By Eamonn Kelly
In ideal weather conditions at Chicago Gaelic Park last Sunday, three divisional semifinals in junior and senior football as well as senior hurling provided excellent entertainment for the large attendance.
However, it was a heartbreaking afternoon for the young Parnells club which had been enjoying it’s best season in history. Their junior footballers were leading the St. Brendan’s by the narrowest of margins going into injury time but conceded two late points which deprived them of a place in the final.
Even more heartbreaking was the outcome of the senior semifinal in which a star-studded St. Brendan’s squad played second fiddle to Parnells for most of the game but when given the advantage of an extra player in the final quarter managed to secure a tie and a place in the divisional final.
In the senior hurling semifinal, Cuchulainn qualified to meet Harry Bolands in the final following a nine point victory over Erins Own.
St. Brendan’s 0-11
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In senior football, St. Brendan’s booked their passage to the final of the central division and an eagerly awaited clash with old rivals Wolfe Tones, following an unimpressive tie with a gallant Parnells team at Gaelic Park last Sunday. Because of their final standing in the divisional league table, Parnells needed a victory over the Brendan’s to secure a place in the final.
While top class football only came in short passages, it was an exciting game throughout that had the big crowd enthralled. The closeness of the scoring for most of the match contributed to the excitement.
While Parnells led by narrow margins for most of the game, the teams were level on five different occasions. This was a contest that Parnells should have won as they carried the game to their more experienced opponents, never allowing them to settle down early on but poor shooting from scoreable positions was their downfall.
St. Brendan’s, with several current or former inter-county players in the lineup, struggled throughout failing to click as a united force in attack.
The game started at a rather slow pace in a tense atmosphere as tight marking ruled the roost. Parnells were first to score when David Shields pointed a free.
Within moments the game was tied when Martin Delaney also converted a free.
Both teams exchanged points for the next twenty minutes with St. Brendan’s scores coming from Delaney, Nial Buckley, Paul Hehir and Ger Walsh while Shields, Domonick McDaniel , James Gill and Peter McCann pointed for Parnells.
The tensely fought game broke wide open in the 24th minute when Jason Reilly gained possession of the ball around the forty yard mark, sidestepped three St. Brendan’s defenders and blasted home one of the best goals ever seen at Gaelic Park.
Delaney followed with a point from a free to make the half-time score, Parnells 1-5 St. Brendan’s 0-6.
Midway through the third quarter St. Brendan’s enjoyed their best spell of the match in which they converted a two point deficit into a two-point lead with the scores mostly coming from Delaney and Walsh. As Parnells tried to curtail the rally, they suffered a severe blow when Paul McAlinden was issued a red card by referee Pat Delaney and dismissed from the game in the 51st minute.
While clearly at a disadvantage, Parnells did not throw in the towel. They rallied in the final moments and got on level terms when Shields converted two frees. Shields had and opportunity to win the game in injury time but his well hit free from 40 yards out drifted wide of the post.
While Ger Walsh (Dublin) was St. Brendan’s most effective forward, the player of the game award went to Nial Buckley (Kildare) for his excellent fielding and accurate distribution of the ball.
So the stage is all set for the final showdown between Brendan’s and Tones next Sunday at Gaelic Park and the general consensus that it will take a much improved performance by St. Brendan’s to take the title from a Wolfe Tones team that has peaked in recent weeks.
Erins Own 0-15
A powerful second half display underlined Cuchulainn’s determination to make amends for a lusterless first half performance in this senior hurling semifinal in which they were held scoreless from play by a spirited Erins Own team that led throughout the opening period.
Given the difference between the teams in that period, all odds were leaning towards an Erins Own victory as they looked forward to a moderate wind advantage in the second half. After Erins Own increased their lead early in the second half, the game took a drastic change when they conceded an easy goal near the end of the third period.
From that stage on we witnessed a transformed Cuchulainn squad as they scored 2-10 while restricting Erins Own to a mere 3 points. Most amazing about this match was the fact that the winners didn’t register their first score from play until the 40th minute. The introduction of Unan Martin early in the second half and the switching of Sean O’Neill from the half-forward line to the halfback line played a major role in the games transformation. Such was O’Neill’s performance that he won the "player of the game" award.
Erins Own dominated the early proceedings shooting into a five point lead with scores coming from Paul Mulcahy, Colm O’Doherty, Cahal Murray, and Aidan Flanagan. Just before the end of the first period Cuchulainn were back on level terms following a goal and a point from free taker Fran Forde. Erins Own regained the momentum and a three point lead for an interval score of 0-11 to 1-5.
Shortly after Flanagan stretched their lead with a point, Forde scored his second goal and that pretty much ended Erins Own’s dominance.
It was all Cuchulainn after that with Sean Ryan scoring three consecutive points and Forde adding his third goal in the 56th minute to finish the game as a contest.
St. Brendan’s 2-6
Two superb points by Pat Carton in injury time turned certain defeat into victory as St. Brendan’s came from behind to beat a gallant Parnells team by the narrowest of margins in this junior football semifinal.
It was an excellent junior football game that kept the earlier arrivals at Gaelic Park on their toes through the hour. Perhaps, a draw would have done justice to Parnells efforts, especially in the second half as they battled back from a three point half-time deficit to take the lead in the forth quarter. It was a fast paced game from the opening whistle with very little between the sides. After Steve Burns opened Parnells account with a point in the first play, the game’s first goal came three minutes later when Brendan Coen blasted to the net to give Brendan’s a two point lead.
Just before the end of the first period, the game was tied when Pat Harold goaled for Parnells. Dermott Kenny and Joe Keane exchanged points before James Tracey scored St. Brendan’s second goal for a tree point lead. Coen had an opportunity to put six points between the teams with a penalty kick in the 29th minute but his well-placed shot was brilliantly saved by Parnells’s goalkeeper Emmett Haughian, to leave the half-time score: St. Brendan’s 2-4 Parnells 1-4.
In an evenly contested and tense second half, the first score didn’t come until 11th minute when Burns tied the game with a fine goal.
Jason Barrett and Brian Malone exchanged points before Mike Dennehy put Parnells in front with a great point near the end of regulation time. Shortly thereafter came Carton’s superb points to give St. Brendan’s a one point victory and a place in the final against Padraig Pearse.
Schedule for Sunday August 20th:
Central (Chicago) Division Finals: 1:15 p.m., ladies senior football, Erins Rovers vs St. Brigid’s; 2:30 p.m., junior football, Padraig Pearse vs St. Brendan’s; 3:45 p.m., senior hurling, Harry Bolands vs Cuchulainn; 5 p.m., senior football, St. Brendan’s Vs Wolfe Tones.
Junior Football Final: Cleveland St. Jarlaths 6-17, Pittsburgh Celtics 1-6.
Cleveland St. Jarlaths will now represent the Midwest division in the Junior ‘A’ playoff competition while Pittsburgh Celtics will be the Junior ‘B’ reps.