Garda weathered the storm best, hitting back strongly to win an all-action All-Ireland Inter-Firm JFC decider.
With past and present inter-county men in action, this superb contest was way above junior standard.
Tough and hard, with some delightful touches despite the incessant rain and heavy pitch, it was the scoring exploits of Cork forward Colin Crowley, who scored 1-7, that eventually swung the game Garda’s way. Crowley’s 40th minute goal couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Taking a great ball from Tom Bowe, he gave Nortel keeper Kieran O’Malley no chance.
It brought the Garda right back into a game they had struggled to get a grip on and they finished in style to take the laurels against a well clued in and never-say-die Nortel side.
Nortel, particularly in the opening half, played some delightful football.
With midfielders Barry Dooney and Shane Kelly commanding, wing back Peadar Gardiner continually attacking the Garda left flank and corner-forward Pat Stewart showing some great footwork, Nortel were in command with the driving wind and rain at their backs.
With the Garda slow to settle, Nortel took quick control. Colin Cleary kicked two good frees and although Pat Hegarty did reply, the Garda were rocked in the 11th minute when a delightful ball from Dooney was picked up by Stewart and he gave keeper Pat Prendergast no chance. And they weren’t finished yet as another Cleary free and points from play by Stewart and Kelly stretched their lead to 1-5 to 0-2 after the opening quarter.
And Nortel were full value for it with some probing long balls continually opening up the Garda rearguard.
As the rain teemed down, there was just no stopping Nortel. Bowe did get two cracking Garda points but they looked a well beaten side at the break when they trailed 1-7 to 0-5, Cleary with his fourth free and Gardiner adding to Nortel’s total.
Dramatic remedies in the form of hard work and scores were needed now by the Garda and they soon showed they were up for the challenge with quick and outstanding points from Bowe and Crowley.
With Jimmy Smiddy now taking control of the left flank, Ollie O’Sullivan thundering into the game and Jim O’Donoghue and Hegarty curbing the Nortel midfield dominance, Crowley began to show his strength and his goal enabled the Garda to go into the final quarter on level terms at 1-9 apiece.
James O’Shea, who worked tirelessly throughout, gave the Garda the lead for the first time in the 47th minute and although Cleary again tied up the scores with another free, the class of Crowley eventually manifested itself and lifted the Garda to new heights. Crowley fired over four points without reply, three superb frees, and to say Nortel were rocked would be an understatement. They had given so much for no return. They’ll remember Crowley!
: Garda: C Crowley 1-7 (0-4 frees), T Bowe 0-3, J O’Shea 0-2, P Hegarty, P Holland 0- 1 each. Nortel: C Cleary 0-6 (frees), P Stewart 1-1, S Kelly, P Gardiner, B Dooney 0-1 each.
: P Prendergast; T Cronin, John O’Shea, J Bugler; P Nolan, O O’Sullivan, J Smiddy; J O’Donoghue, P Hegarty; D Lynch, P Holland, D Davis; C Crowley, T Bowe, James O’Shea. Sub: C Dineen for Lynch.
: K O’Malley; M Carolan, D Joyce, S Naughton; P Gardiner, K O’Boyle, T Bennett; S Kelly, B Dooney; D Carroll, M Coleman, J Frein; P Stewart, C Cleary, C McDonnell. Subs: D Geary for Carolan, B Gardiner for Carroll, S Burke for Dooney, G Clancy for Cleary.
: E Phelan (Limerick).