Even though the rain was pouring down, we got a call to say that the game was still going ahead – so off to Ballychorus we went for our first game ever against our local rivals; Kilmacud Crokes. The weather was dreadful but the pitch was in fine condition and the boys seemed to have a quiet confidence about them. We were also conscious that we were playing against Zenon’s former team, so that gave it a bit of added spice. Four of our age group from the U13s joined us for the game (Mark, Morgan, Shane and Cian), and we couldn’t have done without them.
The first half started as many of them do for us – we were a little off the pace, a little bit intimidated and our accuracy was not quite there. Kilmacud started strongly, and they were muscling us off the ball particularly in the mid-field and half-forwards, and finding more space than they should have been allowed to. However, the dedication, commitment and kamikaze-defending from our back line – particularly from Zenon and Morgan – kept the opposition largely at bay. Mark and Shane began winning the ball back for us, breaking down attacks a little further from our goal, while Ned, Liam, Eoin were getting tight and largely keeping their men out of the game. The score line remained low.
For our part, we found it much tougher than in recent games, but slowly the guys – building from the half-backs – started to put some passes together, getting a little space, feeding Padraig, Evan and Sam in the forwards, and a couple of points went over.
We got the lads in at half time with only a point in it (although we weren’t sure in which team’s favour) and convinced the boys that we had absorbed the worse of it and that the game was there for the taking. We dropped Matthew back to his more familiar mid-field role (beside JD who was great on the day), Cian back to the half-forwards and pushed Hugo up to the full forward line and that gave us much better balance.
The second half was about as good an U12s game as you will ever see – despite the weather. Both sides wanted to win this one badly – and the energy levels and physicality went through the roof. We found that extra yard of pace, started to win the 50:50 challenges and continuously forced Kilmacud into retreat, and with a few more scores we went into the lead by a couple with ten minutes to go. Despite their best efforts, Kilmacud didn’t score again and we ran out victors by a very small margin.
The team is now unbeaten in 2017 – an amazing achievement given the teams we have played,… and while they can be very proud, there is no doubt that the team is capable of even more. Our marking has improved hugely, but we now need to improve on our movement off-the-ball and score taking, particularly our points from 20 or 30 yards from goal. But the boys should be very happy and very proud of themselves – the mentors are certainly very proud of every single one of them.