With so any superb performances in the last week it’s impossible to give star billing to anyone in particular. So action as it happened is the fairest way to recount what has been an incredibly busy week on all fronts.
The Trench Cup is the The Holy Grail for our Footballers and pre-Christmas league games and a rigorous January schedule were all by way of build up to the visit of Portobello College to Breaffy last Wednesday. Looking to make amends for an embarrassing first round defeat in last year’s championship there was an air of determination about the team that was personified by Alan Moran’s opening point following a determined run from left half back. The use of the strong wind and the exploitation of Daniel Branley’s superiority at Full Forward produced a flurry of early scores with Noel Mchale, Jimmy Killeen and Sean Walsh all helping Big Dan to add to the growing tally . When Marino eventually started to rally excellent defensive work from the entire unit kept them to two points. Courageous blocking from full back Shane McClafferty and excellent covering from Ronan Walsh stopped certain scores and exemplified the great work ethic of a very solid defensive unit. 9 points to 2 up at half time , an early point from “small Dan” O’Connor, followed by an excellent goal From “Big Dan” Branley seemed to have the result beyond question but in fairness to Portobello they refuse to be beaten and embarked on a spirited comeback. A couple of points from influential midfielder Patrick Dalton, followed by a converted penalty had the Dubliners right back in the game. Hard work from the midfeld duo of Nicky Corr and Jimmy Killeen helped weather the storm. While the introduction of fresh legs in the shape of Stephen Darby and Declan Gibbons, replacing Shane Galvin and Noel Mchale who had worked tirelessly throughout, helped lift the siege. Further scores from John Ruddy and Sean Walsh restored respectability and left the final score 1-14 to 1-7. Daithi Condon Conor O’Malley and Gavin Kearey were excellent in a defence that was definitely the basis for this victory. Coach Billy McNicholas saw plenty of encouraging aspects, as well as a few areas of concern, not least the failure to kill off the game. He is now looking forward to a trip to Derry next Thursday for the Challenge of N.W.I.F.H.E. in the next round.
While this was going on, a few miles away in Cloondesh The Rugby team was completing its transformation from a training outfit into a fully-fledged competitive unit. The fact of being able to field a team against N.U.I.G. was cause for celebration in itself as the rugby club nearly ceased to be earlier in the year. Hard work and determination on the coaching side by Gordon McInnis and Ivan Mohan as well as leadership of Mike Campbell and David O’Meara brought them to the stage where they ran the Galway outfit very close in a very creditable performance for their fist game. An early Try from Thomas Conroy gave them just the start they needed but a converted penalty and a try had the galwegians in front before a Michael Lynch try squared matters.a further converted try had N.U.I.G ahead at the half way stage. An early onslaught put Galway into a commanding lead but tries by Mike Campbell and Sean Hynes Atkinson kept Castlebar into contention right to the end. All in all it was a very creditable performance and the lads are looking forward to the rematch in Galway in February as well as the series of Blitzes for developing Colleges sides, which they will be looking to impress in.
Thursday was a day for the record books. Firstly the master statistician Stephen McKeogh was informing his charges of the potential of a first ever Championship win for the college in Hurling. Even the team that Brought All-Ireland league Glory a few years back hadn’t managed to overcome the hurdle of the first round of a very competitive championship that is the Ryan cup. Departing for Dundalk in the wee hours of Thursday morning, amid reports of snow falling in the east and news of some last minute defections due to injury, odds of this being the day to change trends would not have been great. But that would be reckoning without the Clare man’s impressive motivational skills. Due to their late return from the trip details of the actual encounter remain unsure, And no doubt they will grow to stuff of legend before they get set down on paper. But the hard facts remain, when the smoke, (or was that the snow), cleared it was 2-8 to 1-7 and the elusive first championship victory had been earned and the Guinness Ad sprang to mind “Not Men But Giants”. Standing particularly tall was heroic Goalkeeper Shane O’Connor and the ever calm Sean O’ Callaghan who effortlessly slotted over points, President Pat( the baker ) O’ Connor - happy 21st pat!- as well as Eamon Higgins. Confidence will be high, but performance will need to improve even further to overcome Carlow I.T on Wednesday in the next Round, but like many a manager from Clare before him McKeogh will make sure his men are up for whatever challenge is presented to him.
The second matter of note on Thursday was the first ever game under flood lights at the college. This event saw the Women’s Soccer team square up to Sligo in an epic encounter. Horrendous conditions saw, what Referee Martin Roughneen agreed was one of the most entertaining games of the year. A shaky game start had Castlebar 2 goals down within five minutes. The unfortunate fact was that they would ultimately not recover this deficit. But the effort they put into trying was worthy of the highest praise. Spurred on by Maeve Murphy who gave a performance that had to be seen to be fully comprehended Castlebar spent virtually the rest of the game on the attack. A series of frees and throw ins down the right had Sligo in difficulty at the back. The goal when it came was worth the wait following a superb through ball from Deirdre Kenneally, Marion Silke shrugged off her marker at the half way- way line their followed a race for the goal with marion keeping the ball under control and heading goalward despite the attentions of 3 Sligo defenders. Upon reaching the edge of the area and taking one look at the advancing keeper She picked her moment and her spot and crashed the ball to the net. The loss of influential mid-fielder Michelle Doyle was a big blow but the girls continued the onslaught. Further attempts on goal were thwarted by the superb performance of the sligo Keeper and Marion again and Louise Mulready on two occasions were denied what looked certain goals. The second half was more of the same and a superb corner from Louise drifted tantalizingly across the goal-mouth. When Sligo did manage to attack on the break they inevitably were faced with the Mairead McGinty who rapidly turned defence into attack. On a night that was made for it Maura Quinn gave a demonstration in the art of the slide tackle, which she executed to perfection on several occasions. Marcella Troy was the cool head to mop up anything that might get past the aforementioned And Evelyn Bonar in Goal was equal to anything the Sligo attack could throw at her. Constant pressure stemming from Deirde Kenneally who dominated in the air and the dynamic Murphy met with resolute Sligo defending. Further efforts from Lorraine Lee and Louise Mulready were again thwarted. Following departure of hard working Elizabeth Doherty with an ankle injury and Maeve Murphy who literally ran herself to a stop,( to be replaced by Grainne Guirey and Ruth Cawley), Sligo managed to hang on and take full points from a thoroughly entertaining encounter.
Connaught Coach Francis O’Regan was so impressed with the performance that he immediately called Murphy, Keneally and Mulready into the squad for the upcoming interprovincials. In a schedule that would have the Premiership superstars up in arms the girls had to travel to Dublin on Sunday where they needed to beat Maynooth to force a play off with Trinity College for a place in the intervarsity Finals in Belfast. Having weathered the storm the barrage brought about by a gale force winter wind in the first half. The girls were looking good for the goal that was needed when a rare Maynooth attack forced a corner from which they struck the deciding blow. It was a sad moment for the 4th year girls who had represented the college so well and had hopes off signing off in style in Belfast. They won’t have long to mourn this loss, as the majority of them are involved in the G.A.A. team who travel to Athlone on Wednesday for The Divisional All-Ireland League Semi-final against Marino College. No doubt they will have regained their focus for this occasion and everyone in the college wishes them all the best for this one.
We would like to thank everyone in Breaffy and at Castlebar Rugby Club for the kind use of their facilities during the week