By Eamon Kelly
The Chicago Central Division of the North American Board concluded its regular season last Sunday, setting the stage for what promises to be the most attractive four-game all-finals schedule in several years at Gaelic Park next Sunday.
Hot but otherwise ideal weather attracted a big crowd to Gaelic Park and they were treated to fine entertainment in the five-game schedule that included an exhibition camogie game, the first ever at the park.
Since the contestants for next week’s women’s football final have already been identified, the main interest was focused on the semifinals in junior and senior football and senior hurling. Chicago and North American County Board Senior football champions Wolfe Tones, came a step closer to achieving a record breaking fourth consecutive championship when they put on a superb fourth-quarter display to defeat a gallant Padraig Pearse team to qualify for a crowd-pulling final with St. Brendan’s. In the best game of the day, John McBrides had a 1-point victory over Wolfe Tones to reach the junior football final against hot favorites, St. Brendan’s. In senior hurling, Harry Bolands’ easy win over Erin’s Own sets the stage for a potential marvelous final with Cu Chulainn.
Wolfe Tones 2-12, Padraig Pearse 0-8
A powerful fourth quarter display underlined Wolfe Tones determination to retain the Guiness Central Division championship as they swept a shorthanded Padraig Pearse team aside in the senior football semifinal last Sunday. Two opportunist goals by Wolfe Tones, one in each half, and the dismissal of Padraig Pearse’s Ken Claffey only 10 minutes into the second half, were the main contributors to the Pearse’s downfall. In addition an excellent display by Enda Raftery, voted Guinness player of the day, and great work by centerfielders John Hynes and Paul Doyle set the foundation for victory early in the second half. While losing by 10 points, Padraig Pearse were in this game right up to the end of the third quarter. They dominated proceedings in the opening quarter going into a 2-point lead within as many minutes. Their confidence was further enhanced when their excellent goalkeeper, Brian Doherty, made a spectacular save on Rory Mone’s penalty kick in the sixth minute.
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A turning point came at the end of the first quarter when Rory Mone took advantage of a complacent Pearse defense to slam a 30-yard free into an unguarded net. While it was a devastating blow to the Pearse they recovered and exchanged points with their opponents for the rest of the half. After trailing by just a single point at the interval, Padraig Pearse went on the offensive in the opening moments of the second half and soon took the lead with points from Steve Lawn and Paul Higgins. Damian Freeman responded with two points to restore the Tones’ lead. However, the course of the game took a dramatic change when Ken Claffey (Offaly) was sent to the line by referee Bryan White (Wexford). Within three minutes, the game was virtually all over when Greg Ryan goaled to give Wolfe Tones a 2-8 to 0-8 lead. The Pearse tried desperately to generate a late rally but a solid Tones rearguard led brilliantly by veteran Liam Cullen defended the comfortable lead to the final whistle.
Harry Bolands 3-20, Erins Own 2-10
Harry Boland’s bid to regain the hurling title they last held in 1996 is on course after an easy semifinal win over Erins Own last Sunday in the Guinness Senior Hurling Championship semifinal. The former champions rarely had to go into top gear to win this one. They had too many big guns for Erins Own to overcome such as inter-county players, Jamesie Brennan (Dublin) and Tommie Dunne (Tipperary). Dunne was the game stop scorer, registering 11 points. Erins Own stayed close to the Bolands in the opening quarter with Liam McGrath (Tipperary) notching several points. However, an opportunist goal by Tom Murphy in the 12th minute and two points by the same player just before the half ended gave the Bolands a secure 8- point interval lead.
While Erins Own reduced the gap to 5 points before the end of the third quarter, with points from McGrath and Declan McGreevy and a great goal by Eamonn McGee, the Bolands dominated in the final quarter, outscoring their opponents 2-5 to 1-0 to gain an easy victory and a place in next Sunday’s final against current champions, Cu Chulainn.
John McBrides 1-9, Wolfe Tones 1-8
Junior football which has done little this season to excite the Gaelic Park patrons came to life last Sunday when John McBrides and Wolfe Tones played top-class football enjoyed very much by the big attendance. McBrides, strengthened by several veteran senior players from last year deserved their 1-point victory. As in their previous game, the introduction of veteran star Gerry Gerreghty after the interval played a key role in their success. Shortly after his arrival he tied the game with a well taken free and scored a marvelous point from a most difficult angle in the closing minutes to win the game for McBrides.
Only one point separated the teams at halftime, with Wolfe Tones in front 0-6 to 0-5. The Tones’ score came from Cathal Kearns and Ronan and Mugal, while McBrides points came from John Marnan and Frankie Carr. After Gerreghty tied the game shortly after the turnover Joe Lyons scored a great goal following splendid approach work by Tom Ronan. The game was scoreless for the next 9 minutes and then the teams were level again when Mugal found the net in the 14th minute. In a hectic final quarter both teams exchanged points until Gerreghty’s superb score in the final moments secured victory for McBrides.
Erin’s Rovers 1-8, St. Brigid’s 1-8
Erin’s Rovers and St. Brigid’s put on a great rehearsal for next Sunday’s final when both teams will battle it for the Central Division title. It was hard to imagine that last Sunday’s game had no importance attached to it as far as the championship is concerned. Both teams played as if the title was at stake, producing a marvelous women’s football encounter.
As the final score suggests, there was little between the teams throughout the contest. St. Brigid’s suffered a tough blow late in the game when their top player, Ammie Bennett, was dismissed by the referee. Her absence for the final will be a big disadvantage for St. Brigid’s.
The following is Sunday’s Chicago schedule:
1: 15 p.m.. Jr. Football, McBrides vs. St. Brendan’s
2:30 p.m., Ladies Football, Erin’s Rovers vs. St. Brigid’s
3:45 p.m., Sr. Hurling, Harry Bolands vs. Cu Chulainn
5 p.m., Sr. Football, St. Brendan’s vs. Wolfe Tones
In the Guinness junior football championship, Kevin Barry’s put on a very strong second-half performance to gain an impressive 9 point win, 2-12 to 0-9, over Donegal. Kevin Barry’s halftime lead was just 3 points, 2-3 to 0-6. Both teams meet in the final next week.
Young Ireland’s will be Philadelphia’s intermediate football representatives in the national playoffs in Washington next month following a 3-point win over Derry last Sunday.