Junior A football championship semi-final vs Noamh Olaf

Thu, 19th October 2006

Result: 1-12 to 0-09

“You find out life’s this game of inches. And so is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean… one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when we add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the difference between winning and losing! “Tony D’Amato, Any Given Sunday

After more delays than a CIE bus, the Junior A football championship semi-final between Castleknock and Naomh Olaf finally took place in Pairc Mhuire in Saggart, home of St Marys, under glorious artificial lighting. There were concerns that the game would not go ahead as Parnell Park had been declared waterlogged for the same evening but the rain on the northside must have been heavier than the rain on the southside. Either that or Joe Coyle was out in Saggart with the hair dryer for the few hours beforehand.

Castleknock played with the hill in the first half and quickly raced into a solid lead. Effective balls were being played down the right wing where Tommy Corcoran got out to the first two crucial balls and won frees off the despairing Olafs defender. Now the question was whether Paddy Molloy was on his game for frees. The conditions underfoot were treacherous but Paddy made light work of this to slot over the two frees confidently. O’Callaghan and Brady in midfield were contesting everything and the Castleknock forwards were alert to any breaks with Gerry Kelly gathering one such break and firing a long ball into the corner for Rory Corcoran. Rory had a bit of work to do but managed to shake off his pursuer and turn to put a neat effort over the bar. Olafs attempted to make some headway but Kelly and Mulvhill in the back line were lightning fast out to the short balls while the Raff kept the soccer player in the trendy socks quiet as a mouse.

Olafs were under extreme pressure and Castleknock upped the ante once more scoring a goal courtesy of a direct free from Paddy Molloy after a clumsy challenge by the Olafs centre half back on Damien O’Grady. The keeper misjudged the kick and the ball zoomed over his head into the net. The keeper, obviously rattled, then fluffed the resultant kickout which fell straight to Gerry Kelly who released Paddy Molloy for Paddy to dissect the posts from 25 yards.

The referee decided to make a name for himself and began to award Olafs some questionable frees around the centre of the field. Eoghan O’Callaghan suffering as a result of the referee’s pernickety nature for merely standing his ground. The Castleknock backs tackled determinedly but the referee possibly being influenced by the vocal Olafs sideline awarded some handy frees. The freetaking centre back for Olafs took a kick to find his range but with three subsequent frees in a row he made no mistake to get Olafs back in the game. Paddy O’Brien stemmed the flow with a great point on the run as a result of some fine interplay between himself, O’Grady and Brady. However Olafs came back again with another point to keep an interest in the game and with the hill to play with in the second half.

Half Time: Castleknock 1-7 Naomh Olaf 0-4

Olafs flew out of the blocks in the second half and hit Castleknock with an almighty sucker punch with three points on the trot. They began to double team in midfield and were hungry to the breaks which Castleknock had took for granted in the first half. However, as mentioned before, this Castleknock team does not do panic. The half back line of Griffin, McMennamin and Galligan put the shoulder to the wheel and vowed that any scores got by Olafs from then on were going to be hard earned and they were as good as their word.

They got onto the next few breaks around the middle and with Damien O’Grady dropping back, Olafs soon found it a lot more congested. From the ruck appeared John Mac and Damien Griffin with ball in hand and rather than just leather it, they found the inside forward line with superb accurate passing. Rory, who had a quiet enough opening period by his standards, soon began showing his repertoire of skills and it was his persistence and ability to force the Olafs defenders into fouls that allowed Paddy Molloy to put Castleknock on the scoreboard for the second half. The brother Tommy was no slouch either and he nailed a couple of points after taking on the Olafs defence and curling over with his cultured left boot.

At stages in the second half, Olafs could be forgiven for believing that they were suffering from triple vision, as every time they had the ball there were three Castleknock men in their face hounding and hassling them. Any number of examples demonstrates this: Sam making three tackles/blocks in a row on his wing, John Mac sliding in for balls where boots were flying and the icing on the cake was spotting Paddy Molloy in the corner back position giving a dig out! This spirit and determination displayed by the Castleknock men was no accident and is a testament to the hours put in by the players and the management over the year whether it be blazing sunshine in Porterstown or the depths of winter in the Phoenix Park.

As the game edged to its conclusion Olafs were looking ragged and dead on their feet and hail mary efforts into the Castleknock square were their only option. However with the Bull at full back having a stormer and Eoin O’Baoill as steady as a rock behind him this was never a ploy that was going to succeed. Then as O’Baoill dealt comfortably with yet another searching ball and delivered to safety, the referee blew the final whistle to signify the end of the game.

So consecutive championship final appearances for this adult football team. It is a massive achievement that the club are one step away from playing intermediate football after only 8 years in existence. Crumlin await in the final and all the skill, strength and resolve shown throughout the year so far will be needed to overcome the boys from Robbie Keane country. However this Castleknock team have yet to be found wanting this year when the big questions have been asked, so let’s hope luck is on their side when the final is played in Parnell Park on Saturday November 4th. It may also hopefully ensure another rendition of the John Corkery shake’n’shuffle after the final whistle.

Team: Eoin O’Baoill, Brian Kelly, Paul Mulvhill, Alan Raftery, Damien Griffin, John McMennamin, Ambrose Galligan, Eoghan O’Callaghan, Donal Brady, Gerry Kelly, Paddy O’Brien (0-1), Damien O’Grady, Paddy Molloy (1-7), Tommy Corcoran (0-2), Rory Corcoran (0-2)
Subs: Brian Grant (for Damien O’Grady), Barry Farrelly (for Gerry Kelly), Stephen McCabe (for Alan Raftery), Davy Leydon, Stephen Lynch, Denis Lally, Declan Reilly, Cathal Gallagher, Colin Byrne, James O’Connor, Eoin Maloney, John Corkery, Alex Griffith, Paul Hughes, Conor Deasy, Peter Mulcrone