Iarlaith was just one of our supermen yesterday who soared to claim the high ball in their first outing of this year’s Minor Football Championship against long-time rivals Scoil Uí Chonaill. These two teams have a history that takes in the thrilling Dublin Féile Peile Final of 2010 when Scoil clawed back an early Ballinteer lead to come within 3 points as the game entered its dying moments.
Hero of the hour Keith Pigott pulled off a magnificent save at point blank range to deny Scoil a last minute equaliser in St Peregrines on that day. Memories of such past encounters unavoidably jostled for position in the minds of opposing markers as they greeted one-another before throw-in at the start of another chapter in their epic story. The excitement was palpable as we waited for the script-writers to reveal the next instalment of our favourite box set that is Dublin Championship Football.
It was clear from the start that despite playing away, on Scoil Uí Chonaill’s preferred tiny pitch in St Anne’s Park, Ballinteer were not going to let anything disturb their karma. If anything, it was the home team that looked nervy and uncertain. Our lads gained possession from the throw-in and began a siege of the Scoil goal that was to deliver the opening points and 2 quick goals, courtesy of Iarlaith and Eoghan, before many of Ballinteer’s faithful supporters had even found the changed venue, ( a microdot hidden in the bushes of Raheny ). Falling on spilled ball with the table manners that a pack of starving wolves might display towards a happy meal they snapped up the offerings hungrily, served up well-timed passes to supporting runners, who sliced through the filleted defence and scored at will. If Scoil had reckoned they knew our team and what we could throw at them from previous years they were right, but only up to a point. Keith still commands in goal, a constant reminder of how he single-handedly poured an ice-bucket on their dreams in 2010. Oisín still towers in defence. The 2 Kevins, and Conor and Enda still man the battlements of our defensive lines while Robert, Brian and Iarlaith lead cavalry charges into the heart of enemy territory, where Andy creates his own brand of mayhem. But if Scoil drew comfort from Craig’s role on the day as chef d’equipe of the water bucket, due to bruised ribs in training, and Cillian’s absence at a family occasion, it was short lived. Our new look Minor team and the sideline is just packed with talent from the ranks of the maturing players who have supported these guys from the years-below for as long as I can remember. This was a day when Mícheál, Eoghan, Simon, Jack, Seán and the 2 Joes revelled in showing what havoc they could wreak on an uncertain opposition. And that was even before Peter, our 2 goal hero from 2010, and Paddy took the field. We led by 3-6 to 0-5 at half time and unless we all got food poisoning before the restart it didn’t look like there would be any way back for the home side.
As is often the case on such occasions Scoil Uí Chonaill enjoyed a resurgence in the second half which saw them string a few passes and scores together, to include a dramatic penalty. Keith got fingers to the well placed ball but just failed to keep it out and this put a better complexion on matters for the Clontarf side. However, it proved to be the spur to galvanise the Ballinteer boys into action and it wasn’t long before the scoring machine was ticking over again. We finished the half strongly as the Scoil comeback lost its fizz. We were awarded a penalty of our own late in the match and great credit is due to the Scoil goalkeeper who made a superb save from Iarlaith, as well as tipping over the bar some dangerous dropping balls, to earn the respect of all who witnessed what was otherwise a torrid opening Championship match for Scoil Uí Chonaill.
A good start for our lads … but there’ll be tougher challenges ahead.