By Tony Tighe
Tir Chonaill Gaels 3-10 St Kiernan’s 1-12
Tir Chonaill Gaels claimed their seventh London SFC title in 11 years after edging St Kiernan’s in a high-scoring epic at Ruislip.
The Gaels trailed by one point at the interval after playing into a strong gale in the opening period, but a scoring burst of 1-3 in four minutes midway through the second half put them on course for a record 16th senior crown.
First-half goals from Donegal duo Seamus Friel and Adrian Hanlon sandwiched a major from Cathal Og Greene and looked to have put Tir Chonaill in control, but they then went 20 minutes without a score and Kiernan’s hit five points without reply.
However, Brian Duddy’s fortuitous 44th-minute goal put the defending champions back in front and they kept their opponents at bay for the remainder of a hard-hitting contest.
Fourteen different counties were represented in the starting line-ups, including five London-born players. One of those, Liam Gavaghan, and midfield partner Mark Gottsche were central as Tir Chonaill started with intent, scoring 2-2 in the opening 15 minutes.
With St Kiernan’s pushing up on their opponent’s kickouts they left oceans of space between centrefield and their full-back line, and the Gaels capitalised.
Tom Waters made a vital tackle to deny Gavaghan on 12 minutes but TCG found the back of the net moments later when Hanlon produced a deadly finish to beat Brian O’Leary.
Hanlon was black-carded during the next passage of play and from the resultant free Greene rose highest to punch a high dropping ball past Declan Traynor.
Tir Chonaill hit back with the third goal of a crazy three-minute spell, Cathal Magee racing in on goal before teeing up Friel, but the scores then dried up for the champions.
With Kenneth Sweeney leading from the front, St Kiernan’s clawed their way back into the contest and the Sligo forward converted a late free to give the north Londoners a 1-6 to 2-2 half-time advantage.
Points after the restart from Greg Lyons and Sweeney extended Kiernan’s lead but that was cancelled out in the space of three minutes as Tir Chonaill rediscovered their scoring touch.
The Gaels then put daylight between the sides when Niall Boyle’s fisted effort dropped short and came back off the post, and corner-forward Duddy reacted quickest to beat O’Leary from close range.
Kiernan’s were unable to cut into Tir Chonaill’s lead and frustration got the better of Michael O’Donoghue, who was sent off in injury time.
Tir Chonaill Gaels progress to an All-Ireland quarter-final date with Munster champions Clonmel Commericals, which will be played on Ruislip on the weekend of December 12/13.
Scorers - Tir Chonaill Gaels: S Friel 1-3 (2f), A Hanlon 1-1 (1f), B Duddy 1-0, C Magee 0-2, M Gottsche (’45), N Boyle, M McCoy, J McGrath (f) 0-1 each.
St Kiernan’s: K Sweeney 0-4 (3f), C Og Greene 1-0, A Moyles (1f), M O’Donoghue 0-2 each, L McKenna, G Lyons, P Finn, D Ryan 0-1 each.
Tir Chonaill Gaels: D Traynor; E McConville, P Butler, B McAtarnsey; G Magee, R Breen, M McCoy; M Gottsche, L Gavaghan; A Askin, C Magee, N Boyle; B Duddy, S Friel, A Hanlon.
Subs: J McGrath for Hanlon (14, black card), A McDermott for Gavaghan (35, black card), A Carr for Duddy (48), B Ross for G Magee (53), B Collins for McAtarnsey (53), R Kearney for Askin (60).
St Kiernan’s: B O’Leary; P Begley, I McGough, D Quinn; D Ryan, S Curran, G Lyons; T Waters, J Moran; M Mulholland, C Og Greene, L McKenna; A Moyles, K Sweeney, M O’Donoghue.
Subs: M Callery for Waters (24, black card), P Finn for Greene (36, black card), L Donoghue for Mulholland (51).
Referee: B Collins