By Conor Coyle
FULHAM Irish sealed their third ever London SFC title on Sunday after a dramatic victory saw them force extra-time with the last kick of normal time, before eventually winning out by seven points.
The delayed 2020 final was the fourth consecutive meeting of Fulham Irish and Tir Chonaill Gaels, with the former denying the latter a three-in-a-row after Fulham last won in 2017.
A strong Northern contingent was a hallmark of the winning Fulham team, including nine squad members from Down. One of those was Atticall man Ronan Sloan who slalomed his way through through the Tir Chonaill defence to land the equalising point with the last kick of the game to force additional time.
Entering injury time of normal time, Fulham trailed by three points and it looked as if it was going to be another one that got away. That was before Paddy Naughton and Chris Duggan tagged on points which preceded Sloan’s vital score.
“Everyone was saying afterwards they were shouting ‘pass it, pass it’ as I wouldn’t be known for my shooting skills. I was looking for a shooter or someone to lay it off to but there was no options and time was running out so I just smacked it,” the half-back said.
“I didn’t even see it go over because they had a guy coming through to block it and he took me out after it. I just heard the roar from our boys and the crowd.”
The game finished 2-17 to 0-16 after goals from captain and former Tyrone All-Ireland winner Mickey Murphy and Jack Goulding in extra-time delivered the trophy to the Fulham outfit, who have former Cavan player Lorcan Mulvey as their manager.
Tir Chonaill led by 0-5 to 0-1 after the early exchanges and led for the vast majority of the encounter, with London stalwart Liam Gavigan pulling the strings for the established club.
Sloan added Tir Chonaill’s counter-attacking strategy caused them problems for most of the match, but felt that their fitness proved valuable in the end as they entered extra-time.
“We didn’t lead at all during the game. They just came out flying and kept smashing their kickouts over our press. They just had that down to a tee.”
“We had to be a bit more patient and hold possession around the middle after that and play smart, so we kept ticking over the points. We couldn’t get in the lead at all throughout the game and missed frees that would normally be going over, so we were lucky enough in the end but I do think we deserved it overall.”
“We’ve gained a reputation for playing good football and with Lorcan as manager the whole thing is very player-led. Training is good, the atmosphere is good and the craic is good as well.”
“I think we’ve got a good set up to keep it going for the next couple of years. We’ve been in the last four finals and I can’t see us not appearing in the next couple of finals if we keep going in the same vein.”