Division Four, Feile na nGael 2019 Runners up

It all started with flat batteries on Saturday morning with Mick having to jumpstart Ken’s van. We had 3 gazebos in a wind swept Cherryfield. By Sunday afternoon we had 27 flat batteries (including coaches) and  the three gazebos were in the skip, but we had a ton of memories to keep us going!

9am Saturday: The boys started arriving at the clubhouse. They greeted each other quietly and grouped in small huddles while whispering in nervous anticipation. Sliotars were pucked around to kill time and probably kill a few nerves too. Time for a quick team photo with their coaches (Mick, Darragh, Diarmuid, Ray and Tommy) before the parade behind the piper Kevin O’Brien and a fine solo rendition of Amhran na bhFiann by Molly Conway. A food mountain for hospitality that Bob Geldof would approve of had accumulated in the clubhouse. Everyone in the club was doing us proud before a sliotar was pucked in anger.

First up were Plunketts at 10:30am. A huge roar from the sideline greeted our first point of the day after 2 minutes from our Captain Luke. Both sides struggled to get to match pace in the blustery conditions and we went in 0-2 to 0-1 down at the half. That all changed in the 2nd half. Boden got off to a strong start with 1-2 unanswered with Torna netting an unstoppable shot. Plunketts then came straight back with 1-2 of their own. Luke goaled for us before Plunketts quickly replied with a goal and then a pointed free to seal a narrow 2 point victory. The disappointment was etched on the boys faces but this is Feile and there is no time for anyone to feel sorry for themselves. In the other match on the adjoining pitch Crokes got the better of Clanna Gael. Watching the other game was to become almost as important as watching our own. More on that later. The boys headed off to the dressing room for a quick break and we headed to the clubhouse for the first post mortem of the day. Time for a quick coffee and a fancy bun (with an iced sliotar on top) before going back out for match 2 vs Clanna Gael at 11:45.

The boys were now settling down to the job at hand. Led by Ciaran’s precise puck outs they put in a strong 1st half to lead by 3-3 to 0-1 at the break with the goals coming from Luke, Zenan and James. The 2nd half was a much more even affair. Alex and Cormac did Trojan work and then Mark tagged on a goal to close out a 4-3 to 3-1 victory. On the other pitch Crokes beat Plunketts. With 2 games played and the very real possibility of a 3 way tie at top of the table confusion broke out. Is it head to head? Is it points difference. Nobody (around me anyway) seemed to know but thankfully the people that did need to know (the coaches and the boys) were on top of it and they remained calm.

Next up were Crokes. To stay in the tournament we simply had to beat Crokes. After that the calculators might be needed but first we had to win.

1pm and the ref throws the sliotar in. Crokes stuck first with a goal. What happened next will live long in the memory of the boys, the coaches and anyone else who was lucky enough to witness it. In scenes not seen since Offaly ambushed Limerick in the ’94 All Ireland Final Boden rattled off an astonishing 4-4 without replay in a devastating 9 minute spell. CJ, Rian and Sean did great ground work to allow Torna, Zenan, Luke and Alex get a goal each. Crokes didn’t know what hit them. To their credit they did manage a point to close out the half. Boden adjourned for a quick slice of orange with a healthy 4-4 to 1-1 lead.

Now is a good time to talk about the parents. Not content with beating Crokes, they started getting greedy! 1st prize for winning was a Semi Final at home at 4pm. 2nd prize, something we all would have gratefully accepted 20 minutes earlier, would mean a trip to Rush. We now not only wanted to win but we wanted to win by enough to stay on the Southside. In the other match Plunketts were winning comfortably. Lots of theories abounded about what this meant but the truth was that none of us really had a clue.

Anyway back to the hurling. Crokes came out fighting exactly as we knew they would. They peppered our goal where Ciaran yet again was performing heroics to keep them at bay. The onslaught continued but our defence stood firm. Diarmuid put his body on the line more than once. Just when Crokes finally thought they had broken through Kieran rose from nowhere to deny a goal with a fantastic save. Crokes kept plugging away but Boden closed it out with further goals from Zenan and Fionn. Job done….through to the afternoon.

A quick  chat with the man in charge (Jerry) confirmed that it was a 3 way tie at the top with Boden winning and Plunketts coming second. A trip to the seaside was avoided and we all went back to the clubhouse for a well earned rest. Yours truly was now staring longingly at the Guinness tap!

Next up were Craobh Chiarain at 4pm. By now  our 16th man had arrived in the shape of the boys from the other teams. What a fantastic contribution they made with brilliant support and encouragement from start to finish. This was match 4 and there were a lot of tired limbs out there. After a tense first half, Boden led by 0-4 to 0-1 with Zach pulling the strings on the 40 and Rory, Rian and Diarmuid doing great work at the back. A huge crowd had now gathered and the tension was palpable. Boden were on top but weren’t translating this to the scoreboard. Daniel and Darragh went on runs down the wing but our collective hearts sank when we rattled the post. We wondered how long was left. Boden were 3 points up but it didn’t feel safe. However, we needn’t have worried. James got a great block in and Boden broke down field to grab first goal of the game with Matthew getting the all important touch. The game moved into injury time and we all breathed a little easier. A wide seemed as good as a score but the drama wasn’t over as there was to be another twist with Craobh Chiarain getting a goal of their own. 21 mins gone, 22 mins gone. “Blow it up ref”. Thankfully in the 23rd minute he finally obliged and Boden were victors on a score of 1-5 to 1-2. Back to the clubhouse for a quick meeting with that Guinness tap before calling it a day.

Sunday morning: Out of bed and quickly in to waken the young man who looks like he’s in a coma ! It’s quickly clear this is no ordinary morning as he jumps out of bed…. Why can’t it be like this every day ? Enough of our domestics. Back to the clubhouse at 9:15am. We leave for Peregrines in convoy. I blow the horn. A voice from the back seat says “Stop Dad”. Dad does what he’s told. Best not to upset anyone at this stressful time!

Throw in was at 11am and we were out of the blocks and attacking straight away and were soon 0-2 to 0-0 up with points from Mark and Zach. A real battle ensued as both sides fought for everything. Then a cruel few minutes for Boden started with a goal against the run of play followed by Kieran taking a heavy knock which would force him off injured. The misery was compounded when we conceded another goal. The lads regrouped at half time and against all the odds they came out fighting and gave it a huge effort.  James did great work around the middle but a big hit on Rory took its toll and he had to go off injured too. Plunketts stretched their lead to 5 before Conor goaled to cut the margin to 2. They pushed it out to 5 again with another goal before a quick point from Zenan and a Daniel goal narrowed the gap to 1 point with 3 minutes left. At the death Plunketts tagged on another free to leave a final score of 3-2 to 2-3.  Our boys left it all out there but only just came up short. The boys held their heads high and congratulated the victors in fine sporting fashion. There is no doubt that these young men will get their rewards in the future.

What a weekend. On Saturday morning 22 boys arrived in hope and anticipation. On Sunday afternoon 22 proud men left the field with their heads held high despite the result. We couldn’t have been prouder of each and every one of them. They are credit to themselves, their club and their families.

A huge thanks to everyone who supported this team over the two days.

Comhghairdeas libh, táimid fíor-bhródúil asaibh.

Squad: James Archbold, CJ Balance, Alex Brady, Conor Butler, Kieran Burke, Matthew Callan, James Casey, Diarmuid Egan, Luke Fitzpatrick – Captain, Mark Keogh, Sean Langan, Torna MacGearailt, Rory Malone, Daniel McCarthy, Rian Meaney, Ciaran Murphy, Cormac Nolan, Zach Nolan, Zenan Spain, Fionn Callan, Darragh Delaney, Alex Dunne.

Photos by Eamonn O’Sullivan, Dave Rusk and Cliona Mellett. For more see here and here.