British Universities GAA 2012 Championship Final: “A triumph of Hope over experience”
by Peter Mossey (Chairman)
Liverpool Hope 1-8, Liverpool John Moores 0-9 (after extra time).
Greenbank sports grounds in Liverpool on Sunday 12th February 2012 was the setting for another historic day in the 21 years of British Universities Gaelic Football Championship competitions that saw Liverpool Hope University finally secure a BUGAA Division 1 title for the first time in their history; and in the process break the hoodoo that their rivals Liverpool John Moores had imposed on them so cruelly over the years.
The route to the final:
Round robin: On the way to the final the two Liverpool Division 1 teams (Hope and John Moores) dominated and impressed with the Friday round robin group games providing the first indication that they meant business as they both were victorious over Dundee University and Robert Gordons University. Meanwhile the other side of the group draw saw Napier University (Edinburgh) and St Marys Strawberry Hill emerge.
Semis: In the 2 semi-finals on the Saturday, Liverpool Hope played Napier in one semi final with Liverpool John Moores against St Marys in the other. Both semi finals were hard fought with the first of the two going to extra time before Hope eventually got the better of Napier while Liverpool John Moores beat St Marys in a game that indicated St Marys Strawberry Hill were back as a force to be reckoned with in the University finals. In four of the previous five years the Liverpool rivals had met at the semi final stage and John Moores won all but one of these encounters so the scene was set for a final that irrespective of the outcome would be historic – either Moores equalling the St Marys record of eight BUGAA championships or Hope being victorious for the first time in their history.
Final: The venue for the final was relocated from the frozen pitches at Páirc na hÉireann to the John Mitchells ground at Greenbank and from the throw in the John Moores pairing of John Caldwell (Mayobridge, Co Down) and Kieran Harte (Taras, London) won possession and it marked a trend of first half John Moores dominance. The Moores attacks carried much more threat and they engineered 2 nice points from play which led to an immediate Hope reshuffle in defence with Paraic McGuirk (Sean McDermotts, Monaghan) moving from full back to mid-field having lost out to Stephan Forker (Maghery, Armagh) in these early stages. The Liverpool Hope management were active again when their first real attack found Ciaran Harper (Castlederg, Tyrone) whose effort from the right fell into the arms of Christopher Quinn (Donaghmore, Tyrone) in the Moores goal and he was immediately called ashore. Hope did eventually get a couple of scores on the board with 2 points from freeze both converted by Francis Cassidy (Portglenone, Antrim) but at half time Liverpool John Moores had a 6 -2 lead and looked a much more accomplished outfit.
The second half saw continuing dominance of John Moores and 2 more unanswered points, 1 a superb long range Stephan Forker effort which gave them an 8-2 lead and even the most ardent Liverpool Hope fans were sensing that the game was slipping away. However the players and management responded to the threat of humiliation in the last 15 minutes of the game and the reintroduction of Ciaran Harper at full forward, power play of Paraic McGuirk and relentless defence inspired by goal keeper Michael Mooney (Enniskillen, Fermanagh) they never surrendered. Following an inspirational 45 scored by Paraic McGuirk (Monaghan) they kept the pressure on the John Moores defence and when Harper imposed his presence on Christopher Quinn and Feidhlim O’Neill under a high ball the break fell kindly to him and he dispatched it to the back of the Liverpool John Moores net to reduce the deficit to 2 points. Liverpool Hope now sensed the possibility of retrieving the situation while the Moores’ defence looked uncertain and 2 more excellent points followed to level the game and at full time it was Liverpool John Moores 9 points, Liverpool Hope 1-6 forcing the tie between the two sides yet again into extra time – a very familiar scenario when these two rivals have met in the past.
The Liverpool John Moores team – who have won 5 out of the last 6 BUGAA Championships relinquished their 2011 title at Greenbank on Sunday
Extra-time: The psychology and tenor of the period of extra time was so different from the game that had preceded in that there was a spring in the step of the Liverpool Hope players and a contrasting sluggishness in the John Moores’ legs and this was converted into scores for Liverpool Hope while, try as they might, Liverpool John Moores could not get the ball between the posts. Both Peter Mallon and Ryan Mallon missed convertible chances and when Mooney saved brilliantly from Stephan Forker this was an indication of the fortress mentality that had now infused and consolidated the Liverpool Hope camp and they held on bravely to secure their famous 2 point victory.
In the post match celebrations Aaron Brannigan (Kilcoo, County Down) accepted the Kevin Fallon British University Championship trophy from Mike McMahon (Secretary, CA) and Paraic McGuirk (Sean McDermott's, Monaghan) was awarded the Paul Montague player of the tournament award.Liverpool Hope captain Aaron Brannigan (Kilcoo) holds the Kevin Fallon BUGAA Championship trophy aloft to herald their famous victory.