Historic day for Toronto Gaels as 2019 season kicks off
Author: Sean O’Shea
Senior Men’s Football League Round 1
Toronto Gaels opened the 2019 season in emphatic style on Saturday in their first game of the Toronto Senior Football League. The Gaels initial game against St. Vincent’s was rescheduled due to inclement ground conditions at Centennial Park which forced Toronto GAA to make room for these games later in the season. Saturday morning did not look equally promising as the skies opened from early light and the field was faced with a heavy downpour. Undeterred, the Gaels lined out for a 1.30pm throw-in against Durham Robert Emmets.
Toronto Gaels got off to a good start, clocking up some early scores to settle them into the game. Points from Dan Fay and Conor Finnegan pushed the Gaels into an early lead. A fantastic run from the longtime club stalwart, Enda ‘Badger’ McHugh at the 21st minute demonstrated to the assembled crowd that the Leitrim forward has lost no speed and pace over the long winter.
It was not until the 24 minute of action until Durham registered their first point of the game, which was responded by a free from Lacken’s Conor Finnegan shortly after. Another two points from Dan Fay pushed the Gaels out further. A point by Durham on the stroke of half time kept them in touch as the scores stood at 0-11 to 0-3 at the break.
Durham emerged with increased urgency in the second half, knocking over two points in quick succession. However, an finely executed free from Finnegan on the 36th minute kept the Gael in control of the game.
The Gaels made a number of substitutions around the 40 minute mark with Cavan’s Andy Dunne replacing Cian Halpenny of Louth and Rory Conway of Dublin coming on for Sean Fee of Leitrim. Ray Ronaghan, who replaced Belleeks man Brian O’Callaghan, made an instant impact. The former Monaghan intercounty star demonstrated his experience and understanding of the game when he intercepted a short kickout from Durham. With a quick turn this ball found its way into the back of the net and the Gaels led 1-13 to 0-5.
However, not all the action was in the Gaels forward line as Durham won a penalty. Fortunately for the lads in green, white and yellow, the shot hit the cross bar and the Gaels defence worked the ball up the pitch to win a free, which was converted by Conor Finnegan.
A point from play from Eoin Cusack pushed the Gaels further into the lead. Cork’s Tadg Quilligan was replaced by Shane Hughes at the 49 minute as the Gaels pushed on. A high ball and some quick thinking by Ronaghan resulted in the second goal of the game. Dan Fay finished out the day with another point from play.
While the Gaels looked comfortable for most of the game it is very early in the season. Durham have proved sticky competition in previous years as Toronto Gaels will well remember. Next weekend they will face St. Mikes in the next round of the Senior League.
Final score: Toronto Gaels 2-16 Durham Robert Emmets 0-06
Senior Ladies Football League Round 1
The Ladies team have bonded over the past number of weeks, which is clear from their on-field performance and off-the-pitch comradery. Made up of a mixture of Irish born women and native Canadians, they have moulded together as a serious outfit. Having won the junior ladies Railway Cup competition on Good Friday, they are are an up-and-coming force in the city of Toronto.
In their first game of the Senior Ladies League they faced Durham Ladies, a team that has consistently been one of the top performing teams in both the League and Championship for several years. Unfortunately, the result did not go the way of the Gaels women on their first league game of the season. However, these women will not be disheartened and their performance demonstrates the dedication and commitment that they have put in over the past few months. Having built a team from scratch since January they have been the remarkable success story of the club so far this year. Watch this space as we expect great things from Toronto Gaels Ladies.
Toronto Gaels juniors also got their first run out of the season on Saturday at the first Toronto Junior Football Blitz of 2019. The first blitz saw a record number of teams participating in a competition which saw its first inception in 2018. Joining the Gaels were teams from St. Mikes, St. Vincents, St. Pats and Buffalo Fenians.
With an early start of 9.30am, many would have been forgiven for pulling the duvet covers over them on a Saturday morning as rain showered down from the heavens. Despite some treacherous weather conditions, the Gaels had a great turnout from men looking to get their first run of the season. Featured on the panel were both old and new faces. Paul Deeney, Mick Lynch and Keith Barry all featured. Combined they most likely have almost 40 years spent in a Gaels jersey.
It was very encouraging to see many new faces in the green, white and yellow. There were very impressive displays from Kevin Banks in goal and David Mahon at midfield. The Baile Bhuirne duo of Dara Healy and Jim Mahony stood rock solid in defence, shouting instructions to each other as gaeilge. There were further fine performances from Dominick Keaney and Aaron Brady.
Having made it through the round-robin of the blitz the Gaels faced St. Mikes in the semi-final. The Gaels kept in front through the entirety of the game, never letting Mikes to pose a serious threat in front of goal. Some very smart football saw the Gaels close out the game as on a winning margin of 1-7 to 1-3.
St. Pats were the competition in the final, having overcome St. Vincents in the other side of the semi-finals. This was a tit-for-tat encounter with neither side dominating throughout the game. Kevin Banks was very impressive for the Gaels once again in goals until he was forced to come off after a clash with a Pats player during the second half. Never-the-less, the Gaels stood strong and continued to push until the dying seconds of the game. Unfortunately, they were pipped at the final whistle and suffered a one-point loss in the end.
Undoubtedly Toronto Gaels will put on another impressive performance in the next blitz scheduled in a few weeks time. Having been the most successful team at junior level for the past number of years, the Gaels will be eager to retain silverware this season.