GAELIC FOOTBALL: Gaels fight back to earn final replay
Teams meet again on September 23
Intermediate Division 3
Rugby Gaels 2-08 (14 pts)
St Finbarrs GAA (Coventry) 1-11 (14 pts)
Rugby Gaels fought back from three points and a man down in the dying minutes to claim a replay with St Finbarrs in Birmingham on Sunday, writes Andy Moore.
In blustery conditions the game was tight, tense and physical, in keeping with previous encounters between the two.
The Gaels started the brighter with Mark Madine grabbing the opening point with a nice point from distance. The lead was extended when Fenton Collins was fed by Robbie O’Hanlon, who sent a crisp left foot shoot into the top right hand corner of the net from 20 yards out.
Conor Shaw had a great chance to extend the lead, but his shot was beaten away by Finbarrs keeper Jordan Kerr. The Coventry side chipped away at the Gaels’ lead with some fine points from distance, using the wind nicely.
When Finbarrs’ Jonathan McHale was penalised for picking the ball off the floor the resulting free was taken by Alex Baalham Donaldson. It came off the bar, was gathered by Ryan Ward who was unceremoniously dragged down for a penalty. Connor Shaw stepped up and dispatched it, extending Rugby’s lead to four points. Finbarrs added the last score before half time to cut the Gaels lead to three points, 2 goals and 3 points (9 points) to 6 points.
The second half started evenly with both sides creating chances, however Finbarrs took their chance to narrow the gap to two points. The Coventry side took the lead shortly after, when a breaking ball lead to a collision between Stephan Nolan and Mike Cremin in the Rugby defence. This lead to a three on one overlap, despite Cathal Stakleum’s best efforts Danny Harte was able to place a low shot past Jordan Gold in the Rugby goal. Both sides swapped points with the excellent Pat O’Brien grabbing a fine point following a neat exchange with Fenton Collins.
The Gaels discipline was causing problems. Referee Mark McLaughlin gave a couple of soft free kicks allowing Finbarrs to extend the lead to three points with time running out. Things got worse when Lewis Fairgrieves was scythed down in full flow by Gerry Carr. The Finbarrs man received a black card, whereas Fairgrieves’ reaction got him a red card, meaning Rugby had to finish the game with a man less.
Gaels Manager Paul McGrath brought on veteran Mick Treacy to play on the edge of the square. Alex Baalham Donaldson reduced the deficit to two with a free on full time following a foul on Conor Shaw. Due to the physicality of the contest, there was plenty of injury time to be had. Baalham Donaldson was on hand again to reduce arrears to single point. Rugby regained possession and the ball was worked through Oisín McKenna and Steve Clarke to Mark Madine who wriggled his way clear and scored the tying point from 40 yards out to send the travelling Gaels fans into hysteria. The referee blew for full time from resultant kick out with the sides all square.
The County Final replay will take place in Pairc na hÉireann, Birmingham on Sunday, September 23.
Rugby Gaels scorers: Conor Shaw 1-3 (6 points), Fenton Collins 1-0, Mark Madine 0-2, Alex Baalham Donaldson 0-2, Pat O’Brien 0-1.