1977 Minor ‘A’ Final

Pádraig Pearses 2-10 Gort 2-9. Report from Connacht Tribune. A week ago, when these two teams qualified for this Final in Duggan Park, the hurling was undistinguished to the degree that many were wondering if the two winners were a true representation of Minor Hurling in Galway. Seven days later, at the same venue the two qualifiers met in a thrilling final that wiped away all the despondency of the week previous. The teams lined out much as they had done the week before, but the playas much improved. As in their Semi-Final Pearses were trailing at half-time and their supporters must have been worried that had wasted a number of excellent chances. Gort were looking good and midfielders Pearse Piggott and Gerry Lally were well on top. But the game did turn around and was in doubt right up to the final whistle and even after, as the clinching goal scored in the final seconds was disallowed by the referee.

Pearses opened well, PJ O’Connell collected a loose ball from the throw-in and coolly sent the ball over the Gort bar. Pearses goalkeeper John O’Grady conceded a 70 from Derek Fahy’s shot, which Gerry Lally converted. Gerry Linnane then pointed to put Gort into a lead they did not surrender for another 50 minutes. With Gerry Lally doing fine work in midfield the Gort forwards were kept busy. Gort’s next point came in the sixth minute from Pearse Piggott. Gort kept up the pressure and the Pearses defence conceded a penalty, Lally took his point. Pearses keeper John O’Grady was having some difficulty in getting length into his puckouts against the breeze and this was putting pressure on his colleagues. One of the puckouts was sent back to the goalmouth in the ninth minute. O’Grady collected the ball and in attempting to clear he was hooked and the ball ran free. Corner-forward John Sullivan was in quickly to send the ball to the net.

Pearses shored up the defence with a substitution and got an attack going that yielded only a wide. Then a delivery from PJ O’Connell was sent to the net by corner-forward Michael Ryan. However, Gort’s midfield regained control and the Pearses defence was stretched again. Pearses did manage to break out and they were awarded a close in free. The Gort goalkeeper saved well but could not kill the ball, which ran to Pearses’ James Healy, but he failed to convert. Gort missed a similar chance, but the ball fell to John Lally who goaled. Just before the quarter mark Pearse Piggott stretched Gort’s lead by a point. At this stage the hurling was good and close, with Gort finishing better.

In the twenty-second minute, as Pearses were valiantly fighting to cut a seven point lead, more chances went a begging. James Healy moved the ball to centre-forward Martin Raftery, he drew the defence before sending the ball across the face of the goal to Michael Ryan, but his timing was wrong and the ball sailed wide. Shortly after, Ryan had another chance but again his luck was out. Gort keeper Monaghan then made a fine save from full-forward Tomas Lydon. Shortly afterwards another ball came across the Gort goalmouth. Pat Dillon swung but again failed to connect. Martin Raftery managed to win possession and send the ball back over the bar to compensate. Three minutes before half-time Gerry Lally sent a free over the Pearses bar to leave Gort in the lead at the interval, 2-6 to 1-2.

Gort went further ahead inside the first few minutes of the second half when Gerry Lally pointed a sixty yard free. A Gort attack was thwarted by Pearses centre-back Kevin Donnellan, who as the game progressed was to become hugely influential. Pearses, to the audible frustration of their supporters, continued to waste chances. PJ O’Connell now to midfield, was beginning to get the measure Gort’s Gerry Lally. The tide was beginning to turn. Pearses mentors then made the move that changed it all, Kevin Donnellan was switched to mark Gerry Lally. On the eighth minute Donnellan pointed a free and a minute later pointed from play, then a he added a 65, before PJ O’Connell hit a long range point. Now it was all Pearses. They swarmed the Gort goal and chances were plenty. Substitute Brendan Barrett and Tomas Lydon shot scoreable wides.

Twelve minutes from time, all Pearses’ missed chances were balanced by one stroke, 70 yards from the Gort goal, a free from Kevin Donnellan deceived the Gort keeper and went all the way to the net. Pearses had now cut the margin to two. Donnellan pointed another 65, then seven minutes from full-time they drew level, with a Tomas Lydon point, Donnellan providing the assist. Donnellan then pointed another free, by this stage he seemed to have taken over the game. Gerry Lally leveled for Gort and with 5 minutes left it was all to play for. Pearses pulled ahead again with a point from Pat Dillon. A Gort free fell short, but was gathered by substitute Frank Shaw who leveled the game once again. Pearses’ Gerry Healy sent a pass to PJ O’Connell and Duggan Park erupted as he sent the ball sailing over the Gort crossbar for the lead score. A sideline ball was cut back into the Gort square where James Healy finished to the net. Pearses joy knew no bounds. But the referee ruled that the goal would be disallowed as it had come after he had blown for a free out.

There were many heroes for Pearses, but none more so than Kevin Donnellan, whose performance in the second half was an inspiration. Martin McDonagh, Gerry Healy and JJ Queeney were best in defence. Martin Raftery and PJ O’Connell were the best of the forwards. But most of all it was a team victory, for a team that just wouldn’t give in. Gort’s best player was Gerry Lally, who was excellent in the first half. He was well shackled in the second half. Pearse Piggott showed well, with the best of the defence being John Crehan and Francis Walshe. Gerry Linnane, John Sullivan and substitute Frank Shaw were the pick of the forwards.

PEARSES: J O’Grady, JJ Queeney, M McDonagh, A Bellew, P Glynn, K Donnellan (1-4, 1-3f), G Healy, G. Murphy, M Bellew, P Dillon (0-1), M. Raftery (0-1), PJ O’Connell (0-3), M Ryan (1-0), T Lydon (0-1), J. Healy. Subs: B Cummins for A Bellew, B Corbett for M Ryan.

GORT: T Monaghan, G McInerney, F Walshe, N Kelly, M Walsh, D Kearns, J Crehan, P Piggott (0-2), G Lally (0-5, 4f), J Counihan, G Linnane (0-1), D Fahy, J Lally (1-0), M Loughrey, J Sullivan (1-0). Subs: D Duffy for J Counihan, Frank Shaw for J Lally.

Referee: Frank Corcoran (Sarsfields).