After months of anticipation and speculation, the 2020 Philadelphia GAA men’s hurling season finally began during the last weekend of July. It was not business as usual for all involved, as proper precautions were taken by the league to ensure that players and spectators alike could return to these games we all love so dearly. The sun was oppressive, but couldn’t deter the lads of Jersey Shore GAA and the South Jersey Rebels from taking the pitch in Limerick, PA to renew their rivalry.
During the 2019 season, JSGAA and South Jersey split their official Junior D matches 2-2, with South Jersey winning a cup match and Jersey Shore winning a best-of-3 championship series. Despite the results, the Pirates often found themselves coming out to a slow start, having to battle back to victory or fall short by a point or two. Determined to remedy this, JSGAA came out with high energy and a quick pace, but still struggled to get some points on the board early.
First blood was struck by South Jersey, as the Rebels belted a solid goal into the back of the net. The first 20 minutes or so were dominated by the Rebels, who developed a lead of several points over Jersey Shore’s single point. However, in the last ten minutes before the half time whistle, the Pirates began to settle into a groove. Midfielders Matt Jones and Milan Matarazzo were everywhere, and their speed and control helped keep the sliotar in Jersey Shore’s territory, eventually leading to several points over the bar. By the time the whistle blew, the Pirates had battled back to take a 1-point lead.
The fires were lit, and Jersey Shore refused to let off the gas. In the second half, the half forwards began to let their points fly. Mike Rogers struck 4 points over the bar, and Tadhg O’Brien contributed 2 goals and 4 points with a couple coming from frees. By the end, 8 different players from Jersey Shore had scored.
One of the best scores of the day came from young Michael Dunne, Jr. slotting one over the bar in his first-ever hurling match. However, what made it especially memorable is that the assisting pass came from his father, longtime hurler Michael Dunne, Sr. (affectionately known to the club as Mick).
Always the unsung heroes of any sport, the defense showed up strong. The Jersey Shore backs swarmed the Rebel forwards all over the pitch, making sure no comfortable shots were attempted, forcing many wides and committing several blocks, clearing the sliotar out of the danger zone time and time again. In goal, Rob Cacioppo didn’t have the opportunity to practice often leading up to the match, as he was nursing a finger injury… but you wouldn’t know it from his performance! Aside from two difficult goals allowed, Rob stopped every single attempt that came his way and didn’t allow any short Rebel shots to turn into goal opportunities, catching and clearing the sliotar each time.
When the full-time whistle blew, Jersey Shore found themselves the victors by a score of 4-13 to 2-05. While it was a large margin of victory, the Pirates know full-well that the Rebels will return strong and hungry next time. Their litany of first-time players showed great promise. It’s always a privilege to meet them on the pitch, and we look forward to our next battle. For now, we turn our sights to next weekend’s contest against Philly’s Na Tóraídhe Hurling Club, last year’s USGAA Junior C National Champions. While we know it will be a difficult match against a well-rounded, extremely-talented opponent, we look forward to the opportunity to give it our all against one of the nation’s best clubs.
Jersey Shore GAA 4-13 (25)
South Jersey Rebels 2-05 (11)
Tadhg O’Brien 2-4
Brendan Ferriter 1-0
Patrick McNelis 1-0
Mike Rogers 0-4
Chris Moyer 0-2
Michael Dunne, Sr. 0-1
Michael Dunne, Jr. 0-1
Milan Matarazzo 0-1