By Eamonn Kelly
The biggest crowd of the season that gathered at Chicago Gaelic Park last Sunday were not only treated to wonderful displays of Gaelic football and hurling but witnessed two shock results in the process. Current senior football champions St. Brendan’s were dethroned by underdogs Parnells, and hot favorites Cu Chulainns were defeated by Erins Own in the semi-final of the senior hurling American Board Championship.
In the junior football semi-final, the two north side rivals, John McBrides and Padraig Pearse, ended up on level terms and must play again next Sunday to see who qualifies to meet St. Brendans in the divisional final.
Parnells 3-11, St. Brendans 1-13
Current central division senior football champions St. Brendans suffered a shock defeat at the hands of underdogs, Parnells, in a most enthralling semi-final at Gaelic Park last Sunday.
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To observers the lineouts of the teams on paper, St. Brendans were expected to stroll through to the final. In the end, for Parnells it was a victory for tenacity, courage and never-say-die spirit. While they trailed early in the game, Parnells illustrated an ability to stay close to their more experienced opponents through most of the first half. That confidence was boosted with a goal by Jason Reilly in the eighth minute of the game which contributed to their lead throughout the first half. In addition, Parnells were getting great service from centerfielders Pearse McKenna and Chicago native Sean Kenny who battled bravely against the more experienced pair of Graham Bourke and Martin Delaney.
St. Brendan’s biggest problem was the inability of the forwards to capitalize on chances created. In addition, their defense, which includes such inter-county names as Seamus Quinn and Fergal Crossan, were a complacent lot as they allowed Parnells to penetrate for three easy goals. Had it not been for the sharpness of goalkeeper Robert Darby on at least three other occasions, the margin of defeat would have been greater.
Overall, the St. Brendans defense experienced much difficulty in dealing with the courageous Reilly’s, Jason and Paddy, the leadership of full-forward, Paul McGrady and the speed of corner-forward Davy Shields. After leading at half time by two points, 1-6 to 0-7, Parnells got off to a dream start on the turnover when Shields goaled in the sixth minute and Noel Rahilly broke through the Brendans defense moments later to give them an eight point lead.
Faced with total humiliation the champions regrouped and enjoyed their best period of the game, scoring 1-3 without reply, the goal coming from Galway star, Michael Donnellan. This third quarter rally by St. Brendans contributed to a marvelous final quarter which generated a wonderful exchange of scores and near misses as Parnells held on for a surprise but well deserved victory.
Senior hurling semi-final
Erins Own 1-17, Cu Chulainn 0-13
Even though the results of this senior hurling semi-final between Cu Chulainn and Erins Own may not have provided the same level of shock to the Chicago hurling community as the senior football game did to the football world, the defeat of the 1997 champions, Cu Chulainn was considered a big surprise.
While making that statement, one must congratulate Erins Own who struggled through the early part of the season, for sticking with it and build a most competitive side. They are a much improved team and can be expected to provide a strong challenge to the American Board champions, Harry Bolands, in the divisional final next Sunday.
Much of their success can be attributed to the work of their midfielders, Andy Moloney and Aidan Frank. Moloney scored five points in the opening half which contributed to side splitting the spoils at half-time, 0-9 to 0-9.
No more than two points separated the teams through most of the second half until a great goal by Michael Beavens in the 27th minute and two fine long range points from Tipperaryman, Liam McGrath sealed victory for Erins Own.
Junior Football Semi-Final
John McBrides 1-10, Padraig Pearse 0-13
Veteran Chicago football star Ger Geraghty played a major role in rescuing John McBrides from the jaws of defeat as he scored three spectacular points in the final three minutes of the game to force a draw with Padraig Pearse.
It was a most entertaining junior football contest with no more than three points between the teams throughout the sixty minutes. Both teams exchanged points in the early stages of the game until Geraghty blasted to the net in the eighth minute. Padraig Pearse rebounded very well scoring four consecutive points from Trevor Mortimer, Seamus Boyle (2) and Kevin McMahon which contributed to their half-time two point lead.
Mortimer stretched their lead in the opening moments of the second half with a fine point. McBrides took control late in the third quarter and were soon on level terms after getting points from John Mariwer (2) and Alan Stanton.
However, Padraig Pearse fought back and regained their three point lead with scores from Mortimer, David Hennessy and David Byrne. They seemed to have booked their ticket to the junior football but Ger Geraghty’s great scores in the final moments saved the day for McBrides.
The replay will take place at Gaelic Park next Sunday.
Intermediate Football Semi-Finals: Shannon Rangers 0-16, Sean McDermotts 0-16; Sons of Boru 3-14, Ulster 0-13.
Young Irelanders 2-12, Sons of Boru 3-9: Naomh Padraig 2-17, Michael Cusacks 1-7.
In ladies football, St. Josephs and Fog City Harps have qualified for the divisional final.
Senior Football: Kevin Barry’s 4-14, Tyrone 1-3;
Derry 3-11, Young Irelands 1-7.
Ladies junior football:
Philadelphia Harps 5-9, Washington DC Gaels 2-1.
Junior football final: Detroit Wolfe Tones 2-16, Cleveland St. Jarlaths 3-7.
Detroit Wolfe Tones will now represent the Midwest Division in the NACB Junior A finals with Cleveland St. Jarlaths playing in the Junior B competition.