By Pierce O’Reilly
A brave and full-blooded power performance from New York almost caused the shock of the century at Gaelic Park on Sunday in the final of the FBD league.
Trailing by one point with 3 seconds left on the clock, the All-Ireland champions, Galway, were granted a late desperate lifeline by referee Martin Duffy. Up stepped John Donnellan to point from a very controversial free 35 yards out to save the blushes in the eventual winning dressing room. The point pushed the game into extra time and Galway prevailed, 4-15 to 3-13.
New York manager Paddy Kearney was adamant that the home side had won the game. New York president Monty Moloney was as proud as punch. “I’m very proud of all the New York lads that played their hearts out,” he said afterward at the GAA banquet.
It was a rough week for all Gaels. The top New York team, Donegal, had withdrawn their troops at the 11th hour and an already wounded side took to the field with more hype than hope. Only five of the side that played Boston seven days earlier had survived: Martin Slowey, Paul O’Connor, Pat Mahoney, John Meehan and Jamie Driscoll.
New York hit the ground running and with Laois man Larry Keenan brilliant at midfield, the exiles’ attack ran at the all-star defenders. Leading 2-4 to 0-5 at the interval, New York were quietly confident of a major upset. In the opening minutes, captain Pat Mahoney and New York corner back Pierce O’Reilly pointed to settle the early nerves. Galway had plenty of options in attack and points from Joe Bergin, Paul Clancy and Derrick Savage pulled them back to parity with the slightest of fuss.
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Wiry and lively New York corner forward Paddy O’Connor pounced for two great goals in the opening half, the first score coming after six minutes and the second on the stroke of half time. O’Connor was unstoppable when in possession. He twisted and turned the Galway defense inside and out and was a constant thorn in the opening half.
Galway manager John O’Mahoney was livid at the interval and reared on his lethargic players. In the second half, the champions burst from the traps to reel in the exiles point by point. Derrick Savage was rampant at full forward and points from Kenny Naughton, Shay Walsh and Savage pulled them right back into contention. When Savage pounced for a late goal, the Tribesmen when three in front. New York, to their credit, never buckled and a smashing goal from Armagh native Noel McPartland a minute later put them back in front.
With time running out and the huge crowd in the bleachers on their feet, Galway escaped from the jaws of defeat. With 3 seconds left, John Donnellan pointed from a free that was disputed by every member of the home side. It finished level, New York 3-9 to 2-12 for Galway.
In extra time, New York once again powered in front, with points from Bingo Driscoll and Pat Mahoney. Then Galway pounced for the killer blows. Two great goals one from Paul Clancy and the other from Derrick Savage sealed the deal for the visitors.
The fitter All-Ireland winners had a lot more fuel left in the tank at the finish. Distraught New Yorkers were devastated but deserve great credit for such a spirited performance. A late point from Eddie O’Reilly narrowed the gap, but it mattered little to the All-Ireland champions who had the superior fitness and cohesion in extra time. New York had real heroes at the back in Paul O’Connor, Damien Hendy and Kieran Walsh. Larry Keenan was outstanding at midfield, while the entire attack performed with aplomb.
New York: Kieran Traynor, Pa Murphy, Kieran Walsh, Pierce O’Reilly 0-1, Damien Hendy 0-1, Paul O’Connor, Martin Slowey, John Meehan, Larry Keenan 0-2, Noel McPartland 1-1, Pat Mahoney 0-2, Bingo Driscoll 0-3, Paddy O’Connor 2-1, Tommy Gee, Jamie Driscoll 0-1. Subs: Noel Buckley, Eddie Reilly 0-1, Francie Sheridan, Keith Murray, Taghd Foley, Paddy Reddington, Ronan Garvey.
Galway: Alan Keane, Kieran Fitzgerald, Gary Fahey, Richie Fahey, Tomas Meehan, Tomas Mannion, Micheal O’Collarain, Joe Bergin 0-2, Shay Walsh 0-1, Paul Clancy 2-2, Kieran Comer 0-2, Mathew Clancy 1-1, Tommy Joyce, Derrick Savage 1-2, John Donnellan 0-4. Subs: Kenny Naughton 0-1.