U12s win Castlecomer Blitz, 7 July 2012

Report by Donal Smith - 07 July 2012

The weekend  of the 7th/8th of July, we were treated to a number of fascinating games of hurling. We witnessed Dublin’s capitulation against 14 man Clare. Offaly giving Cork a run for their money. Galway’s  1st half performance to stun Kilkenny and go on to win a Leinster title. But the best hurling was performed by a group of our very own Crokes Under 12’s who delivered a number of outstanding performances to win out  in a competitive blitz in Castlecomer.  Below is the report from the tournament courtesy of Donal Smith.

Our  under 12 hurlers came out on top in Castlecomer Kilkenny  last Saturday, in an invitational tournament, hosted by  the local Erins Own  club.

We were blessed with warm sunshine and quality playing  pitches  that the groundsmen  of Croke Park would be proud of.

The day was set fair for a great day's hurling, with quality opposition provided by the Kilkenny clubs  of Castlecomer, Dicksboro, Dunnamaggin and O'Loughlin Gaels, and  Carnmore from County Galway.

Our side of the draw pitted the  Crokes boys against the famed  O’Loughlin Gaels and Carnmore.

First up were O’Loughlin Gaels . The Kilkenny lads came out with all guns blazing and fired over the first two points of the match, to take a deserved lead. However, it  didn’t take the our boys  too long to settle in, with Eddie Gibbons  clinically dispatching a goal to give Crokes the lead.

The game was played at a fast pace and every ball was fiercely and bravely contested, with no quarter asked or given.  Time and again our lines were cleared by our resolute defence, where Ian Walsh, Colin Veale and Joe Proudfoot  were  a  commanding presence.

Young Padraig Lenihan, who  was drafted in as goalkeeper for the day, was clearly in his element and repelled all attempts on his goal,  snatching the ball  from the sky and sidestepping his way around  onrushing  Gaels forwards.

At half time the talented  crokes bench was emptied . Seven fresh players were introduced onto a team of 12,  in a rotational swoop  that Sir Alex Ferguson himself would be proud of. This was to continue throughout the day.

Points from Sean Kinsella,Mark Grogan and Eddie Gibbons helped Robbie Kinsella and John Dillon’s young charges maintain a slender two point lead as the end of the match approached. 

With the game nearing completion  young Anthony Quinn sprinted out from the left  to collect the sliotar and, darting inside, angled a perfectly crafted  pass skywards towards  the goal.  Kevin Nangle  expertly met the ball in the air, to finish it to the net and  seal the match. 

The referee blew his whistle to end the contest with a final score of Kilmacud Crokes 2-04 O’Loughlin Gaels 0-05.

There was no time for a rest, as the next qualifying group match, against Carnmore of Galway, was scheduled to take place immediately.

This turned out to be a more one sided affair, with a dominant performance from the Crokes lads against a young Galway side, who battled gamely and to their credit never let their heads drop.

At half time Kilmacud Crokes held a commanding lead with goals from Rory Smith, Joe Proudfoot and Fionn O Ceallaigh .

Great displays of tenacity and skill  were shown by  Denis Murray,  Sean Kinsella , James Dillon , and Tadhg Dunbar.

Once again  manager  John Dillon fully rotated his large bench at half time, but there was no let up from our side.

Further second half  Goals followed from Max Murphy, Eddie Gibbons ,  Sean Kinsella , and Fionn O Ceallaigh who bagged a hat trick.

A long ball in from Anthony Quinn found the net via some Galway players for the final score of the match, leaving Kilmacud Crokes comfortable winners and into the Cup Final.

It was left to Dicksboro and our hosts Erins Own of Castlecomer to battle it out to see who would face Crokes in the final, with both Teams having already recorded victories over local County rivals Dunnamaggin.  In a close match Dicksboro pulled away in the end to win by 7 points.  Meanwhile some of the Crokes parents (the author included) were enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the ladies of Castlecomer, who plied us with tea, fresh sandwiches and  the most wonderful cream cakes  and buns, including one rum cake that would fail any breathalyser test!  The sandwiches went quickly and it was nice to see Tim Leary senior back competing effectively (for sandwiches ) in a sporting arena of sorts, even with his broken  leg. However, he was no match for Michael Veale on this occasion. Of course we couldn’t  let the boys of the under 12 team  eat anything at this point  because we wanted to keep them in good shape for the final!

The Final

The Teams lined up at 2:30pm for an eagerly anticipated final against Dicksboro on the upper pitch. The wonderful  facilities at Castlecomer included an elevated seated stand  set back from the pitch . This was gratefully occupied by the still temporarily  injured Tim Leary senior  , Ian Grogan,  Micheal O Ceallaigh , Trish Veale , Philip Comerford  and Barry Dunbar, who between them provided a mini Hogan Stand of vocal support and commentary to compliment those dedicated parents supporting from the sideline.

Worryingly the wind had begun to blow strongly and the Kilmacud boys were facing into it.

The Ref threw  it in and  a clash of the ash started  one of the most exciting matches you are ever likely to witness.

If our gallant boys had any feelings of over confidence these soon evaporated in front of a highly talented  Dicksboro Team, who started as they meant to go on, with strength, speed  and skill .

The strong wind infleuenced proceedings and  Dicksboro took full advantage to send a succession of balls  towards the Kilmacud goal. The Crokes defence fought a resolute rere guard action. Despite having an overwhelming advantage of field position and a bucketful of opportunities the Dicksboro forwards couldn’t score a goal. Our backs pressed, parried blocked and harried as if their lives depended on it. The strong and skilful  Dicksboro forwards were frustrated at every turn in their efforts to find the net. Young Padraig Lenihan was turning in another heroic performance in goal . All the time  the Crokes forwards and midfielders worked tirelessly and effectively to stem the flow of ball into the Dicksboro forward line. We created a number of scoring opportunities but couldn’t convert any of them, until the tireless Denis Murray broke away to score a point. It was Crokes only score of the first half but would prove to be a very significant one.

At half time the score was Dicksboro 0-05  Kilmacud Crokes 0-01.

The second half was an altogether different affair. The wind ensured that now it was Crokes who were enjoying the best field  position and the majority of chances. To our dismay Dicksboro broke downfield to score a well deserved gaol to take an eight point lead. Some teams would have wilted at that stage but not this Crokes team, who displayed a true never say die attitude throughout. Mark Grogan  fired in a goal to raise our spirits. However the plucky Dicksboro   team immediately responded with a goal of their own.  Then Crokes were awarded a long range free. It looked certain that Eddie Gibbons would go for a point but instead he drilled  a long rocket of a free straight into the Dicksboro goal and the comeback was on. 

Our Backs and Midfield were now dominant, with Cormac Keys, Tom Stakelum and Tadhg Dunbar excelling and the talented Dicksboro team were facing an onslaught. Dicksboro were tiring and finding it hard to cope with the speed,  mobility and workrate of the Crokes players .   Tim Leary, James  Dillon,  Niall Comerford , Colin Veale and Sean  Kinsella  were running  their socks off.  Anthony Quinn and Rory Smith were darting inside and proving a real handful.

Crokes took full advantage of the wind at their backs, using the striking power of Ian Walsh to rain long range puck outs in on the Dicksboro goal ,

A further goal from Dicksboro against the run of play  was cancelled out by the tireless and talented  Max Murphy, who hit the net  for Crokes.  The noisy support for Crokes on the sideline and from the mini-hogan stand was reaching fever pitch. Only the unflappable management duo of Robbie Kinsella and John Dillon were keeping their cool. The skill, workrate  and belief from the  Kilmacud  Boys now seemed  overwhelming,  but time was running out. Nobody was losing their cool on the pitch. A further point from sharp shooter Eddie Gibbons was followed by a last gasp goal  from Mark Grogan to level the match. The referee blew it up, leaving the sides level on a scoreline of Dicksboro 3-05  Kilmacud Crokes 4-02.

Extra time beckoned, with 2 halves of 5 minutes apiece to be played.  It looked as if the pscychological advantage was with the Dublin boys. But Dicksboro had other ideas. Playing with the wind once more the Kilkenny boys powered downfield to score a goal. Eddie Gibbons pegged back a point for Crokes and it was still all to play for. Then Dicksboro went through for another goal and the gap had widened to five points. You could sense a mood of celebration amongst the Dicksboro team but they remained true sportsmen at all times. The teams switched sides again but not before Manager John Dillon had fully rotated his large  bench for the second time in this enthralling final, to ensure that every Crokes player played their part and got to share fully in the occasion.  A brace of  points from Eddie Gibbons left a solitary goal between the sides, but it looked as if time had run out. But these Crokes boys don’t know the meaning of defeat. In a desperate goalmouth scramble the sliothar broke to Fionn O Ceallaigh who, having fallen to the ground, showed skill and composure to finish to the Dicksboro net. The Mini-Hogan Stand led by Tim Leary senior  erupted with joy and once again the sides were  level now with scoreline of Dicksboro 5-05  Kilmacud Crokes 5-05.

This Rollercoaster of a game  was even more exciting than Alton Towers!  We were into unknown territory and our Castlecomer hosts declared the tie would be decided by the sudden death method of Next Score Wins. Neither side deserved to lose at this stage. Crucially luck was on Crokes side now, as the Dublin boys would continue to play with the wind.

The first chance however fell to Dicksboro who were awarded a scorable free on the righthand  side of the pitch, which they failed to convert.

Mark Grogan was back on the field  for Crokes at full forward. The high long ball was launched downfield  into our targetman, who caught it cleanly. With the calmness and  assurance of a seasoned veteran he drilled an unblockable shot over the Dicksboro bar. He could barely register his winning score before he was picked up and mobbed by his onrushing teammates, who literally sprinted from all points of the pitch in celebration, as many of the gallant and heroic Dicksboro players fell to the ground in tears.

It was amazingly the first time in the whole match that Crokes had led with the final score standing at  Dicksboro 5-05,  Kilmacud Crokes 5-06.

The trophy was presented to our Captain Colin Veale, who gave a great speech  and consoled the losing team. The Crokes team was addressed by the Dicksboro manager, who praised them for never giving up, even when the chips were down.

Many thanks to all of the participating teams and to the match officials and especially to  our hosts from Erin's Own in Castlecomer for a well run  tournament (on superb playing facilities) and wonderful hospitality.

Most importantly well  done  to all of the Under 12 hurlers . You did your club proud.

Team on The day:

Anthony Quinn, Colin Veale – (Capt), Denis Murray, Edmund Gibbons, Fionn O'Ceallaigh, Ian Walsh, Joe Proudfoot, Mark Grogan, Max Murphy, Sean Kinsella, James Dillon, Rory Smith, Tadgh Dunbar, Tim Leary, Cormac Keys, Tom Stakelum, Niall Comerford, Kevin Nangle, Paraic Linehan

Managers: John Dillon / Robbie Kinsella

Castlecomer Blitz 2012 -  U12 Team