The prize for Ballinteer upsetting Nh Mearnóg in the Dublin Minor Football A Championship group-decider was a home draw against another Dublin Division 1 team of formidable pedigree. Having finished joint fourth in the Division 1 League, having lost only 4 matches in any competition so far this year, St Vincents would have fancied their chances against their Division 2 hosts but the stonemasons who gave the townland its name carved our lads from the native granite and their character is as unyielding when the pressure comes on. Another giant fell in Marlay Park last Sunday and retreated back across the Liffey to leave Minor Football Championship 2013 to be decided among fóirne an Deiscirt i mBaile Átha Cliath – cé cheapfadh ?
If it wasn’t enough to have to consider a possible shift to the AWP due to constant rain in the days leading up to the fixture Eddie and his management team would likely have wished that the preparations for this encounter could have done without Briain’s 18th birthday party in the Club till the early hours of Saturday morning.
In the event the Council declared the pitches playable though the ground was saturated and the prospects of precipitation were high. The gentle wind from the south brought gusts and showers which might have given lesser supporters an excuse to stay away but our lads bring out the best in people and today they brought out the best of people to cheer them on.
Whilst Vinnies drew first blood, our Sam responded immediately with a breathtaking point from out wide on the right touchline, the Ballinteer faithful signalling the score loudly from the same quarter with the ball still early in its flight. Ballinteer struck again, only for the Vincents umpire to enter the field of play to dispute the score. There was only one way a dispute with the referee was going to end and the umpire was replaced in short shrift. The score stood. Vincents then enjoyed a run of good possession and moved the ball well from deep. Only poor finishing denied them a significant lead as they lost their composure in front of goal and shot wide on a number of occasions. There was a sense that we were under siege and the question was how long could the brave defence hold out. 2 points and a goal by the visitors, in quick succession, seemed to give us our answer. But these Ballinteer boys are brave and they have great heart and not since Braveheart has a backside been shown to the opposing forces with such effect, as Keith used literally every part of his body to keep the ball out of the Ballinteer net over the next few minutes. The defence held and grew in confidence the more the visitors failed to convert their opportunities. Then, it started with Oisín, only a yard from his own goal, who linked with Luke, who found Briain with a punt kick, who beat his man and took the ball on before fist-passing to Iarlaith, who placed the ball in front of Cillian, coming at speed on a diagonal run from out right. Cillian buried the ball in the St Vincents net and turned the tide. The Vincents supporters couldn’t believe their eyes when their own goalscorer unleashed another powerful drive from 10 yards, only for Daire to get an arm in the way and the ball popped harmlessly into Keith’s hands. Ballinteer took the next point and the sides were level as the referee brought the first half to a close.
Ballinteer and Vincents exchanged points twice in quick succession after the restart. Then the visitors edged in front, only for the hosts to get back on terms right away. If Ballinteer had enjoyed more than their fair share of luck in the first half it didn’t desert them now, as a piledriver of a shot cannoned back from Keith’s left upright with our goalkeeping hero well beaten. Eoghan cleared the ball to Briain who brought it down the left touchline before picking out Iarlaith with exactly the sort of ball our sharpshooter likes to receive. Iarlaith turned and slotted the point while Vincents were still coming to terms with the nearly goal at the other end. Vincents drew level as the game moved into its last minutes and the anxious spectators knew that a goal now would decide this match once and for all. The rain finally cleared for good and bright sunshine broke through as Kevin secured clean possession in midfield and launched another attack down the left through Robert. Luke supported Rob and took the ball deep into the danger zone. Iarlaith ran towards the corner, dragging his man with him, while Luke passed to Peter who stormed through the gap and struck with confidence to send the ball arcing over the blinded Keeper and into the Vincents goal. The remaining minutes were not without incident but the Ballinteer defence was equal to the best that Vincents could throw at them and the day was ours.
Happy Birthday Briain!
St Vincents played fairly and with great skill and teamwork but were unlucky on the day. They were gracious in defeat and wished us well as we take our place alongside Kilmacud Crokes, Ballyboden St Endas and Cuala for an all-south-Dublin affair in the remainder of the Championship.
We’ll have another day out on Sunday week when the prize will be a place in the Dublin County Final. Don’t miss it.