St Gabriels 2-20 Kilburn Gaels 3-10.

By Damian Dolan at McGovern Park, Ruislip.

St Gabriels produced an irresistible first half display to condemn the county champions to defeat, and get the ‘Round Robin’ off to a pulsating start at McGovern Park.

St Gabriels were quite simply brilliant in the opening 30, firing over scores from every conceivable angle. Whatever they tried, it invariably came off. Having flown out of the blocks from the first whistle, Gabriels set an early pace that Kilburn just couldn’t match. Not that the holders did much wrong. But Kilburn aren’t county champions for nothing and it’s to their credit that the final margin between the sides was a mere seven points.

Particularly as Kilburn were reduced to 14-men after just 18 minutes, when Vincent Staunton saw a straight red for a challenge on Brian Hickey. Not that Staunton’s dismissal was the reason for Gabriels’ victory – they’d already established a very healthy and thoroughly deserved 1-9-to 0-4 lead by that stage. Gabriels’ opening goal came when David Nolan spun on to a ball over the top and although Jack Barron got a good piece of Nolan’s shot, it wasn’t enough to keep it out. Gabriels were on fire after that, playing with an intensity and bisecting the posts from everywhere and anywhere.

After Staunton saw red, Gabriels rattled off the next five scores without reply; with Fergal Collins claiming the last score of the half for Kilburn to make it 1-14 to 0- 5.

All but one point of Gabriels’ tally of 1-14 had come from play. It was indicative of their play in the first half -clinical although Gabriels could even afford to rack up nine first half wides.

But, as said before, Kilburn aren’t senior champions for nothing, and 14 men or not, they needed just 13 second half seconds to remind Gabriels of that fact, as Colin Nelson played in Jody Troy to goal.  Pauric Buckley and Aaron Sheehan pointed and Kilburn were back to within seven. It was the response of champions. Gabriels, perhaps not surprisingly, couldn’t recapture the intensity of the first half and that played into Kilburn’s hands, as the champions rolled up their sleeves.

When Aaron Sheehan found the back of the net in the 47th minute the gap was down to just four. Henry Vaughan forced a good initial save from James Barrett, but the Gabriels goal keeper could only deflect the ball straight to Sheehan, who fired low to the net.

Gabriels hit back immediately, however, as Hickey’s sideline ball caused Jack Barron problems and Andrew Curtin, following in, goaled from close range.

But even then Kilburn refused to lie down and Rory Skelly turned the ball home following a goalmouth scramble, after Vaughan had tried to muscle his way through.That came with five minutes to go. Gabriels, however, were able to see out the remaining minutes to register what could prove to be a very significant victory.

St Gabriels: James Barrett, Tomas Higgins, Conor Helebert, Ronan Royston; Lee Murphy (0-1), Graham Maher, Neil Rogers, Oisin Royston, Brian Hickey (0-3), David Nolan (1-3), Stephen Lohan (0-2), Cormac Thornton; Michael lvors (0-4, 2f), Shane Lawless (0-7), Andrew Curtin (1-0).Subs: Dave O’Gorman for Helebert, Quintin Lynch for Curtin, Ronan O’Sullivan for Nolan.

Kilburn Gaels: Jack Barron; Pauric Brennan, Willie Campion, Kevin Campion;

Chris McAlinden, Brian Regan, Vincent Staunton; Fergal Collins (0-1), Henry Vaughan; Sean Conlon, Colin Nelson (0- 2), Pauric Buckley (0-1); Stephen Lambert (0-1), Jody Troy (1-2), Aaron Sheehan (1-3, 1 f, 1 ’65). Subs: Justin Kelly for Brennan, Rory Skelly (1-0) for Buckley, Seamus Carey for Sheehan.

Referee: Jimmy Howlin.

Our thanks to Damian Dolan and the Irish World for the match report.