Leinster Club Hurling Championship

November 8, 2018

Leinster Junior Hurling Club Championship Semi-final

Reports from training suggest no injury worries and all the lads are fighting hard to get their place for the game. Nice relaxing weekend last week with a lot of the lads attending the wedding of our centerfield man Thomas Lynch, by all reports everyone had a ball but with Nicky keeping a watchful eye on his players, no one went overboard on the drink, (they would suffer on Tuesday night in training if they did.) Supporters too are in training, it can be hard work getting the right seat on the supporter’s bus, get close to Father Jack (Johnny Smithers),  after all, he’s the one with the bags of sweets.

The wedding brought problems of a different sort, Ian mc Donnald, Thomas’s best man is going to Las Vegas with the happy couple, so 2 of our stars will be missing from this semi-final against Borris in Ossary. We wondered who would take their places but the selectors are keeping us guessing, there will be no whispers from the dressing room, no leaks from anyone, Nicky makes sure of that.

The opposition are checked out on the net, they are playing well, won their last match comfortably, so did we, they won their intermediate championship to qualify for this competition, so did we, they get a lot of their scores from a very reliable marksman, so do we. We could be in for a cracker.

Match fixed for 2.30. The buses and cars start leaving Clubhouse from about 1.15. Flags flying from the windows, we head off in convoy to Parnell Park, where only a few weeks ago, we has a fantastic win over Round Towers to capture the Dublin Intermediate Championship in hurling for the first time since 1983. But this is a new experience, Leinster Semi- Final, another first for the club, every other week now we seem to be making  new Club history, the feel good factor is getting better all the time, Recession? What recession?   Someone asks, as we stock up with crisps and lemonade from the tuck shop in Parnell Park, even Carl Holmes arrives with sweets to share – another first for the club.

Niall Paget starts, back from injury; we have a new centre field pairing of Gary McAuley and Derek O’Brien. Stephen Costello starts at full forward, hope his free taking skills don’t dessert him today. Apart from that it looks like the team that beat Newcastle in the last round. Watching the opposition warming up they seem to have a few players with a handy first touch and like ourselves a good mixture of youth and experience, although our forwards looks a bit faster but only  time will tell.

Game starts and within 10 seconds Borris go 1 up. We can’t afford to let them to build up an early lead so the next ball is vital, we win the puck out and then a free, Stephen puts it over. Well done lads, a quick reply is vital. The next 15 minutes both teams trading score for score, tackle for tackle, no holding back, looks like it is  a cracker of a game, Stephen, Trollier, Carl, and Dillion all scoring well but Borris hitting back, teams swapping the lead, on a number of occasions. Ball brakes up the line on the stand side, Stephen comes to collect and in a lovely turn brakes away from his man, running in at a tight angle and with the corner back bearing down on him, he strikes the ball beautifully and rattles the far corner of the net. What a GOAL, brilliantly taken, that’s puts us 2 points up, the best lead we enjoyed since the start. The crowd goes wild.

The Borris crowd find the voice now, a large group of them have travelled up from Borris in Ossary, a beautiful town on the border of Tipp and Laois, and they need a quick reply, looks like they might get it too, in a great move they brake past our back line and the corner forward is going for goal with only Lar our keeper  to beat, but it’s not that easy to beat our Lar, and quick as a flash, Lars closing him down and saves brilliantly from a point blank shot, “ go on ye boy ye” someone shouts from our supporters  and the ball is cleared.

Then in a another long puck out from Lar, the ball is coming down well into their half, Gary McAuley goes to double on it in the air but mistimed it and strikes an opponent on the head. Straight Red card from the ref and were down to 14 men. Gary can’t believe it and looks despondent as he leaves the field.  Both teams trade another couple of scores and we go in at half time 2 up. What a first half.

The talk in the crowd is can we cope with only 14 men, will Nicky make changes, will Big Gossie be brought on, will our 4 minors playing be able to cope with the physical side of the game, will Carl Homes go and buy a few more sweets, well maybe that is a bridge to far.

The lads are back on the field; Young Dingle is on and it looks like he’s in a new centerfield partnership with Ger Dodrill, our crowd whispers, what’s Nicky up to, two Minors centerfield normally these two are our fast attacking forwards, will they be able to do their defence duties? We ask.

The second half is going like the first with both teams going score for score in the first 12 minutes but one or two of our lads look like their tiring after giving everything covering for the extra man. Nicky makes another change, Big Gossie is coming on, 45 year old, 6’5’’, 18 stone gentle giant. He wins his first ball, gets a sideline ball with his second and lets the Borris back line know he’s there, nothing gentle about him now and he’s got a yellow card for his troubles, but this only seems to lift the lads.

We were worried about the youngsters in centre field but their having the game of their lives with Dingle playing out of his skin, young Gossie (Growler) once again, as in the Dublin final against Round Towers seem to be playing better now that Da is on the pitch, Craig Gallagher hasn’t put a foot wrong since he came on and Lar Sweetman makes at least 5 top class saves. Coming up to the last couple of minutes, grit, determination and passion from all the lads helps us to build our lead to 4 points with time up, how much injury time we wonder, Borris get a free at the side line about 30m out. He has to drop the ball in and go for goal. Here it comes, blocked down by our defenders. Their forwards crowd the goal, looks like Lar made another great save, then on the rebound,  Bang back of the net, Goal for Borris, their supporters go wild with delight, we grown, for F**K sake ref, how long left?  We’re in the 3rd minute of injury time. “Come on lads, hold on!”  The crowd shouts, our forwards get half a chance but their blocked out. Borris Clear up field, we have to win this ball, our backs get it driving it back down the field, Borris try to clear and the ref Blows for full time.

Final Score Naomh Fionnbarra 1-14 Borris In Ossary 1-13.

 We’ve done it, were in the Leinster Final,  Yes, Nicky did make changes, master strokes he would say,  Yes, big Gossie did come on,  Yes the minors were well able for the physical side of the game, Yes the centerfield were more that capable for their defence duties and No, Carl Didn’t get the sweets.