If our last match was played on a meadow this playing surface was at the other extreme as Scoil Uí Chonaill hosted us on the AWP at Clontarf and it is a very tight sward indeed. Sunday was a beautiful calm day and the sun shone brightly. It may have dazzled a few of our lads who’d been out on the town the night before and didn’t get home until after midnight. Certainly it looked as if we were short of sleep as, by comparison with Scoil, we were lethargic and second to every ball right from the start.
Scoil Uí Chonaill’s simple tactics were clear in their minds and well understood by all their players – they moved the ball quickly on the ground, rarely rising it unless they were in clear space, and that happened all too frequently, to get the sliotar into the danger area in front of our goal. They marked tightly, making the most of a very physical contact to frustrate us as we, by contrast, sought to rise the ball at every opportunity, even when it was on the ground just yards from their goal line and begging to be pulled-on, or even kicked, into the net.
Scoil are schooled in the dark arts too. Eoghan can count on the fingers of one hand, which is probably all the poor lad has left, the number of times the ref picked this up. Hard to fault the ref though as it was expertly executed on the ref’s blind side.
The tactics were the right ones for the day and this playing surface – Scoil managed to kick the sliotar 50 Meters clear from their half-backline on one occasion – and being well understood by their whole team meant their players could better anticipate where the sliotar was going and run to intercept while we watched to see what would happen and we came off second best as a consequence. Scoil brought their goal keeper out to take frees on more than one occasion, as they had no scoring capability in this department out the field, and when one of his attempts came back off the left upright they were first to react and buried the rebound in the Ballinteer net.
The was no lack of heart, courage or ability on our part and, as is often the case with this team, we got going when we had given them enough of a headstart. There were only 2 points in it at half time and there was much to hope for as we knew we had talent aplenty if we got the chance to play Hurling rather than hockey.
The second half was a thrilling affair as we knuckled down to the task and took the game to our hosts. We relaxed as we drew level and then took the lead but another free conceded saw the Scoil Uí Chonaill keeper come out again to take the free from just inside his own half. He dropped the sliotar with precision in front of our goal and we failed to clear. They pounced for a decisive goal with only minutes remaining. We had a similar opportunity ourselves however our attempt to emulate the Scoil keeper’s performance saw the sliotar drop over the bar for another point which, in other circumstances, would have had us cheering. The same keeper pulled off a magnificent save from Patrick who executed a brilliant ground Hurling shot at the death to save the day for Scoil Uí Chonaill. We scored 17 times to their 12 but they won with a final scoreline that reads Scoil Uí Chonaill 3-9 0-17 Ballinteer St Johns.