Gaels and Harps have final say


MEN’S Gaelic football in Scotland concluded for the year with a gala occasion as hundreds of supporters joined four clubs in Coatbridge for the junior and senior finals. Tír Conaill Harps and Dalriada first contested the junior final, with Harps emerging victorious, before the latest chapter in the absorbing story of the rivalry between Dunedin Connollys and Glasgow Gaels was written in the senior final.

It was the fifth time in a row that Gaels had attempted to seize the most prized trophy in the county from Connollys and the men from Clydebank were finally victorious (above) on the big stage. Whether or not it will constitute a more permanent changing of the guard remains to be seen, but on the day Gaels undoubtedly had the edge over their rivals from the east, scoring more freely than Connollys and better withstanding the pace and physicality of the match.

David Comiskey was the star man on the day—being awarded man of the match by the officials—and with his team-mates he probed endlessly at the Connollys back line throughout, even as their opponents took an early lead. Connollys had found the net twice in the early stages and while Gaels looked more fluid in their approach to the posts, it took some time for them to turn this strong foothold in the match into a lead.

Connollys suffered, too, from the unfortunate departure through injury of their forward Sean Malee and had he remained on the field they might well have kept closer contact with Gaels, but in the event the steady waves of attack saw Gaels eventually snuff out the Connollys threat. A black card for Aldo Matassa had further limited the efforts of Connollys, but Gaels wasted no time in making them pay—looking well-drilled and hungry throughout.

In a physical encounter it occasionally threatened to spill over, but the touch paper was never truly lit, thankfully, allowing the good-sized crowd the opportunity to see two of Britain’s best clubs giving a great demonstration of the sport.

At the whistle there was elation for the men in red and white and their throngs of supporters on the touchlines, while Connollys gained great credit for their attitude in defeat, recognising—as they know only too well given their long dominance in the competition—how much it takes to lift the Charles Quinn Memorial Trophy. The final score was 0-14 to 2-04.

County Chairman Peter Mossey paid tribute to both sets of players as he presented the trophy to Comiskey on behalf his club, thanking Connollys for their great efforts in raising the standard of football in Scotland over many years while praising Gaels for now rising to meet them and finally winning the prize they have sought for so many years. The 13 years since their last victory may have been a demoralising time for lesser clubs, but as they celebrated, Gaels had a sense of the great weight lifted from their club by the great victory. They will now enter the British Championship at the semi-final stage in November, with dreams of going even further on their journey this year. Connollys, meanwhile, enter the shield competition, where no club will welcome the daunting task of entering the fray against them.

The curtain raiser for the day was the junior final, and a taste of the quality that would follow in the senior match was given as Dalriada and Tir Conaill Harps duked it out. It had been four years since Harps had contested a final, but with a league victory behind them already this year there was no lock of confidence on their part. Dalriada, meanwhile, having adapted well to life at this grade brought a confidence of their own.

The result was a captivating opening phase of the match, with Harps opening the scoring before a goal and two points saw momentum swing back towards Dalriada. Harps gradually steadied the ship however, their celebrated defence finding its feet and putting in place a strong base on which to build their assault on the title. With Connaire Shannon, Kenny Cochran, David Bouchier and Dan Gallagher all splitting the posts it was enough to see them go into the break with a single point gap in their favour.

With only a kick of the ball separating the two sides a tense second half looked likely, but what followed instead was a comfortable half in which Harps copper-fastened their hold on the championship. Limiting Dalriada to just two further scores, with man of the match Eamonn Cooke seeming to sweep up every loose ball, Harps added to their tally via Bouchier, Mauris MacParthalain and Gallagher—who landed five himself. With a final winning margin of 0-15 to 1-06 Harps could begin their celebrations (above) and end their season at the top of the tree.

Thank you to Paul Doogan from Tir Conaill Harps for information and photos related to the junior final and Jennifer Treacey from Scotland GAA/Glasgow Gaels for information related to the senior final