Irish put up a good fight against championship favourites

Fulham Irish 1-10 vs St Gabriel’s 4-20 – Ryan Cup Semi-Final

The Ryan Cup Semi Final was the first time Fulham Irish and St Gabriel’s met at senior grade this season at Irish’s home ground, The Scrubs.

The spoils went to St Gabriel’s, the favourites to reach this year’s championship final, who won by a healthy margin of 19 points. But it certainly did not tell the full story of how Fulham contested and battled every breaking ball, coming out on top in certain periods of the game.

Indeed, it was Irish who picked up the first score with barely a minute gone, with first time captain and London star, Shane O’Donnell, scooping up a breaking ball and passing onto Kev Davy who struck the sliotar between the posts.

Fulham registered another score before St Gabriel’s pulled one back. A loose pass from Irish was picked up by St Gabriel’s who hit a cross-field ball which was caught by their corner forward who reacted accordingly and drove the sliotar to the back of the net.

Fulham responded immediately with goalie Donal Casey driving a long puck out which was caught by O’Donnell who broke free to get another point on the board.

St Gabriel’s replied back and cancelled out the score Fulham had just got. They added a further two to their score line before, once again, O’Donnell picked up the ball around the 65m to drive it over the bar.

Over the next five minutes no score was registered as both teams challenged each other’s ball carrier, breaking down the play.

With 19 minutes on the watch, Fulham drove a long ball into the heart of St Gabriel’s defence and they hit the goal, only for this to be ruled a “square ball” by referee Eddie Naughton.

St Gabriel’s continued to press ahead with the half forward line creating space, allowing their half backs and midfield to drop the ball in front of the forward line giving them an easy target to take a score and they did just this with another goal.

Just before half time, St Gabriel’s had the opportunity to get a third goal only for Fergus O’Regan to steal the sliotar from the hurl of the St Gabriel’s player. The whistle went and the scoreline was 0-6 to 2-7.

The second half started with Fulham trying to claw back the score with the first point coming from Shane O’Donnell after St Gabriel’s had given away a foul.

With four minutes gone, a ball pucked out by St Gabriel’s was turned over and laid off to the waiting Mick Harte, who fired the sliotar to the top left hand corner of the goal and just wide.

Fulham continued the pressure with Steve Martin picking up a point from midfield and Kev Davy creating a score.

With 13 minutes gone, Irish’s Luke Slyman dodged and weaved passed two St Gabriel’s backs to pass on to the free Mick Harte who made up for his first miss by getting a goal.

St Gabriel’s had to react to the interaction between Shane, Steve, Luke and Jim which was causing them problems and had created the best passage of play Irish had in the game. This switch played dividend as they started to pull ahead taking their chances and scores.

Fulham’s backs were under pressure constantly from cross-field balls and support play by the St Gabriel’s forwards as they started to dominate this area, creating scores and eventually getting a further two goals.

Fulham had a chance to pull a goal back from a free on the 21m line quickly taken by debutant Naill Madden, who hit it at a fair pace, only to go wide.

With time nearly up St Gabriel’s again broke loose for what was a guaranteed goal, only for Casey to make a sublime diving save to deny the score.

Irish will be disappointed by the scoreline but will take heart in the effort they put in, which cannot be faulted.

Captain Shane O’Donnell said: “It was a spirited performance by our lads up against a strong Gabriel’s side. This was a good run out for us and we know, moving forward, we can improve on key aspects of our game.”

Fulham Irish: Donal Casey, Colm Kennedy, Frank Ryan, James McSwiney, Diarmuid Hayes, Fergus O’Regan, Eoin McCarthy, Steve Martin, Shane O’Donnell (C), Jim Nelligan, Kev Davy, Mick Harte, Luke Slyman, Naill Madden, John Condon, Matt Silke, Richie Hannon, John McHugh, Derry Fitzgerald and Mick Ruby.