St Brigid’s 1-12
Fulham Irish 0-7
All-Ireland SFC quarter-final
A LOT of people who work in the City of London like to study trends and data. Fulham Irish have their share of number crunchers and will have noted that the average score for a London club in All-Ireland quarter-finals this century is just over six points.
Such a total rarely wins football matches. Indeed, no senior London team has finished within four points of an Irish side in the last 15 years.
Fulham knew they had to break this cycle and kick a lot more than six or seven points to have a chance of victory. It didn’t happen, but afterwards manager Liam Barry said the scoreboard did not reflect the gulf in standard between the sides.
Barry and Co’s gameplan was to be within four or five points of St Brigid’s at half-time and then, with the stiff wind behind them in the second 30 minutes, switch big man Lorcan Mulvey into full-forward and aim high ball at him. Barry was convinced the goal chances would present themselves.
“With five minutes to go before half-time I was happy enough,” he said.
But then, with the change of ends approaching, Mulvey got his second yellow card in a couple of minutes and Plan A was redundant. Fulham battled gamely on but you never got the sense an upset was possible.
To be fair to St Brigid’s, an upset did not look likely even when the numbers were even. The Connacht champions were 1-4 to no score ahead after 13 minutes. No team in Ireland would rate their chances after giving St Brigid’s such a lead.
Fulham have been slow starters all year but this wasn’t a mere continuing of a trend: this was a battle-ready team, off the back of victories over Tourlestrane and Corofin, against a bunch who’d been scratching around London for challenge games, pitting their strengths against a teacher training college and a development squad.
If any London side is going to break the cycle of defeat, they have to at least approach this fixture in their peak condition. Barry pondered when asked what the solution was. Perhaps heading over and back to Ireland every second weekend for a serious challenge game was an option, but he acknowledged that would be an expensive plan.
What’s equally costly is the history of failure at this stage of the competition. Fulham thought they had what’s needed to make the leap from noting trends to breaking them but the graph is unchanged.
Had they 15 men for an hour, they may have got closer. After their dire start, the men in black and green enjoyed a fruitful second quarter of the tie. Mulvey kicked two frees – in the 19th and 24th minutes – to finally get the scoreboard ticking for the home team. Marty Hughes then shot just over the bar when a goal was a live prospect after a sweet ball in from Mulvey.
Hughes’ point with five minutes to the break narrowed the gap to five points. On target for St Brigid’s had been: Senan Kilbride twice, Frankie Dolan twice – one a peach of a point from an acute angle – and Darren Dolan.
St Brigid’s’ goal came on eight minutes when Niall Grehan found the net after Iomar Barrett had blocked superbly from Cathal McHugh.
However, just when Fulham were beginning to believe in their plan, key man Mulvey first of all got booked for a minor scuffle with Kilbride and then saw another yellow and a red for an altercation with Darren Dolan.
Liam Barry refused to criticise the referee after the game but said the sending off was “harsh to say the least”. Certainly, there was nothing in the way of dangerous play or malicious intent in Mulvey’s incidents but the fact remains that he lost control of his emotions. If you don’t keep yourself in check at all times, you’re likely to find trouble in the modern game and it has to be said that some of the voices coming from Fulham’s line were far from restrained.
St Brigid’s held their counsel. Fulham, at times highly aggrieved with the officiating, will say that it’s easy to keep cool when you’re getting more of the 50/50 calls. Regardless, letting fly verbally is unlikely to help your cause.
There is so much to admire in the way Fulham conduct themselves as a club and in the rapid progress they have made during their five years on the field, but if the curve is to continue upwards they’d do well to heed the advice of the moderating voices on their line who were urging a little more self-control.
Between the lines, Fulham fought the good fight in the second half and with 15 minutes left were still just five points down, despite their lack of a converted full-forward. However, any lingering thoughts of an unlikely victory were dismissed when McHugh rattled off three points between the 45th and 52nd minutes.
As the rain swept over Ruislip in the closing stages and the spectators hurried for cover, the contest petered out. Frankie Dolan added a late free which meant Fulham lost by more than double scores.
The scoreboard didn’t tell the full truth of the game but it doesn’t look out of place when viewed in the context of recent history. Frustration for Fulham then. Some year coming they may set a new trend for London teams in this competition, for now at least they’re still following the old one.
St Brigid’s: James Martin; Robbie Kelly, Darragh Donnelly, Darragh Sheehy; Eoin Sheehy, Peter Domican (0-1), Niall Grehan (1-0); Karol Mannion, Garvan Dolan; Darren Dolan (0-2), Cathal McHugh (0-3), Gearoid Cunniffe; Ian Kilbride, Senan Kilbride (0-2f), Frankie Dolan (0-4, 2f). Subs: Damien Kelleher for Kelly, John Murray for Cunniffe, Conor McHugh for Cathal McHugh, Cormac Sheedy for Grehan, Gerry Dunning for Kilbride.
Fulham Irish: Declan Traynor; Gary O’Hare, Conor McClean, Martin Conway; Aidan Savage, Shane Mulligan, John Boyce; Fergal McVey, Patrick Walsh; Noel Nicholson, Lorcan Mulvey (0-2f), Iomar Barrett; John Ryan (0-1), Marty Hughes (0-2), Harry Murphy. Subs: Padhraig McKernan for Nicholson, John Reilly (0-1) for Savage, Mark McCaffrey for Boyce, Nicholson for Barrett.
Ref: Eddie Kinsella (Laois)