Syls just pipped for All Ireland Feile Title
Where to start! There is an old quote from Dickens ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ and that sums up the rollercoaster of emotions experienced in Newbridge on Saturday.
Feile is all changed from the old days, Dublin, and the other strong football counties send the winners of Division 3 to the National Event and instead a ‘Regional’ Feile is held for the best teams in Cork, Kerry, Tyrone, Down, Derry, Galway, Kildare and Dublin. 4 groups of 3, 30 minute matches with the group winners going in to semi finals. With famous names such as Lavey of Derry, Salthill-Knocknacarra, Nemo Rangers, Dr Crokes, we knew we were dining at the top table of Football. Held at the Kildare Centre of Excellence outside Newbridge and hosting 12 teams, the event was huge but very well organised. In addition, you must make a minimum of 4 substitutions, 2 after 10 minutes and 2 after 20 minutes.
We had a tough group, first up were the Kerry Champions, Dr Crokes. No sign of the Gooch but we knew we had to close down their fast kickouts and be switched on at all times to the movement of their forwards. We started brilliantly, dominating exchanges all over the pitch. When Sean McCabe had lashed home our second goal after 8 minutes to add to our earlier 2 points the game was in the bag barring a big collapse. But we saw out the game well to canter home 3-07 to 0-1 winners.
Our second match was an altogether different affair, we were up against Dungannon Clarkes, a team with huge men up the spine and very pacy wing backs. We heard after the match they were unbeaten in Tyrone for nearly 4 years! The match was played in great spirit and the banter along the line was cordial for the most part! In my opinion, this was the best game of juvenile football I have ever seen. The hits were incredibly hard, but always fair. The power and pace of both sides was a joy, both teams came to play football and it was like an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable object. In saying that we started badly with their fast wing men causing us no end of trouble, they were 3 points up in less than 3 minutes and we were rocking. But up stepped our big players, Andrew Roe, Daragh McLoughney, Eoghan Buckley and Aaron Coleman stopped their attacks dead and we got a foothold. It was encapsulated in one moment of football where their beast of a fullback ran half the pitch and was hit first by Danny Taaffe, then by Daragh Mc and as he tottered along the sideline he was thundered in to by Aaron. All hits legitimate but a message had been sent, no more will you pass. From then on we got on top and brought the game back level. Running hard at them from our half back line and straight through the middle with our powerful midfielders we got 3 points on the bounce. But credit to Dungannon they wrestled the momentum back with 2 excellent long range points, coming in to the break we were 2 down. Just before the period ended though the game turned. Firstly we grabbed a good point and then a long ball in found Danny Taaffe unmarked and he goaled. We were 2 up. We started the second half with renewed belief and tagged on 2 more points, the first after a length of the field run by Eoghan Buckley saw him hauled down as he crossed the 21. Dungannon came back again with 2 points of their own but we hung on to win a classic 1-06 to 0-7.
We hoped that the intensity of that game didn’t empty us as we were now facing in to a semi final against a strong Naas team who had overcome Nemo Rangers and Ballyholland of Down. By this stage word had got around that we were in an All Ireland semi final and the Syls crowd was swelling! For the first few minutes against Naas it did look like the Dungannon match had emptied us. Naas got an early point and then after 2 minutes grabbed a goal. But up stepped Niall Smyth, who was unplayable in this game, to slalom his way through a massed defence and crash home a 3 pointer. A point from Sean McCabe after a great run brought us back level but credit to Naas, they showed great character, we didn’t score again until the 25th minute while they raised 4 white flags. With 10 minutes to go we were 1-06 to 1-01 down and looking set to go home. But we went to the well one more time. We took Simon Murphy out of goals and brought in the very dependable Jamie Costello. Simon went to midfield and immediately we started gaining possession. Sean Guiden grabbed 1-02 when we needed him to step forward and we saw out the game holding possession, exhausted but with a 2 point cushion 2-05 to 1-06. We were though to the final against the Cork champions, Douglas, who had overcome Whitehall Colmcilles comfortably in the other semi. Throughout those games Euan Farquarson at corner back was immense and showed great leadership as did Danny Taaffe who moves the ball so intelligently.
We had to move to St Conleths Park in Newbridge for the final at 6.30. Paul Curran and Eddie McLoughney did a sandwich run but the lovely sunshine of the day was replaced by heavy rain, thankfully it cleared before throw in. The hard, intensive matches were now beginning to take their toll as we lost star forward, Denis Smith and our captain and midfield powerhouse, Andrew Roe to injuries. This was compounded when our most influencial player, centre back, Aaron Coleman, suffered a serious ankle injury after only 5 minutes. Douglas had blitzed us for 1-03 early on and we now had an event bigger mountain to climb. But we got back in the game when Sean Gibson was hauled down in the square, Guiden thumping the penalty in to the corner. However we conceded a soft goal straight after and we shipped a knock out blow just before half time when Douglas scored a cracking 3rd. Turning 3-04 to 1-0 the game looked gone. But we dragged ourselves back, keeping them scoreless for the second half while getting 1-03 ourselves, Simon Murphy with a thunderous shot for our goal. Their goalie stopped a couple of one on ones and it wasn’t to be our day. Gutted, we had now gone from the best of times to the depths of despair. In fairness to Douglas, they lost the hurling Feile final to Ballyboden the previous week and were on a revenge mission, they were also on a high of winning the Cork league the previous Wednesday. Indeed it was something we learned from talking to other clubs, those teams play a lot more competitive matches than we do in Dublin.
While it is devastating to have come so far and lost, all should be very proud of themselves. We are still top of Division 1 where full matches seem to suit us better than quick 30 minute affairs, more than one person commented on Saturday that another 5 minutes and we would have won, and that maybe true but is little consolation.
Thanks, to the parents who have been brilliant in their support over this amazing run we are on. Thanks to Mel who captured the day in great photos that show the lads in full flow. Thanks to the hurlers, there is no doubt that developing both codes makes us stronger in both those codes, neither team would be as successful without the other. To the club and Juvenile Committee for their help and most of all to the Players who left everything on the pitch. We may have regrets but one of them isn’t not giving everything.
Our squad was: Simon Murphy, Pearse Clyne, Jack Boyne, Euan Farquarson, Sean Gibson, Aaron Coleman, Josh Bannon, Andrew Roe, Daragh McLoughney, Sean Guiden, Danny Taaffe, Eoghan Buckley, Cian Grassick, Conor Hoyne, Niall Smyth, Josh Reid, David Deneher, Sean McCabe, Paul Downey, Denis Smith, Aaron Lambe, Jamie Costello and Odran Monaghan.
Thanks for everything Lads - Niall, Pat, Paul and Ernie