance, and for a fourth time Boyle earned his keep after getting down well to save from Danny McBride who broke in behind the Donegal defence.  Each team brought in players to keep it fresh on the field, but McAnespies shot themselves in the foot a second time as Rob Piggott, who had been marking Connolly, and played “on the edge” saw a second yellow.  It was now a 2 man advantage for Donegal as the clock ran down.  Lee Carr put 4 in it with 2 minutes left and Mullen answered to keep it to one score between the sides.  The insurance came from a Connolly free in injury time and with 2 score difference the game was Donegal’s.  Donegal will face the Wolfe Tones in the final, and what a game it promises to be.

Donegal: Hugh Boyle, Liam Silke, Niall Keenan, Neil McEneaney, Jason Noctor, Sean Doherty, Shane Carthy, Brendan Murphy, Ciaran McFaul, Michael Carroll, Sean Donnelly, Diarmaid Connolly, Lee Carr.

Macs:  Robbie Croft, Caolan Harvey, Eoin Delmer, Seamie Breslin, Rob Piggott, Danny O’Neill, Declan Hughes, Phil McCusker, Eric Finn, Albert Martin, Danny McBride, Eamon Fyfe, Che O’Donnell.
By Rory O'Donnell

Sun Aug 19 - Senior Football Semi-Final: Wolfe Tones v Shannon Blues

Wolfe Tones 4-17 Shannon Blues 2-9

Wolfe Tones advance to the final next week following a powerful display against the Shannon Blues on Sunday afternoon.  After an evenly contested opening quarter, the Tones netted and from that point on were very much in control.  The lead in to half time saw the Tones tally 2 goals and 6 points to no reply as they stifled the Blues around the middle of the field and sailed through second half at a canter.

The Blues Darren Wallace tries to break 
through the Tones defence.
After the teams gave as good as they got over the opening 15 minutes the Tones got a hold of the game.  With the teams on even terms on the scoreboard, center forward Thomas O’Reilly fired home a goal from 20 yards after Chris Sallier had worked the opening and found the young Meath man inside the 21 with a bit of room to shoot.  The Blues had been doing well, with Brian Fanning playing well at corner back, and Brian Egan along with Darragh Roche doing well in the forward line the Blues converted some well taken points to keep pace up to that point. 

After the goal it was the Tones well on top.  Six unanswered points put them 9 points to the good and with the forwards forcing turnovers life was difficult for the Blues.  O’Reilly at center forward was dominant for the Tones while Ronan Jones and Paddy Keenan held control of the middle of the field.  O’Reilly converted from the free and James McEntee stole forward to slot over a couple of points.  At the break the Tones were lording it at 2-10 to 0-4.

Darragh Roche on the attack for the Blues.
The Tones just needed to keep control for the second half, and so they did.  Two early points from McEntee and O’Reilly put even more distance between the teams and for the Blues it was a matter of playing for a bit of pride.  A goal from a penalty that was expertly put away by Roche and another late goal put an element of respectability on the scoreboard before the final whistle as each side emptied the bench.  So, an impressive display from the Tones and with Blues making their exit, there will be a new Boston champion in 2018.

Tones:  Shane Hayes, Paudie Kenneally, Kevin Maguire, Eoin Buggie, Jack Lynch, James McEntee, Ronan Jones, Paddy Keenan, Mike O’Brien, Thomas O’Reilly, Aaron Elliott, Thomas Beckett, Chris Sallier.

Blues:  Mike Moriarty, PJ Hand, Brian Fanning, Derek O’Brien, Mike Cotterill, Denis McElligott, Maurice Young, Steven Cahill, Dara Roche, Jerry Troy, Connell Lemon, Darren Wallace, Brian Egan.
By Rory O'Donnell

Sun Aug 19 - Junior A Football Semi-Final: Christopher's v Donegal

Christopher’s 2-9 Donegal 4-14

The second Junior A football semi-final was a surprisingly one-sided affair as Donegal handily defeated Christopher’s.  There were 3 goals in the first half as the Donegal forward line showed some great quickness and inter-passing, and 2 sendings off pretty much doomed Christopher’s to their fate as they were down 2 players a few minutes into the second half.

Eoghan McGettigan on the move for Donegal.
Donegal took a commanding lead into the half time break thanks to 3 goals that rocked Christopher’s.  The first came early from Christy McLaughlin who side-footed from close range after Ashley Carr found him with a hand pass across the face of goal.  Donegal added a second from Eoghan McGettigan, the Donegal U21 player rifled a shot to the near corner from inside the 21, and late in the half it was Carr taking the third for himself.

Christopher’s looked sluggish compared to a sprightly Donegal, and did themselves no favors after Murt Hunt was sent off following an off the ball strike on Sean Winston.  Even at this early stage a goal would be required to get back into the game, and Christopher’s could only match Donegal in the points column.  Conor O’Keefe floated over a couple of lovely efforts for Christopher’s, but Donegal’s McGettigan and Carr did likewise for the northerners.  There could have been a fourth goal after McLaughlin was fouled in the box, but the wily corner forward’s spot kick hit the top of the crossbar and over for a point.

Up for Grabs between Darren Grant and Killian Ryan.
The second half saw Christopher’s almost in with a goal chance, but after the referee blew for a free in another red card was shown, this time to Mark Delaney.  Christopher’s now down 2 players and 10 points.  The hole got deeper for Christopher’s after McGettigan hit the back of the net again a few minutes later.  At this stage with most of the second half to play the game was more or less decided.

Dan Kenneally netted after a high ball into the box, and Chris Moynihan put a lovely point over the bar, but the scores only served as a teaser for what might have been from a Christopher’s viewpoint had they managed to retain a full complement of personnel.  Donegal controlled matters for the remainder and basically saw out the clock.  The result sets up a north and south final with Donegal meeting Cork, the last 2 champions on the Junior A championship with Cork defending and Donegal the 2016 winners.

Christopher’s:  Mark Delaney, Mark Russell, Murt Hunt, Sean McHugh, Pat Kenneally, Tom Kinsley, James Horgan, Killian Ryan, TJ Stenson, Chris Moynihan, Pat Kerrigan, Dan Kenneally, Conor O’Keefe.

Donegal:  Lee McCarron, Declan McBride, Gavin Reilly, Sean Winston, Darren Doherty, Aidan McLaughlin, Darren Grant, Mark Dunphy, Ciaran McDevitt, Rocky Ivers, Eoghan McGettigan, Ashley Carr, Christy McLaughlin.
By Rory O'Donnell

Sat Aug 19 - Junior A Football Semi-Final: Cork v Aidan McAnespies

Cork 0-14 Aidan McAnespies 1-7

Defending champions Cork came through their semi-final with a 4 point win over McAnespies.  Cork looked good value for the win at the break as the rebels held a 5 point lead and looked in control.  Early in the second half McAnespies came back to reduce the gap to 2 points before Cork pulled away again in the latter stages.

Cork center back, Alan Murphy, on the ball.
It was the sure kicking of Adam Ryan that had Cork in the ascendancy in the opening half.  Ryan slotted 4 frees over the bar as Cork held the advantage in most areas of the field.  Brendan Turley also contributed on the scoreboard, as did Alan Murphy and Jack Lynch.  The Cork men worked the ball well into the forward line and from back to front looked well on top.  McAnespies created a handful of chances and Lorcan Mallon converted two, with one added from Gareth O’Neill to make it 0-8 to 0-3 half time score.

McAnespies came back in the second half to test their opponents.  James Rigney did well in the half back line, and McAnespies tallied 4 points to Cork’s one in the first 15 minutes following the restart.  Mallon almost netted, however, Mark Farrelly made a brilliant foot save to deny the McAnespies center forward.  After Mallon finished a well worked move to put 2 points in it, Cork regained the advantage.  Sean O’Donovan pointed and was followed by two scored from Ryan.  Cork restored the lead to 7 points before a last minute goal from a JP Gallagher penalty gave some consolation to McAnespies.

Cork: Mark Farrelly, Mike Carolan, Stephen Lambert, Seamus Loftus, Alan Murphy, Conor Jalim, Jack Lynch, Cormac Clarke, Adam Kenny, Brendan Turley, Emmet Smith, Seanie O’Donovan, Adam Ryan.
Macs:  Gareth McAlinden, Sean Clifford, Kyle Morrison, Marty Bogue, Jimmy Rigney, Mickey Boyle, Eoin Ward, Conor Bogue, Shane McKenna, Lorcan Mallon, Ciaran Wallace, Gareth O’Neill, Jason Knight.

By Rory O'Donnell

Sat Aug 18 - Junior C Hurling Semi-Final: NH Wolves v Providence HC

NH Wolves 3-16 Providence HC 1-2

The NH Wolves earned a place in next week’s junior C hurling final with a solid display against Providence in the Junior C Hurling semi-final.  A goal in each half from Mikael Gregoire and some good combination play from the back saw the Wolves through to the win.
The Wolve's Jason Burpee shoots.
The first half belonged to the Wolves.  Displaying a level of skill and connectedness that comes with years of practice and playing together, the men from the Granite state steadily built up a sizeable lead.  Corner forwards Jason Burpee and Mike Gregoire got on the scoreboard early, Gregoire putting one score over from a very tight angle.  Along with Sam Durfee in the half forward line, it was all Wolves.  

The Providence back line were busy and Travis Croker, Martin Green and Mike Walsh did well to stem several Wolves attacks.
About 20 minutes into the half it was an eight point to no score lead, and Providence mounted a promising attack that had goal possibilities, however the ball was cleared and the goal came at the other end with a nice finish by Burpee.  Providence’s efforts showed a little more bite in the latter stages of the half, and a goal came from Corey Diamond after two brave saves from Will Mullen in the NH goal.  At the break it was a 10 point lead for the men from New Hampshire.
Juston Stasz Clears Under Pressure.
Providence gave a better account of themselves in the second half and made the Wolves back line work, Austen Clarke popped over a nicely taken point and the Providence men threatened the Wolves goal on a couple of occasions but could not breach the wall.  Gregoire and Sean Naughton each pointed a brace to extend the lead for the New Hampshire side, and the result was never in doubt.  As a heavy rainstorm set in it was the Wolves who would be coming back next week to meet defending champions Worcester in the final.

Wolves:  Will Mullen, Alec Foley, Jay Abramowicz, Ryan Nickerson, Juston Stasz, Sean Naughton, Dan Hanna, Mark Misiarski, Sam Durfee, Pat Naughton, Mikhael Gregoire, Jason Burpee.
Providence:  Brendan McGinn, Mike Walsh, Chris Ryan, Matt Parks, Travis Croker, Martin Green, Austen Clark, Jimmy Glendinning, Adrian Ganley, Mike Kenneally, Padraig Doyle, Brian McNamara, Corey Diamond.
By Rory O'Donnell

Sat Aug 18 - Junior B Football Final: Galway v Donegal

Galway 2-12 Donegal 1-6

Galway captured the Junior B Football Championship amid atrocious conditions at the Irish Cultural Center on Saturday afternoon.  It was not a day for hopping the ball and footing was shaky to say the least.  In spite of the conditions the players coped well for the most part and those in attendance were treated to a well contested game of football.  Leading by 2 points at the break, Galway made a late surge to hammer the win home and give the Brighton club something to take from the 2018 season.

John Farrell presents Galway Captain, Tom Davey, 
with the Junior B Football Trophy
At one point in the opening half Galway led by a seven points and looked to have matters well under control.  The tribesmen were quicker to the loose ball, and there were plenty of them in the greasy conditions, found their men well, and had Niall Manning in form at center forward.  Manning pointed Galway’s first 2 points, and corner forward Cormac Kelly another before Kevin Cummins nicked over from a tight angle and then hammered home a goal. 

Pat McLaughlin had the lone score for the northerners, and apart from a couple of wides, Donegal were very much on the back foot –until McLaughlin struck with an unlikely goal.  A long range effort from a free slipped through the keeper’s hands and just under the crossbar, and Donegal were a transformed side after the score.  McLaughlin pointed again and Nicky Kelly put a third over the bar to make it a 2 point game at the half with Donegal having new found life to their game.

Galway really needed a score after the restart to reassert themselves, but it was McLaughlin with a score to narrow the gap to a point.  Galway were denied a sure goal by an amazing triple save from Noel McDermott.  First Manning’s shot was saved, then a superb dive kept out Kevin Cummins shot off the rebound, and a third effort was also stopped in a heart stopping sequence.  Galway however did get themselves on top again. 

Captain Tom Davey and Paul Cummins performed well in the back line, and with Galway again finding their rhythm the points began to flow once more.  Four in a row from Cummins and Manning put Galway up by 5, but Donegal were not done and kept battling.  The gap was narrowed to a single score following two McLaughlin points on the trot, but Galway had a strong finish in them.  Tom Maloney pointed after coming on for the injured Eoghan Kavanagh, and soon afterwards a brilliant finish from Leon Kelly into the far corner of the net put the affair beyond question.  Manning put another brilliant effort over the bar and the Galway line began the celebrations in the rain.  It was a convincing win in the end and for Galway Football a great win to finish off the season. 

Galway:  Colin Melody, Tom Davey, Danny Burke, Peter Bannon, Paul Cummins, Mark Cahill, Leon Kelly, Eoghan Kavanagh, Kieran Keegan, JJ O’Neill, Niall Manning, Kevin Cummins, Cormac Kelly.  Subs: Shane Lohan, Ryan Gary, Kevin Healy, Tom Maloney, Sean Whelan, Seamus Gallagher.

Donegal:  Noel McDermott, Shane McDaid, Michael McBride, Liam Sage, Denis O’Rourke, Dylan Costello, Mark Dunphy, Johnny Byrne, Diarmuid Moyne, Pat McLaughlin, Sean Winston, Philip Brennan, Michael McGinty.  Subs:  Lochlainn Byrne, John Doogan, Ciaran Mc Devitt, Ronan Shovlin, Cian O’Brien, Hugh Devine.
By Rory O'Donnell

Friday, August 17, 2018

Playoff Weekend at the Irish Cultural Center

Senior football semi-finals this Sunday with Aidan McAnespies and Donegal meeting in one game and the Shannon Blues playing the Wolfe Tones.

Tones v Blues: Sunday Aug 19, 3:00

It was close between the Blues and Tones 
earlier this season.
The Tones and Blues met earlier in July and the Tones just about defeated their opponents with 2 points to spare.  Going into this game it will be the Tones favoured to advance to the final.  Although less than convincing in their last outing, the Tones have plenty of talent to call upon. Ronan Jones and James McEntee, both players who will feature with Meath in the near future, along with Westmeath’s James Dolan.  Youth program product, Jack Lynch, is fitting in nicely in the half back line and Chris Sallier at corner forward capable of making a score out of nothing.  Dean Curran brings pace to the attack and will be hard to contain for the Blues.  The Blues will be looking to neutralize the Tones attack, Tipperary man Brian Fanning is likely to get the Curran assignment.  The North American and Boston defending Champions, the Shannon Blues are a club with a never say die attitude and will need to bring it Sunday.  St. Mary’s man, Paul O’Donoghue, brings class to team, while veteran campaigners Dennis McElligott, Darren Wallace, and Darragh Roche up front will be sure to cause problems for the Tones.  Jerry Troy would surely hope to put one over on his former team, while American Born Blues men Conor Fitzgerald and Maurice Young have been here before.  A betting man might have the Tones shading it by a score.

Aidan McAnespies v Donegal: Sunday Aug 19, 4:30

Brendan Murphy - A Big Addition for Donegal.
Donegal are heavy favourites, not only in this game but also to go the whole way.  Anything less than a Donegal win would be a huge upset.  The northerners have built a team of heavy hitters with Liam Silke of Corofin fame, Oisin O’Neill from Crossmaglen, and Donegal’s Michael Carroll were joined at the end of June by St. Vincents men, Shane Carthy and Dermot Connolly, and Carlow’s Brendan Murphy.  Of the big names, it has been Carthy who has shone the brightest in Canton.  The New York born All Ireland winner has been a key cog in the Donegal machine since arriving.  Oddly enough, another key player has been goalkeeper Hugh “Yank” Boyle.  This season the Donegal keeper has made countless key saves to keep opposing teams at bay.  Donegal suffered the loss of key home based payer, Brian Donnelly to injury and will be looking to his brother Sean, Kieran McDevitt, and captain, Jason Noctor at the back to keep McAnespies from getting a foothold in the game.  McAnespies find themselves in the same position as last year, looking to beat the favourites to make the final.  On the home based front McAnespies are one of the stronger sides with Che O’Donnell, Paul Clifford, Seamie Breslin, and Eoin Delmer in the ranks.  McAnespies are coming off a playoff win, the first Boston team this year to advance in a senior football knockout game, and will have their work cut out to knock off this Donegal team.  With speed from Eric Finn and Rob Piggott on the wings, McAnespies will have to keep Donegal retreating and put pressure on the back line for the 60 minutes.  Can the Macs replicate the heroics of last season?  On paper you would say hopes are slim, but games are won and lost on the field. 

There is plenty of playoff action on the junior front.  Saturday sees the second championship final of the year with Donegal and Galway battling it out for the junior B title.  Galway topped the table with just one hiccup, a loss to Donegal.  Donegal were only 2 points behind in the table and this is sure to be a game between two evenly matched teams.  The game is at 4:15 on the back field on Saturday.  

Also on Saturday we see teams traveling from either end of the region to meet in the junior C hurling semi-final.  Providence and the NH Wolves from Concord NH will meet at the ICC at 3:00 Saturday to decide who will meet Worcester in the final the following week.  There are also 2 junior A football semi-finals with Cork and McAnespies playing Saturday at 5:30, and Donegal meeting Christopher’s on Sunday at 1:30 on Sunday.  Cork topped the table and are the defending champions, but Christopher’s and Donegal were hot on their heels all season.   
Sat Aug 18
3:00 Junior C Hurling Semi-Final:  NH Wolves v Providence
4:15 Junior B Football Final:  Galway v Donegal
5:30 Junior A Football Semi-Final:  Aidan McAnespies v Cork
Sun Aug19
1:30 Junior A Football Semi-Final:  Christopher’s v Donegal
3:00 Senior Football Semi-Final:  Wolfe Tones v Shannon Blues
4:30 Senior Football Semi-Final:  Donegal v Aidan McAnespies