Manhattan Gaels 5-3 Hibernians 1-7
Sept. 22 2021 By Micky Quigg
Manhattan Gaels claimed the inaugural New York “Novice” Championship Sunday after a five-goal salvo against Hibernians at Gaelic Park – the high ball proving Gaels’ most potent weapon.
The competition, the brainchild of County Chairperson Joan Henchy, was designed for newly formed teams which included a few older Irish players and a lot of players from different nationalities that were only recently introduced to the game.
Hibernians topped the group and earned their place in the final whereas Manhattan Gaels came through the hard way with an impressive display against NYPD in the semi-final. FDNY and Dutchess County Griffins also featured in the competition
Long-term New York GAA servant Brian Quinn was the man in the middle for this one, so it was always going to be a free-flowing game. Due to a color clash, Hibernians lost the toss and were forced to wear the Kerry NY black jerseys, with Manhattan Gaels opting for their white set.
Nerves seemed to be getting the better of both teams in the opening few minutes evidenced by some missed scoring chances coupled with a number of clumsy challenges.
However, Hibernians got off to a better start with a point from the dead ball courtesy of Tommy O’Brien.
Hibernians, who were in their first-ever final since the club was formed back in 2017, soon got another point on the scoreboard from an O’Brien free with the sharpshooter looking dangerous from placed kicks.
The momentum changed in the ninth minute when Gaels player Ian Plunkett launched a high ball into the square which the Hibernians full backline failed to deal with. The ball fell to Eoin Kiely who blasted home the game’s opening goal.
The game now sprung to life and it was a true battle of the defenses with Hibs men Mal McHugh and Steve Massey cutting out a lot of passes – likewise, captain Dominic Mills and Kevin Shroff were performing well for Manhattan.
Sporting a fashionable blue headband, Gaels’ Barry O’ Seanain was able to find space in the Hibs defense and kicked a lovely right-footed effort between the posts stretching the lead to 1-1 to 0-2 at the water break.
Upon resumption, Manhattan Gaels and Hibernians looked to work more ball into their respective full forwards in the shape of Shane O’Keeffe and Darren Lynch respectively.
Hibernians then suffered a major blow when James Nash was sent off for striking Colm O’Neill after the Gaels man caught him with a high challenge. O’Neill was yellow carded for his infraction.
Tommy O’Brien put Hibernians right back in the game with a solid score with his trusted left foot but Manhattan Gaels responded with a point of their own.
Manhattan Gael’s then lumped another high ball into the square which was patted down by Hibs keeper Brosnahan but Sean Brady reacted quickest and tapped home the deflection to extend the lead to five.
Manhattan Gael’s support play was excellent in the first half but it was the high ball that was yielding the greatest dividends.
Midfielder Tomas O’ Cadhain opted for what can only be described as a “skyscraper kick” into the danger zone and keeper Brosnahan, who had performed well under pressure up to this, fumbled the catch and Brady was there to slot home his second, and Gaels’ third goal of the game.
With seconds remaining in the first half, O’Brien pulled a point back for Hibs courtesy of a free to leave the score at the break Manhattan Gaels 3-2 Hibernians 0-4.
The second half started off at a blistering pace and Hibs meant business with O’Brien quickly registering his fifth point of the final but that was canceled out by a long-range effort by Gaels player Darren Lynch.
Manhattan’s ability to win the ball around the middle – whether it be a high catch or the breaking ball – was proving a major difference between the sides too whereas Hibernians at times needed a little bit more composure in front of goal.
However, that didn’t seem to affect O’Brien who kicked another great score from the dead ball on the 40th minute bringing his tally to six points.
This game was certainly not for the light-hearted as crunching tackles were being thrown in by Dan Moriarty, Tom Vaughan and big Brian McMahon for Hibernians. But Manhattan Gaels weren’t taking anything easy, as Mark Cassidy, Joe Kelly and Sean Beecher were giving out plenty of shoulders themselves.
As Hibs were chipping away at the deficit, Manhattan put daylight between the sides with yet another goal that identically resembled Cathal McShane’s goal in Croke Park the previous weekend.
Again, a dangerous high ball was launched in and this time Karl Hickey smartly back fisted it past Brosnahan and the ball rolled into the back of the net giving Gaels a nine-point cushion as the final water break was fast approaching.
Kevin Durkan had an opportunity to tighten the gap back for Hibernians after some fantastic work and strong running by Sean O’Donoghue. However, Durkan’s effort was denied by Gael’s keeper Ger Shivnan and Hibs couldn’t convert the resulting 45’.
As the game wore on Hibernians increasingly found it harder to cope with the extra man as Manhattan exploited the space effectively and then put the game to bed.
Kiely ran down the middle and laid off a perfect pass to Declan Cole who had his shot well saved by Brosnahan, only for the forward to nail the rebound into the bottom corner.
Hibernians did have a chances to grab a goal back. Keane ran straight through the Manhattan defense and palmed the ball off to O’Brien but Mills he was there to pull off a textbook captain’s block against and Manhattan were able to gather up the return.
Quinn called the water break – but too much damage had been done against Hibernians.
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Gaels made a few smart substitutions in the last 10 minutes. They played the ball neatly out of defense and made sure possession wasn’t wasted while Hibernians never lost heart and despite tired legs playing with a man down, their energy levels were noteworthy.
With minutes left in the second half, Hibernian’s talisman and captain Keane got a well-deserved goal. After a nice pass by Durkan, the skipper did well to shield the ball and put himself in one-on-one to ping the ball past Shivnan – just a little bit too little for the club formed in the Hamptons.
O’Donoghue nearly added to the scoreboard soon after, but Conor Moran was taking no chances and his diving block went out for a 45’ for Hibernians. O’Brien dropped it short into Keane who right-footed over before the final whistle.
Their first final in the last four years, Hibernians will take a lot from the game and will most definitely come back stronger next year but it was the Gaels men who had the composure and experience – as well as the goals to see the game out.
Micky Quigg is New York GAA’s Games Development Officer.