GAELIC FOOTBALL: Drama all the way as Rugby Gaels win Mulligan Cup

Hero of the hour, Mark Madine scored Gaels' decisive goal to win the Mulligan Cup
Hero of the hour, Mark Madine scored Gaels' decisive goal to win the Mulligan Cup

Goal six minutes into injury-time of extra-time clinches trophy for first time since 2004

The Rugby Gaels won the Mick Mulligan Cup after a remarkable and dramatic game in Holbrook Lane, Coventry, last Sunday.

Lewis Fairgrieves lifts the Mulligan Cup, after Gaels won for the first time in 14 years

Lewis Fairgrieves lifts the Mulligan Cup, after Gaels won for the first time in 14 years

Mark Madine’s goal six minutes into injury-time of extra-time gave Rugby Gaels a one-point victory over St Finbarrs and the Mulligan Cup for the first time since 2004.

On a scorching hot day, Rugby started the better side with Robbie O’Hanlon scoring a nice point.

The game was tight, tense and physical from the off, with time and space at a premium.

The Gaels, through Connor Shaw and Lewis Fairgrieves, eked out a lead of four points coming up to half-time.

However, an under hit kick out allowed St Finbarrs to have a two-on-one overlap which they scored past keeper Jordan Gold to reduce the gap.

The Gaels had the final say in the half, though, with O’Hanlon grabbing his second point.

At half-time the Gaels lead by two points 0-7 to 1-2.

Manager Paul McGrath freshened up the Rugby side at half-time as Alan Foster and Michael O’Meara were withdrawn for Danny Walsh and Ciaran Beasley.

The Gaels opened the scoring in the second half with a close range free from Alex Baalham Donaldson.

St Finbarrs levelled the shortly after with a well-taken goal but the Coventry side were indebted to their keeper Lee Graham after a wonderful reflex save to deny O’Hanlon.

Another Alex Baalham Donaldson free edged Rugby in front before the St Finbarrs grabbed a couple of points of their own to take the lead for the first time.

This lead was short lived when Fenton Collins fed Fairgrieves, who burst through to level the game.

The Gaels felt hard done by shortly afterwards when O’Hanlon was tackled high in the act of shooting but Rugby’s protests fell on deaf ears and the game finished 2-4 to 10 points.

The Gaels started the first half of extra time well with Shaw scoring from a free, following a foul on Steve Clarke.

Rugby were indebted to Jordan Gold who made a sharp save at his near post following a Finbarrs break down the left.

The hosts picked up the next two scores to lead by one before a 45-metre free from Shaw tied up the game once more right on half-time in extra time.

Rugby had a dream start to the second half of extra time when Danny Walshe and Ryan Ward combined on the right to release O’Hanlon who finished neatly to the back of the net to send The Gaels travelling support wild on the side line.

By this time both teams were running on fumes in the Coventry heat.

Rugby’s defence of Cathal Stakelum, Mike Cremin and Oisín McKenna put in a huge effort to keep St Finbarrs at bay.

But the pressure told in the 78th minute when they broke through on goal and a desperate tackle by Fairgrieves was adjudged a foul.

Finbarrs scored from the spot and the game was level for the sixth time.

Rugby were ahead again when Collins fed Fairgrieves who took his point neatly from distance.

The game was now headed into stoppage-time of extra-time.

The Coventry side poured forward and a broken ball let them in on goal.

The forward was stopped by a combination of goalkeeper and two defenders.

The referee deemed it illegal and gave a second penalty to Finbarrs in as many minutes, which they promptly dispatched.

Tempers flared shortly after when a Finbarrs player interfered with the kick out leading to a booking for each side.

The game continued deeper into added-time.

The referee had no choice but to send off Dan Hart of Finbarrs after a dangerous challenge on Collins which once again saw tempers flare from both sides.

When referee JP Walsh restored order Baalham Donaldson lobbed the 40-yard free like a ‘Hail Mary’ pass into the box.

O’Hanlon rose highest and knocked the ball down to the waiting Madine who took the ball across the box and threaded a smart shot back against the angle through a forest of legs into the net sending the Gaels fans delirious.

Finbarrs had one last chance but the shot from distance tailed wide.

After nearly 90 minutes of football the referee blew the final whistle and the Rugby Gaels could celebrate their first Mulligan Cup in 14 years.