Match Reports - Season 2000/2001
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DIARY OF A MANAGER - Phelim Warren

 The Story of Season 2000/01 Terenure College, Leinster Senior League, Division 2A.

INRODUCTION

It’s been a memorable season, the first league success since 1989 for this Club. I started writing this diary shortly before Christmas. I decided to record my thoughts and memories of the games purely for my own records, but as we went into Christmas top of the League with a record of 5-2-0, the idea of a proper and realistic report of the season unfolded and as we rolled on towards the title, some of the memories deserve to be retained.

Lots of things need to happen to win a league. Having good players; getting off to a good start; maintaining form after a good start; lack of injuries and/or suspensions; punishing the opposition when on top; good old fashioned luck. While luck tends to even out, we definitely had the other things. Firstly to the players, for all 17 of the league games we played we had a core of 16 involved in all or most of them. The spine of our team was what made us champions. Mark and John in central defence were truly immense. John’s calm authority and his class on the ball and timing in the air allied to Mark’s 100% competitveness and his threat at set pieces with his ever improving ball play gave us a huge platform to build on. In central midfield Karl’s return to the club was crucial. We were a less dangerous team in the few games he missed. His wonderful range of passing created goals for the front two and his ball carrying ability was superb; his free-kicks and corner kicks simply top class and difficult to defend and led to many goals. Beside him was the heartbeat of the team, young Declan Brady who grew and grew in stature with every game. He was the perfect ball winner and man marker who enabled Karl to thrive and his willingness to improve his ball play was excellent. His fierce tackling, aerial ability and phenomenal work rate made him indispensable to the team. The spine was completed by the front two, Ciaran Rafter and Richie Lombard, who after a slow start, steamrolled over opposing defences. Out of our 69 league goals, 51 came from these two and while Raftie was primarily the assassin, Richie had dozens of assists and his work rate in and around Raftie was top class.

So to the lads around that “spine”. On the right hand side Mick Stanley and Fergal O’Dwyer were telepathic in their knowledge of each other’s play and positioning. Ferg’s perpetual motion and clever running gave Mick so many options and the pair carved out many great positions down that side. Ferg was tremendous all season and simply brilliant on the run in, while Stan was solid as a rock all season, strong in the air, unbeatable in the tackle and was again superb when asked to play centre half when needed. On the left hand side, we had the baby of the team, Denis O’Frighil and Niall McCabe. Their partnership grew and grew with every outing, peaking in the memorable 3-2 win in Drogheda against West End. They linked up with great pace and dash and more than made up for our absence of a natural left footer on that side. Denis played beyond his years and has a bright future in soccer, while Bullie deserves his medal after over 10 years being with the club, his consistency and 100% application and many assists made him a permanent fixture.

Behind these 10 outfield players, Alex Leckey played the first 10 games with great consistency which helped set us up for a glorious run in, he trains like a man possessed and I was delighted to be able to call on Des Victory when Al was called away on business. Des knuckled down superbly and hardly put a hand or foot wrong and organised the back four expertly. Another who deserves a medal after long service to this club.

The four other core members were meself, Gar O’Grady, Richie O’Loughlin and Brian Cullen and each did an excellent job when called upon. The best thing about these lads was their patience and lack of moaning that they weren’t getting a regular start and they were a great help to me and the lads and never let us down.

Thanks to each and every one of the 15 named above. Thanks also to the 3B team, led by Sean Doherty and Fergus Bishop. There was never a cross word when I had to nab any of their players for games, your support was of enormous help to me and I owe you lots. Thanks also to James Treacy, Mark Kavanagh, Kevin Brady, Ger Breen, Gary Copeland, Brian O’Donohue, Anto Hanley and Donal Cash who all made appearances for me this season and to the lads and women and brothers and fathers and everyone else who supported us. Lastly to our President, Rodney Bishop, your encouragement and support to me was immense, thanks a million for all the phone calls and everything else.

I hope you enjoy this story of the season. I’ll finish this intro with the text message I got from Dec Brady the day after the last game. “Victory is sweet”.

PROLOGUE

16/4/00, Terenure 6, Bluebell United 2.

This turned out to be our last game of the 99/00 season and was probably our best performance. The pace and tempo of our play was terrific, our finishing top class (Raftie 4, Richie Lombard 2) and we had an excellent shape to our team. I could even afford to have the likes of Gar and Ger on the line and they have done extremely well all season. It’s a pity the season has to end, but I am looking forward already to next season, if we can add two or three players we have a realistic chance of competing. We have finished this season in fifth and after losing 3 out of our first 4 that’s an excellent effort.

SEASON 2000/01, PRE-SEASON TRAINING

18/7/00, Well after a three month break training is back again. As usual the lads are coming back in dribs and drabs and I have heard from Rodders that Karl will be down this season. That’s a good start, I only played with Karl briefly in the 96/7 season but his presence was felt and I believe if he’d have still been here for the two semi-finals that we lost, we’d have made at least one final.

Ronan Dunne is off to Australia in a few weeks and Gar is off too, so that’s a pity, Ronan had made right back his own by the season’s end and Gar is solid and dependable, but if things go to plan I will play Mick there and have John and Mark to play in the centre. James should be in left back if he stays. So that’s not a bad defence to build from.

25/7/00, training.

The lads are working well, Fergal O’Dwyer has joined the club and it’s clear he will be a huge asset to the team I want, I have asked the lads to train twice a week for as much of pre-season as they can as a good start is imperative. Last season we got off to a terrible start so I want us to be as well prepared as possible. Karl has indeed arrived down and I will play him in the middle of midfield and make him captain. Fergal is also certain to slot into a midfield berth, the first friendly is eagerly awaited.

3/8/00, friendly, Terenure 2, Parkvale 2.

A good game and probably a fair result. We went onto the pitch with only 10 players, this is a difficult time for blokes still being away, Parkvale lent us a player for the first half who was useful. We got a replacement for him at half time in a young lad named Denis O’Frighil, he came down to join CYM, but Rory Linnie of CY recommended he try us. He slotted in at left full and looked more than capable.

The game itself was competitive, Parkvale had an excellent season and will play Premier Leinster Senior, all the goals came in the 2nd half with Raftie and Anto scoring. We were a bit flattered to be 2 up and they grabbed two late enough goals for a deserved draw. I was delighted with our work rate, our fitness was better than I expected it to be and everyone gave 100%. We were down bodies as I said, but the good attitude to playing is very encouraging.

20/8/00, friendly, Terenure 2, Drumcondra 5.

Thank God this was a friendly, we had a reasonably strong XI out and we led 2-1 at half time, thanks to Raftie and Karl, we were down John and Ferg among others. We were doing fine up to half time and when we conceded a sloppy 2nd we just fell apart, maybe it was the fact that we knew nothing was at stake and they didn’t, I don’t know. I’m not really bothered about the result, all I will say is that soft goals like we gave away will have to be nipped in the bud by the time we do start the League. Our next game will be in the league, but the lads have in fairness worked their socks off and we’re ready, Richie Lombard has worked back to reasonable fitness after his injury, Karl is fine and we’re ready to roll.

24/8/00, training.

As I timed my holidays well, I will miss the start of the season, I have picked the team for the opening game away to Club 88. We are without John and Bullie and Mick Smith got injured tonight which is a shame for him as he was progressing well, but young Dennis has really impressed and he starts, as does Dec Brady and Richie O’Loughlin. Mick and Mark man the centre back positions, I will be in Torremolinos on Sunday morning but my mind will be in Ballyogan and afterwards the morgue and afterwards Glasgow for the first Old Firm game. As I said, perfect bloody timing to go away, a lesson not to be repeated.

THE LEAGUE CAMPAIGN BEGINS

27/8/00, first league game, Club 88 0, Terenure College 3.

I have rang Mark from Torremolinos to get the result and it’s a wonderful start, Mark says we played excellent stuff, thoroughly deserved the win. Notable big games from Dec Brady who also scored and two from Raftie and the icing on the cake is Alec’s penalty save. Sadly Karl was sent off seemingly harshly, but I’m delighted at the news and it makes a great start to my fortnight in the sun. Celtic’s 6-2 win over the Huns makes it a doubly sweet day and I think of the crack in the morgue as another topless babe wanders into view on the Torremolinos beach. Priorities back in order, lovely scenery, pass us another beer there love.

17/9/00, Leinster Junior Cup, Terenure 2, Wicklow Town 3.

My two weeks in Spain already well in the past, I’m pleased I haven’t missed another game, Big John is back and we give Wicklow a great game. Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve in football and that was definitely the case today. They are going very well in the Wicklow league, but we were by far the better side on the day, we played with great skill, great effort and goals from Raftie and a daisy cutter from Ferg put us 2-1 ahead. They mugged us with 2 in the last 5 minutes, the turning point was Kavo’s ridiculous red card from a very weak ref who let far too many bad tackles go. I am cheesed off with the result and furious with the ref especially, but it was a hugely encouraging perormance, Anto at right back was excellent and I have selection headaches ahead.

24/9/00, league game, Seaford/Rock 3, Terenure 3.

Our preparation for this game was a shambles, Karl pulled out at the last minute injured and Anto has informed Fergus that he has to work. That’s all I need and I’ve allowed Dec Brady to get away from us. Big John is away again, so it’s a much different team to the Club 88 game, Kev Brady is in at right back, Dennis at left back and meself and James are in the middle of midfield, with Kavo up front with Raftie and Brian O’Donohue our only sub.

30 minutes later we’re two down, the first a free header, the second we’ve been caught on a counter attack. We have dominated possession but we’re lacking any cutting edge and James and I are struggling in the middle as we go in at half time 0-2 down. I know though that a quick goal will lift us. Early second half it happens, Bullie plays in Raftie who’s upended and he converts the peno. Five minutes later it’s 2-2, my cross met by Raftie who heads over the keeper. We’re playing some great stuff now, Ferg is creating havoc, Kavo is giving his best performance in ages, Denis and Bullie doing well on the left. Then Mark pulls their player, peno, looks like we’ll have to make a second comeback. Alec makes a blinding save and minutes later, Ferg plays in Raftie and it’s 3-2 to us.

Kev limps off which is a shame as he came into his own 2nd half and I go to right back. Our concentration is wilting and in the last minute some sloppy tackles let in their man, he beats Alec with a header and I’m desperately running back. The ball is going in and I stick up my hand instinctively, but I head the ball over but the ref points to the spot again. “I didn’t handle it ref”, I will swear to my dying day I didn’t but the lads say it looked like I may have, but the ref hasn’t sent me off so he obviously had doubts, but it’s a bloody peno and he scores, 3-3.

I’m in two moods up in the Morgue, we have played ever so well in the second half, played them off the park, but our concentration just wilted near the end and only having 12 players was not what I want. Preparation had proved to be vital and it took us going 2 down before we found our feet. A win and a draw is not a bad start but Seaford/Rock are an ordinary lot and we’ve dropped two points.

26/9/00, training.

We met up briefly in the Morgue afterwards to discuss the messy situation at the weekend with players crying off at the latest possible minute. Without doubt my losing Anto and Karl so late which in turn meant losing Dec to the 3B side was not what is required if we are to compete seriously for our respective leagues. We must make sure we drum it in to the lads that the onus is on them to tell us as early as possible if they’re likely to miss out at the weekend. It was a worthwhile meeting and I hope not to see a repeat of the lack of proper preparation we had last weekend.

8/10/00, league, Terenure 6, Black Forge 2.

Two weeks since the last game, Mick hasn’t been well with flu so he can’t start, Denis goes in at right full and Dec is back in beside Karl, John is back to partner Mark. We have trained well this week, this shower beat us twice last season and I don’t like them as a team. We’ve got down early and we’re on the pitch at 10.40, whereas they’re sitting in the dressing room at 10.55 with 9 players. Ireland played Portugal last night so half of them have been on the rip.

10 minutes in to the game, it’s 3-0 to us! They have come out straight to kick off and we have punished them. Mark’s header from Karl’s corner and two assists from Bullie for Raftie and they don’t know what’s hit them. We’re playing like the Bluebell game last season, Dec has broken the number 6’s spirit and they’re fighting with themselves, we’re confident and determined. Though they get a goal back we run all over them again, 2 more from Raftie and a late Fergal goal gives us a huge win and a great boost. The ref has sent two of these narky so-and-sos off and we’re a happy bunch up in The Morgue. This game has confirmed a few things for me, preparation is paramount, the spine of our team is vital, Mark and John, Karl and Dec, Richie and Raftie, while outside of them Fergal is proving a great addition, Bullie is playing out of his skin, Dennis has a super temperament and will go a long way in this game, he’s much too good for Gaelic football. James’s form though is a bit of a worry, he burst on to the team last season but he’s just not himself so far this season. Roll on the next game, our pre-season work is paying off, our fitness and attitude is top class.

15/10/00, league game, Terenure 2, West End 2.

Brought back down to earth with a bump today, we were poxy for 85 minutes of this game and poxed to win a point. It just didn’t happen for us, maybe it was a bit of complacency, maybe we weren’t as intense as last week, but they outplayed us and should have taken the points comfortably. Dec’s absence beside Rex may be more of a factor than I realised and I struggled in there most of the day. Young Dennis did so well when I came off and put him to right back, it will make it hard for me to leave him out again, John came into midfield and it seemed to have better effect, but we never got the ball to Fergal either. Their second with 20 minutes to go looked like the killer and I was resigned to losing our year long unbeaten home record.

But when Raftie finally escaped their centre half and slotted home after 85, there was a glimmer of hope and in the last minute Rex set off on a surging run and threw himself on the ground, making Ginola look convincing. The ref who gave us damn all for 89 minutes pointed to the spot, while I nearly collapsed laughing and poor Rex had collapsed with a pulled hamstring. After a delay to carry Ginola off the pitch, Raftie stroked home the leveller and 5 minutes after being despondent, I am absolutely ecstatic at robbing a point from the Drogheda boys. What a weird and wonderful game this is, it never ceases to amaze me.

19/10/00, training.

Alec informs us that West End posted a comment on the website, with words to the effect of “We’ll get you jammy c***s next time in Drogheda”, fair comment but time alone will tell and it’s nice motivation for us when we do go up to that beautiful town.

And as Rodders replied: “Show me your medals”. Thanks Rodders.

5/11/00, league game , Terenure 5, Swords Cel 4.

As I said two paragraphs ago, this beautiful game never ceases to amaze. This turned out to be another heart-stopping finish, where we nearly threw away the points. Rex is still unfit after the West End escape, so me and Dec were in the middle. Gary came in at the back for the absent John. They scored early following uncertainty in our defence but we rallied superbly and played some great stuff and went in at half time 4-1 up thanks to Richie and yet another Raftie hat trick. We were doing what we didn’t against West End, got it wider and great pressure on their defence led to two goals.

Then it all nearly fell apart, Denis clipped their man in the box, peno and 4-2, Bullie put through his own goal, 4-3 and then a long range shot looped over Alec and it’s poxy 4-4, for the first time since I took this job I did not know what I would do to stem the tide. We hadn’t done a great deal in the second half, but 4-4 was still a ridiculous score now. Gary was knackered, so I brought in Richie O’Loughlin and we regrouped and Ger came in for his first appearance of the season. 5 minutes from the end, Bullie played in Raftie and this amazing, tall, flamboyant character rounded the keeper in typical slow motion and coolly rolled home the winner. What would we do without Raftie? Over 400 goals for this club is remarkable, he’ll have 500 by the season’s end if he keeps this up. Four today and 3 priceless points, we’re living dangerously the last two games but we’re a relieved lot up in the Morgue and we’re 3-2-0 now.

12/11/00, cup game, Terenure 4, Alpine Express 5.

It’s gone beyond a joke now, the defensive shambles continues and John’s trip to the States can’t end quick enough. Despite spelling out not to give the ball away in dangerous areas, a still out of sorts James does just that inside five minutes, and from 20 yards Des is helpless and we’re a goal down. Shortly after I run back to track their winger, whose hopeful shot hits me chest and leaves Des wrong footed for 0-2, this is just ridiculous. Poor James is having one of those nightmare games, and after a good suggestion from Mick I take him out of the defence and switch him with Denis who steadies that side. Raftie claws a goal back but more poor defending sees us 1-3 down. Richie’s insane determination bags him two goals and we go in level at 3-3 and a fine comeback. The second half is close and again they go back in front only for Raftie to capitalise on an error in their defence, 4-4 this team will just not give up. Extra time is beckoning but with a minute or so left, two or three half hearted attempted clearances from us allow them in for a winner. Angry Des erupts and he was right, thank Christ it’s a cup game and Rex might be back fit next week. John will be back and I hope we’ve seen the last of the goal leakage. When I look back at who was missing, Rex, Ferg, John and Bullie, we gave it a good go, we gave away at least 3 goals and we should have progressed. The stupid goals are a major headache for us though.

19/11/00, league game v Sportslink.

Rex is available but I elect to rest him as he’s not so sure himself, Kavo is up front with Raftie as Richie is sick. So too is the referee as he doesn’t show, so we play 60 minutes, most of them poorly and it ends 1-1 in an ultimately pointless runout. No prizes for guessing who scored, but it’s another week nearer fitness for Rex and more sharpness for the rest of us to catch up on.

26/11/00, league game, Terenure 4, Seaford/Rock 0.

Back to full strength, Rex, Richie, John all back and a convincing and impressive performance. Richie was back to his best after I asked him to play facing their goal more than he has been, he was a constant nuisance for their back four. Dec Brady was his marauding best and his 30 yard screamer to make it 3-0 was just reward and finally sealed the points. We never game them a sniff and from the kick off when Richie won a tackle our intent was clear. Raftie bagged only 3 today, but we’re back on song and the clean sheet was important too after the recent presents given away.

3/12/00, league game, Terenure 7, Pioneers 0.

This was another very impressive show, we were unchanged as was the attitude of the lads. Pioneers defended poorly but the quality of our passing, the tempo and Karl’s wonderful set piece delivery were of the highest order. Raftie made it 26 in nine games with 5 more goals today, one a peno, Fergal and Richie completed the rout, Richie’s was most deserved. The win put us on top of the league as we’re finished till the new Year. I have to say the attitude of the lads has been top class, great goals and great team spirit. We have had a few breaks too with injuries, so we have been a pretty settled XI. All in all 5-2-0 is a fine effort, I reckon it should be 6-0-1. I would have settled for 17 points at this stage. We can all enjoy Christmas and look forward to big challenge ahead and I am proud to be able to pick these lads, every one of them have done themselves proud to date. Happy New Year.

17/12/00, friendly match, Terenure 3, Parkvale 4.

Our second meeting with this local team, this was a very competitive affair and we were unlucky to lose, though we were understrength. We led early on thanks to a tap in from Bullie after they failed to clear a corner, but 2 just before HT from them gave them a lucky 2-1 lead, the second should have been a free out when Rex was upended.

Any 11 I send out I expect 100% and by God do I get it, they went 3-1 up early 2nd half from another corner to an unmarked player, but we rallied yet again, Rex scored a beaut direct from a free and Raftie’s awful peno dribbled over the line to level. With the 90 fast approaching we gave away another soft goal, but went straight down and Kavo’s shot was handled on the line. Raftie struck another poor peno and Brian Kelehan saved so we lost but I was happy with the commitment of everyone, as I said we were without Mark and John and also Ferg, so it’s another game under the belt with the league finished till New Year.

2/1/01, training.

6 of us turned up and I nearly threw up, we were a pitiful sight after Christmas. I forget that I’m 34 not 24, but I was still a bit shocked to be almost chucking up. Leave it to the young guys Phe.

7/1/01, friendly v St. Judes, drew 2-2.

Another fairly juicy friendly, they are a division below us but they had some useful players and their centre forward was clever. Mark had a rare battle with him and he lost his composure for a while. Ref Chris Keating told me he’d send him off if he wasn’t taken off, but to Mark’s credit he settled and eventually the centre forward was the one who was withdrawn. Chris Keating is a good ref, he doesn’t talk down to players, he uses his loaf and he clearly played the game, pity there’s not more like him. As for the game, Richie’s super cross landed on Raftie’s head to equalise their early freak goal (a tame header hit a divot and embarrassed Al). We had to come from behind again (a worrying trend) in the second half (Fergal had headed past Alec right on half time for a second comical goal for them) and after Brian Cullen hit a post of an open goal and Ferg having one taken off the line, we could have dropped heads, but as I said we always give 100% and Richie volleyed home following a corner and a draw was about right.

While it is great to have Brian back for (hopefully) the season, Karl’s knee gave him grief and he limped badly back to the dressing room. Not too encouraging with the league restarting next week and Raftie away also.

8/1/01

Spoke to Karl today, he’s pretty despondent about his injury and will be out for a couple of weeks at least. The revelation that it’s West End away next week adds to the gloom and for the first time this season I am almost dreading a fixture. Raftie is away ski-ing, so I will have a lot of thinking to do to put out a strong team up here. I know we didn’t play well against these last time, but I need a strong XI. Welcome to management big time now.

11/1/01, training.

The lads have really put it in for West End and I am hopeful rather than confident. I will play Fergal up front with Richie, Ferg’s pace and skill should give them plenty to think about, Rex’s set pieces and all round quality will be missed but we have to get on with it. The lads are up for it.

14/1/01.

After a nice tour of Drogheda, we eventually arrive at a frost bound pitch. The ref has even left before we arrived, they are desperate to play. We have arrived changed and after walking to the far end of the pitch it is clear the ref is spot on. Back on to the bus and into McDonalds with the lot of us. Blessing in disguise without doubt, we need to come back here with a strong team. Raftie will be pleased, Karl is still not much nearer fitness yet and it’s clearly getting him down. Despite his various problems this season he has only missed 2 league games, the 3-3 with Sea Rock and the 5-4 with Swords.

21/1/01, no fixture. Raftie is still away and Karl is still unfit and still doesn’t really know what’s wrong. His frustration is palpable but there must be some light at the end of the tunnel.

28/1/01, league game, Sportslink 1, Terenure 1.

This was almost like West End, the pitch was very hard at 11, but it was playable. We got off to a great start, I pushed John into midfield and Dec back to centre half and John’s great pass released Raftie for a clinical finish. If we had got a second before the break we’d have taken the points. Apart from John being upended for a peno that was turned down, we didn’t create a whole lot. Dec was having an uncomfortable time with their centre forward. I was slow to a tackle in midfield and three passes later it was 1-1 right on the half time blow. I thought of reverting John and Dec but I hoped it would click.

It did at times, Raftie had one denied for offside (he wasn’t), he also struck a post after Richie’s unselfish play again. John went close and I took one off his head at the far post. They also had a few chances and it finished level for the third successive time against these. I was a mixture of emotions, 2 points dropped but could’ve been 3; should I have changed Dec and John? I was a bit annoyed with meself. John made the point that we had delusions that we’re better than we actually are. Interesting view Big John, I hope we’ll prove you to be slightly harsh, but his point is well made and it has me thinking.

Saturday, 3/2/01

At 6.30 tonight Drumcondra declared their pitch unplayable, this is the third time they’ve pulled this game, the sly shower. After a good few phone calls, we’re unable to switch it, so we’ve another postponement. I will write to the league looking for the points, some bloody hope, I’m more likely to get a pass off Raftie inside the box.

Fergal and Kavo line out for the 3B team instead and Fergal proves he can play up front if it were needed. He scored in a 3-2 win.

11/2/01.

Tymon game called off as they have players in the Oscar Traynor panel! What the heck are they doing in Div 2A then? This league never ceases to amaze me, but we’ll just have to beat them fair and square anyhow when we take them on. Karl lined out for Gus and grabbed a goal, he was happy with his 90 minutes. The rest of us took a well needed run in the Astro Park, where the young uns of Ferg, Dec, Sparkie and Denis annihilated the oldies of Mick, Phe, Brian and Bullie. Gar hobbled off early to Scholars where a good few of us joined the throng to see Allan Thompson score the only goal against the Huns to effectively land the SPL. It’s always nice beating that shower but the SPL is so weak, the Champions League will find Martin’s Bhoys out like it did year after year with the Rangers flops.

18/2/01, West End 2, Terenure 3.

We drove up in cars today for the long awaited rematch on a glorious morning on the banks of the Boyne. Glory was a long way off after the spacer of a ref (for both sides) awarded them a peno after 2 minutes for a flimsy enough looking challenge by Mick. The lad buried it. We were at full strength except for Fergal being away. Gar came in on the right and his wide and direct running had them on the back foot. Karl was quietly effective as the half wore on while Dec was getting in among them. We made a few chances to equalise but their keeper twice saved well from Raftie in a half we totally dominated.

At half time I said one goal would set us on our way but we must be patient and keep doing the right things. We kept doing that alright and more, we were playing them off the park but their keeper was defying us with save after save, his save from Bullie’s rocket was the best I have seen at this level of football. With over 25 left it’s still 0-1, so I take Dec off and get Brian on, Dec’s done well, but Brian’s quality and eye for a pass/goal can take advantage of their tiring midfield. Almost immediately Bullie’s run and left footed cross lands on Raftie’s head, but it’s somehow saved again, but the ball breaks for the inrushing Richie who prods home and we’re on our way.

5 minutes later, a typical surge from Karl down the right sees their defence retreating. Karl’s cut back lands at Denis’ feet 8 yards out and he buries the chance like a veteran. “What the hell are you doing up there”? I ask as he emerges from the ruck of celebration. I don’t need nor get an answer, the lad is a gem. With just over 10 minutes left, old man Cullen does what he’s so good at and threads a lovely ball through a square and overworked defence, Raftie’s in, he rounds the keeper and Gar has an open goal if he rolls it across; the angle’s tight but Gar might as well stop now, as the big fella rolls it in effortlessly for 3-1 and 3 points. Their second attempt on target on 89 minutes ends up in our net to give us an anxious finish that our performance never warranted. We gave a superb display from start to finish, no panic in our play, patience, cutting edge, competitive and we put these in their place. We’re back in the title hunt now no mistake.

25/2/01, Drumcondra 1, Terenure College 4.

At last we got to play this shower and after last week’s performance we went in full of confidence, Gar kept his place ahead of a returning Ferg, with Brian and meself again also on the line. On a very small pitch, we got off to a flyer when Mick took advantage of space ahead of him and smacked it in from 25 yards, great strike. Raftie stooped to head number 2 on 10 minutes from John’s throw, they were not picking up men at all. We then got sloppy for 15 minutes and they scored to give them some hope, but a great reverse ball from Bullie put in Raftie for 3-1 and just before half time Raftie grabbed yet another hat trick with a header from Karl’s cross.

The second half fizzled out into a laborious bore as we failed to string anything together, they had a lot of corners without looking dangerous and we just played within ourselves and it enabled Ferg and Brian to get a decent enough run. I got 10 minutes or so, but a win is what we wanted and win what we got.

This game was Alec’s last for this season as he goes to the States for Intel for a few months. He’s been very consistent since the start of the season and he trains like a demon, we all wish him well for his trip.

4/3/01, Terenure v Tymon postponed.

Snow has prevented us training this week and in any case the outbreak of foot and mouth in Britain prompted the FAI into cancelling the games everywhere, so it’s hard to know what’s gonna happen. We’d have been down Mick and Ferg as well, so yet again we’ve had a bit of luck with absentees. This will be our next fixture come what may, so we’ll have to keep a bit sharp, but every club is in the same boat.

18/3/01.

We’ve had a run at the Astro Park, the games will be back next week. I missed out as I am absolutely floored since yesterday, Gar, John and Karl are also sick so our preparation is not looking too hot ahead of Tymon. I just hope that their sharpness has dipped also. I know we’ll be at full strength personnel wise, but sharpness and fitness is not what I would have hoped for going into Sunday. Trust to luck a bit, trust in the boys, we’ve a proud record to protect but Tymon will definitely fancy their chances.

22/3/01, training.

Des was down tonight and seems up for it, I am pleased to have him on board, at his best he’s a top keeper and good organiser, I hope he can be at or near his best. The remaining ten starters can pick themselves and I need a big game from all of them on Sunday.

25/3/01, Terenure 3, Tymon Bawn 2

Got down to the College early to mark the pitch, it’s a lovely morning for a game and the pitch is in excellent shape. All thoughts are going through me head, positive, negative, but there’s nothing I can do at this stage, just everyone better be here on time and we can prepare well. We’re at full strength, so that’s a good start, but our sharpness will have waned somewhat, but the same should go for Tymon as well.

As I start to give the team talk, I see and sense the boys are really up for it, I tell John and Mark they are the best partnership in the League and I firmly believe it, Denis’ temperament and confidence and Mick’s experience and knowledge gives me a great back four. Across the middle, I feel I will get a big game from Fergie, he’s fit as a fiddle and has great ability, I tell him I want to see more of him going at players and beating them with the skill he has as well as using his good passing. In Dec and Rex, I have a big engine room, they’ve played six league games as a partnership and won the lot. Dec is getting better on the ball and I have earmarked their grey-haired playmaker from the LSL side as Dec’s man. He reduced Black Forge’s playmaker to dust, so I want the same performance from him. Bullie must stay wide and get in the supply early to Raftie and Rich. Raftie is quiet and that’s a good sign, all I ask from him is not to get the ref on his back for unncecessary fouls on their players and I want Richie to play near Raftie, sniffing for breaks.

We make a confident start from the kick off, Mick and Ferg combine nicely and Denis almost gets on the end of Ferg’s searching cross. Almost immediately though the start I didn’t want happens. Their no. 8 skins Denis and his excellent cross is met with a lovely header giving Des no chance. We musn’t panic or drop heads and as usual the lads aren’t bothered by the early setback. Ferg and Mick are combining really well down the right and Dec is doing the job I want him to do. 10 minutes in, Karl makes one of those runs and a wonderful through ball enables Raftie to expertly lift the ball over their keeper for a super equaliser and no more than we deserve.

The goal rattles them and our confidence is up, though Denis is having a very difficult time with the 8, he’s very dangerous. After about half an hour, a lovely move down the right again involving Mick, Ferg and Dec ends up with Richie’s cracking volley saved but Raftie pounces on the rebound and it’s 2-1 to us. It’s a cracking good game, played in a great spirit. Mark survives a handball appeal but near half time we get a corner and it’s cleared and we’re caught on the break. Denis does ever so well to slow the move down, but the ball gets crossed in from the left and it deceives Des at the far post and drops in to the goal. Feck it anyway as I kick over the flag at halfway, we’ve been the better side.

Half time whistle blows and I tell them that Tymon are rattled and they’re fighting amongst themselves, if we keep believing and keep doing the right things we’ll take the points. Next goal is crucial. All in all it’s gone very well, Dec has nullified his man as hoped, Karl is passing it beautifully, Ferg is causing them no end of problems. I tell them we have a real chance of winning this game and they believe it too.

We begin the second half brightly again, a wonderful move involving Ferg and Richie ends up with a smart turn and shot from Raftie, but the keeper makes a fine save. He won’t be so lucky next time as Karl slips Raftie in again after Ferg won a 50/50 and Raftie prods it in for 3-2, totally deserved. The game continues in ding dong fashion, Denis has come to terms with the 8 but he’s still dangerous, Dec is doing marvellous, at the back Mick is inspirational with his tackling and linking with Ferg, Mark and John in particular are handling everthing Tymon are throwing at us. Des is busy also and makes a couple of big saves, one especially from Bullie’s mishit clearance, then when he was beaten, Big and I mean Big John clears the thing off the line. I say to Rodders this is like Stuttgart 88 and this is not good for my bowels at all. Time is just ambling down, Brian comes on after 80 for Richie who has done his insane quota of running and has had another outstanding game. They continue to pepper our box and the 8 has gone inside, John spots it well and Dec is moved to take the 8. With 3 minutes left, Mark pulls back their inrushing forward for his second yellow, so he’s off but he had to foul him. Mick goes inside for the last few minutes and makes a saving header from one of their frees. Ref Des Clarke plays 2 minutes of added time and finally halts this wonderful game and great 3-2 win for us. I sprint on to congratulate Des for his second half display and next is Big John who was simply immense for us.

They are a very ungracious lot saying things like “ah it won’t make a difference as the league won’t be finished” and stuff like that. Up your collective jacksies I think, Oscar Traynor players? We’ll gladly do you up in Tallaght as well if you like.

This has to be the most satisfying result since I started managing this wonderful team, everyone gave a huge performance which given the enforced break was truly a brilliant effort. Some of them are exhausted in there, but we’re a happy bunch and we showed Tymon what we’re about. I’d love to go have a few jars now and enjoy this win, but I’m partying at the Leisureplex today for Dean’s 11th birthday. Thanks lads, you continue to pull these performances out of the hat and you deserve a glorious end to the season. Time will tell, seven games remain.

1/4/01, Swords v Terenure, postponed.

They haven’t been able to field a team and today we found out that they are withdrawing from the league, so we must write to the League and claim the points. If that’s the case, we’ve six more games to go, it’s getting closer.

So Raftie and meself decided to watch Black Forge, as we have them on Tuesday, they were playing Jobstown Celtic in the cup quarter final in Brickfields. I have to say they were abysmal, we stayed for 90 minutes and they were so lacking in any type of creative ability, I find it incredible that Tymon lost to them, though that was a good while ago. At the back, their sweeper Robbie Kelly, covers for their centre half who is slow and overweight, Richie can make hay if we play correctly. Their left back is steady but old and slow, Fergal can also have success there. In the middle they graft and get stuck in, but so do we and they don’t have any of the class of Karl or Ferg or the dash of Bullie. Up front they have reasonable quality if they’re given space to turn, if we keep them pushed on we should be more than OK. I feel a steely resolve about Tuesday, it’s a huge game and I hope John’s absence won’t be too much of a burden. It shouldn’t really be if their performance today was anything to go by.

Tymon won 3-0 today v Club 88, I expected Tymon to win, that should eliminate 88, they are now down 11, Forge are down 5, we’re down 6, Tymon down 8. Roll on Tuesday, I hope we can play with our heads and sicken these shower again.

3/4/01, Black Forge 1, Terenure 1.

A lovely evening for a game, we were in a determined and steely mood as we kicked off 15 minutes late, which was as well as Bullie and Gar got delayed by traffic. We got off to a slow start, they were sharper and first to most of the 50/50s and they were certainly more up for this than their cup game two days ago. It was no surprise when they scored after 10 minutes, a long throw flicked on and their man stooped low to head past Des, it was typical of the opening minutes that he got there quickest.

We clawed our way back in though, the cramped pitch made it very difficult for Ferg and Bullie to get them stretched and it also hindered Karl getting them going or making his surges down the middle. As I expected they were physically tough and gave 100% as we did ourselves. Denis got into a great position but sadly his cross went behind about 3 of our waiting lads with the goal gaping and though we failed to level by half time,we had dominated from 25 minutes on. Karl had also struck the bar direct from a corner.

Like West End and Tymon games, I just said don’t panic, we’re on top so keep plugging away and cool it with the ref who was mixing his usual poor decisions with the plainly ridiculous. Karl burst through but was foiled and Bullie followed up with the goal gaping but he was blocked too. We had numerous corners, Raftie hit the bar with a header from one. I was starting to doubt it would happen, I introduced Brian with 25 left for Richie as we continued to dominate. After 76 minutes, yet another Karl corner was headed towards goal by Brian, it was half blocked and Raftie bundled in the equaliser, richly deserved for us. I felt very optimistic now, Mick and Mark had excellent displays in the defence, Gar came good after a shaky start and there was only one team in it. Right on 90, a chance for Raftie was blocked and Brian hit the rebound against the bottom of the post, it was to be the last chance of the game.

I’m a bit deflated now as I write this at midnight, four hours later. We probably should have taken the points, Des had very little by way of saves to make, but what he did have to do, he did well and I’m delighted with him over the two games he’s played. The back four minus John was solid, Mark was dominant and Mick organised them well. Across the middle, we flitted in and out, there wasn’t a lot of room for us to play our expansive game, Dec won a lot of important stuff in the air and Karl’s corners were always dangerous. Forge had decided to kick Karl and Ferg wherever possible and Mr. Blake’s reluctance to give blatant frees was very frustrating for the two lads.

Up front we toiled honestly but the lack of space in midfield meant Raftie and Richie were living off scraps and I only took Richie off to try freshen it up, as Brian is a very different player to Richie. Our work rate and commitment was tops as usual, I think the difference to some other games was we never really got a break, which happens from time to time. It’s a setback no doubt, but we’re still alive and kicking and Club 88 are next, so we have to get a win on Sunday. More rejigging of the back 4 though as John will still be away and Gar is going off as well. Still, our record is now 8-4-0 and that’s a wonderful effort from everyone.

8/4/01, Terenure 3-0 Club 88.

We’ve a couple of niggles going into this one, Mick and Ferg picked up knocks on Tuesday and both are bit iffy that they’ll last 90 minutes. So I’ve drafted in Gary Copeland for cover in the event of Mick breaking down and Brian and meself are the other options on the bench.

Of the team that starts today, ten of the eleven beat Club 88 on the first day of the season, so that should count for something. We’ve been lucky with the continuity of our team and lack of injuries and such, so I’m very confident we’ll get a win today, I sense again the boys are ready to take this season to it’s maximum conclusion to give us every chance of overhauling Black Forge and keeping Tymon at bay.

Noel Blake is in charge again, so we know what to expect and sure enough he doesn’t disappoint, Mick takes out a dangerous situation early on, a blatant foul, but he ignores it, similarly soon after with Bullie, he is set up by Raftie and charges down the middle and is taken out of it. Play on decides our great one in black, he really is out on his own. The first half is scrappy enough, we’re giving away free after free and to be fair to Mr. Blake, most of them are correct decisions. The frees are putting us on the back foot and I don’t like the pressure it’s putting on the back four. But they’re dealing with it well and Richie O has made an assured and confident start.

After 24 minutes, Dec’s long ball down the centre is headed on by Raftie, Fergal has for once escaped the close marking and he is clear down the middle. He rounds the keeper and it looks a certain opener, his shot is blocked by a defender on the line, but Richie Lombard is there where I asked him to be following up and he scores easily. A fine move and a vital goal, we haven’t played particularly well, but the first goal was what I asked for and we’ve got it, unlike three out of the last four games where we’ve gone one down and chasing the game. You won’t always win games you have to chase.

Half time comes and at least we can get a few things sorted. Stop giving away frees for a start, we can compete for a ball without fouling and we must keep the ball better when we do get it. Mick has pointed out that Rex is too deep and Dec too far forward. It should be the other way round, so they swop opponents.

The second half is a big improvement as Karl starts to get into it and Ferg is combining well with Richie O who is having a stormer. Des has only to deal with a few corners, but we’re dominating the second half and a second goal will hopefully break their resistance. It duly comes on 66 minutes and what a goal.

Red Richie breaks up a move on our box and plays a good ball up to Bullie on halfway. Bullie gives it to Karl who plays a glorious early ball in to the path of Denis who has made a super run forward. Denis’ first touch is sublime and it takes him past two defenders and he’s clear inside the box. “Bury it” I say, but this cool customer does a Raftie and rounds the keeper like he’s not there and rolls it in for 2-0 and goal of the season. I half expect him to light up a cigar on his way back to his left back position. As I said after he scored against West End, this lad is an absolute gem and he will go a very long way in Junior Soccer and I don’t believe it will be at left full either. He is doing very well there, but he has the game to probably be a central midfield star. Thank God Rory Linnie told him to join us and not CY.

The rest of the half sees us keeping the pressure on and they lose a bit of heart. Brian comes on for his 5th sub appearance in a row for a tiring Bullie with 15 minutes left. On 87 minutes, Richie chases a long clearance and makes a 40/60 ball into his. Support quickly arrives from Fergal and Richie gives him the early ball, Ferg also gives it early with a perfect pass to Raftie inside the box, Raftie’s left peg passes the ball into the corner for his customary goal. 3-0 and game over and a fair scoreline given our second half display which was disciplined and relentless. Richie O’Loughlin has given me plenty to think about with his display. Club 88 are very gracious in defeat, their manager hopes we win the league and says we are the best side they’ve faced. I suppose two defeats by us both 3-0 would be reason enough for him to say that, but fair play to him anyway. Four games to go, maximum points needed, I was very impressed with our second half.

Up in the morgue, we’re discussing and end of season game of golf. Brian Cullen reckons I’ll bring him on after 14 holes! He also reckons he’ll be the first ever sub to go down with cramp. Great character Cullen.

Our statistics continue to impress, 9-4-0, this season, 14 unbeaten going back to our last game of last season. 16 league games unbeaten at home (10 wins 6 draws) and three clean sheets in our last four home games (4-0, 7-0, 3-2, 3-0). Great bunch of blokes, I would by delighted for them all if we won this League.

12/4/01, training.

Good turnout ahead of the next two games coming up, they’re all buzzing. Mick had earlier suggested a method of taking care of Tymon’s number 8 who gave Denis a torrid time 3 weeks ago. I’ve given it some thought all day but my own view is that I need Bullie to start deep and double up with Denis on the 8, that way we can stop him at source. If that leaves their full back free, so be it, Richie can come wide to defend on him when he has it. I can’t consider making any changes against Tymon, everyone is available, so the team picks itself. Don’t fix it if ain’t broke. First of course we have to do Drumcondra on Sunday, then we’ll concentrate on Tuesday.

15/4/01, Terenure 8, Drumcondra 2.

Two changes from last week’s win over Club 88, with John making a welcome return and Brian getting a deserved start up front, replacing Mick and Richie Lombard respectively who were both unavailable and still nursing slight knocks. I reminded the lads of our 4-1 win against these in February, we made a great start to go 2-0 up early, but sloppiness and complacency let them back in to 2-1 and for a while they had us on the rack, so we couldn’t afford to be slack or cocky today.

They made the better start and were lively, while we were lacking in urgency, but once we got the first we settled into our rhythm and got it together. The first came from a Des clearance down the middle, Raftie killed it and played a super ball inside the full back for Brian to run onto, they know each other’s game so well. Brian was upended in the box for a cast iron peno which Karl put away in emphatic fashion for his first of the season. Looking back now, their defender should have walked for taking Brian out of it, but Mr. Coppinger didn’t cover himself in glory as the game wore on.

Karl was involved in the second after 15, a half-cleared corner came back to him and his lovely half-volleyed cross was met by a clinical header from Raftie which went in off the bar. The third followed immediately as we started to up the gear again, Karl’s through ball ended with Brian prodding home at the second attempt and game almost over after 20 minutes or so. Like the last time though we started to get sloppy and a couple of half-hearted tackles on our left let them in for goal. Rex then got a yellow for a clumsy tackle which summed up our growing sloppiness. Thankfully an excellent move down the right, ended with Brian unselfishly squaring to Raftie who stroked home for 4-1 and his 38th of the season. Before half-time the big man rode two or three tackles and made if five and definitely game over.

Fair play to them, they never threw in the towel and kept playing, we just cruised along without really upping it second half, which happens when you’re 5-1 up at half-time. Number 6 soon came, Karl’s corner was headed/nosed down by John and Raftie crashed home from 7 yards for goal number 40 for the 2A side. Astonishing record. As I said, they never stopped playing and a good move reduced the score to 6-2, by which time I’d brought on Gar for Richie and meself for Dec. Their offside trap failed soon after and Raftie made it 7-2, sadly soon after Karl shouted “Come on ref” after Fergal was not given a free he deserved and Mr. Coppinger branded a ridiculous second yellow for Rex. Even their players were groaning at the harshness of his decision, he is not my favourite referee. We still were able to add an eighth by the finish, Raftie looking offside collected Mark’s lofted pass and smacked it over the stranded keeper for his double hat-trick and goal number 42 in 16 games in total for us. What a finisher. So our record goes on and on, this season is 10-4-0 and including the last game last season, it’s now 15 unbeaten (11-4-0). The home league unbeaten record is now 17 (11-6-0) and our league record since I became manager is 15-11-3. The boys deserve to be champs when you look at stats such as those.

Up in the Morgue, it’s business as usual for those of us who went for a pint today, Mark, Richie, meself, Des, Gar, Rex and Bullie until Fergus rings me to say that Tymon have won 5-0 today, no surprise there, but he goes on to say that Black Forge were beaten by Pioneers in midweek. Am I hearing things or what? I ask him to repeat what he’s just told me and he confirms it. This wonderful game, we’ll never be able to work it out. The seven us are dumbfounded and delighted, did Pioneers pack their team, have they even got a higher team, who cares, Forge clearly wilted under the pressure and today’s win puts us top, 3 points ahead of Tymon who have the game in hand on us. But points in the bag again have proved important and with us having just 3 games left now, Tuesday’s game has enormous potential rewards. Whoever wins on Tuesday will probably go on take the prize. We have to play Pioneers again in St. Anne’s, so their brilliant win will ensure we don’t take them lightly, but it’s all minds now on Old Bawn Road on Tuesday. My best eleven will take the field, the same eleven who beat Tymon 3 weeks ago. The pressure will be intense, but that goes with the territory once you’re up there. Whoever handles it best will win Division 2A, let’s hope it can be us.

17/4/01, Tymon Bawn 2, Terenure 5.

It’s difficult to know how to begin this passage after a result and level of performance that I witnessed from this team of warriors last night. Let’s start in the tight dressing room.

One look at Dec Brady as we prepare to go out is all I need to know we’ll get a big game tonight. The steely determination in that young lad’s eyes is almost scary.

Team photo over with, we’re ready to go, the grass is very long and the pitch is a bit tight, but I tell them we’ll have to adapt early to the pitch, which we didn’t do in Brickfields. We adapted from the first minute and we’re winning all the early 50/50s and aerial battles and driving them back. But after 13 minutes, their first foray into our box ends in a goal. A long throw is flicked on, Des is unable to hold it and though Fergal is back, his clearance is blocked into the net by their lad for an absolutely poxy goal. So here we go again, chasing a game.

As usual though this team are totally unfazed by the setback and go about their business, a great left-footed cross from Mick lands on Raftie’s head only for their keeper to make a fine save. We don’t wait much longer for the equaliser. Blake gives us a free in a good position after one of their players appeals for a free. Karl swings it in Raftie heads on and Mark stoops to head the equaliser from close range. 1-1 and no more than our dominance has deserved. We now step it up another gear, Dec is lording it in the middle, Ferg is playing exceptionally well and Richie is giving his man a torrid time. More pressure from Dec wins us a throw, from which Raftie again flicks on with his head and Richie rises to thump a header high into the net for a brilliant second. We’re taking over now and they are losing what little composure they had, they can’t handle our relentless pressure, our refusal to give them an inch and they’re reduced to hoofing it up the centre aimlessly back to Des.

Right on half time, a wonderful goal. Ferg makes a surging run down the right and crosses it early to Raftie in the box. The big fella lays it back and Richie wallops it into the top corner for a classic goal. Delighted for the Limerickman, two super goals for this most unselfish player. 3-1 at the break.

“Job is only half done lads”, I say with my customary caution, adding that Tymon can’t cope with our utter determination, we have reduced them to a shambles, moaning at each other and at Blake. Once we concentrate and keep the tempo up we should be OK.

We don’t start the second half very well, they have a lot of early pressure but after 58 minutes Bullie makes a great run down the left and after the ball breaks free, Karl is fouled 25 yards out to the left of the box. “Only one thing in your mind Rex”, Gar says beside me and I reply to Gar that it’s tailor-made for him, Gary McAllister situation. Karl lifts it over the wall and it curls deliciously inside the near post just like McAllister, giving the keeper no chance. What a goal from the skipper, 4-1 for us, it doesn’t get better than this and the great support we have on the line are being royally entertained.

Play finally lulls for 10-15 minutes after that and they finally decide to add some urgency to their play, but John and Mark are rock solid, Mick is winning everything on his side and Denis time and again in the right place at the right time. With less than 20 left, we for once fail to deal with a corner and their sweeper drills a shot in off the bar to give them a glimmer of hope. Gar is on for Bullie who’s given everything and Gar contributes very well helping Denis out. After 85, I start to feel safe and to slow their momentum I take Richie off and Brian is on to keep possession for us when it’s played up. Right on 90 minutes John powers a header down the centre and Brian is free with a one-on-one. Effortlessly but with a dodgy hamstring, Brian rounds the keeper and sticks it in the back of the net, 5-2 and happy days. The final whistle blows and the mood is obviously ecstatic. Back in the dressing room I say to the lads that it was a privilege to watch that performance out there. It had everything, skill, determination, courage, concentration, discipline, great goals and phenomenal work rate. It was indeed a privilege. And Raftie didn’t even bloody score…………

Up in the Morgue the pints are flowing and we look back on the game. Tymon’s most dangerous player in the first game was sent to mark Raftie in the first half which was just incredible. Raftie made the first three goals! Why waste your most creative player? The manager has bottled it big time with that decision. By the time he was freed up, it was too late, our domination had broken them. Near the end of the game, Dec got a nasty knock. Karl asked him did he want to go off. “I’m not f***ing going off” was Dec’s gruff reply and sums up this lad and this team so well.

Two games left, it’s getting closer, tonight’s performance has taken us to a level that I always believed possible in this team and there’s probably even more in it. We must keep at or near this level for two more games.

22/4/01, Black Forge 2-2 Club 88.

Karl and meself took in this game in Brickfields as we were hoping Club 88 might do us a favour and take a little pressure off us in the last two games. Sure enough, they went 2 up early second half and should have won. Turning point was the Forge peno for which the 88 keeper told the ref to “F off” resulting in his red card. Forge were poor again, we ought to have won here but the result leaves us needing a draw and a win to take the silverware. Should Tymon drop points on Sunday next one win would be enough, but I want two wins obviously.

24/4/01, training.

Good turnout, Bullie’s in Belfast, Gar in Boston (I think I’ll sign on when the season finishes and go on his world tour), Brian’s hamstring is pulled after his goal against Tymon and Des is 99% certain to miss Sunday, so I’m down to the bare bones for Pioneers on Sunday. I’m reluctant to break up Mark and John, but I don’t have much choice now if Des doesn’t recover. John will probably take the keeper’s shirt and Richie can come in again at right back, given the opposition I hope we’ll be OK. The lads worked very hard, but Karl felt a twinge near the end, that’s a bit of a worry. Thank God it’s Tuesday and not Thursday.

29/4/01, Pioneers 1, Terenure 6.

I’m more edgy today than I should be. I mean we beat these 7-0 in December and we have a strong team out again today. The fact that I’m without a recognised keeper and Karl’s concerns probably has me worrying unduly. We’re so close though now, the nerves are starting to build, I’ve been on the phone to Rod and Gus almost daily about stupid little things, but once we all get together and I have the few words before we head for St.Anne’s Park, I start to feel OK again. We get out there in excellent time, but as we warm up it’s clear from Karl’s face that he doesn’t think he’ll get through this game.

Pioneers make a bright start, they’re eager and obviously intent on showing us they’re better than the 0-7 reverse 4 months ago and it is only two weeks since they beat Black Forge. John makes an excellent brave save inside the first ten minutes and we look distinctly nervy. As usual though, a couple of quick goals dictates the course of the rest of the game and thankfully we get them from Raftie, with both created principally by Karl. The first he came onto a ball and with loads of time, nonchalantly knocked it first time over the sweeper’s head. Raftie still had work to do but he poked it in to the far corner and it’s 1-0 after 13 minutes.

The second followed a thumping free kick from Karl which hit the bar and came out, Karl tried another shot which was handled and the ref pointed to the spot. Raftie took the ball as Karl is clearly struggling and he sends the keeper the wrong way for 2-0.

The goals give us a huge lift and we start to up the tempo looking for more, it duly arrives on 22 minutes. Another free outside the box is taken by Raftie who shoots, the keeper fumbles it and Ferg is in like a vulture to bury it in the corner, good man Ferg a well deserved goal for his recent displays. Karl’s hamstring has had enough now so I come on for the skipper on the right and Ferg goes inside. Thank God we are already in the driving seat when Karl goes.

As we approach half time a ball breaks loose and Bullie is onto it. He moves in from the left and I call for a square pass; the words are no sooner shouted when Bullie unleashes a right footed screamer which rips past the keeper high into the top corner! “He’s done it, he’s done it at last”, I roar as Bullie peels away for his long-promised goal celebration. Ferg doesn’t let him get far and drags him to the ground and he is soon buried under a blanket of Terenure shirts. I am delighted for him, of all the players this season he has deserved a goal and what a strike. 4-0 and it’s looking safe already. Right on the blow though, I make a hash of a clearance on the right and the ball is played in behind Denis and their bloke gives John no chance. 4-1 at the break and I get a deserved ticking off from Mick. “Give me a shagging break Mick”, I protest, but he’s right of course. Should have knocked it into touch.

The second half sees us get our 5th early, a 1-2 between Mick and Ferg ends with Mick passing back to Ferg, his shot is half blocked but Richie gets onto it, swivels and scores from 8 yards, an excellent finish for his 9th of the season. For the next 20 minutes, late and dangerous tackles are the order of the day from Pioneers and the weak ref indulges them. The 3 is just a dirtbag and the 6 is the sneakiest, dirtiest little player I’ve come across in a long time, not to mention foolish after he decides to loaf Dec Brady out of sight of the ref. To Dec’s credit, he just grins back, but my blood is boiling with their antics. I manage to plough through the 6 near the end and get a yellow for my “tackle”, it was worth it and made me feel slightly better. Raftie grabbed his 10th hat trick for this team (11th for the season) with 25 or so left and it’s 6-1. I replace Raftie with Ger and the game fizzles out for the last 15, I was blowing a lot by then, I’ve lost a lot of fitness standing on the line the last few months.

So I’m glad to have got this game over with, I was edgy as I said beforehand, but the lads as usual came up trumps,getting the goals at the right time and keeping great discipline in the face of dirty and dangerous tackling. Tymon have beaten Club 88, so it comes down to the last game at home to Sportslink on Sunday week. Like most of the season, the timing of the game is perfect as it gives the injured like Des, Karl and Brian more time to recover. With others having booked weekends away and Gar due back from Boston next week, it is indeed very fortunate that Roger Mahon has not given us a fixture. One game to go, it’s so close now………..

3/5/01, training.

The casualty situation is Richie O’Loughlin got a cracked toe courtesy of number 6 on Sunday, I can’t run thanks to number 3 and Brian can’t train till next Thursday at least, so that’s 3 of us struggling. Karl is more encouraged and Ferg’s groin needs rest, so at least both of them will be OK fingers crossed. I don’t know about Des yet, I’ll be surprised if he’s a doubt. I’ll know more next Tuesday when we all get together again.

8/5/01, training.

The countdown starts now and 9 of the 15 who did Tymon are down, Richie O’Loughlin, Karl, Brian, Des and Mark have knocks or strains and Gar is due back tomorrow. The session is lively and the lads work hard, we can start thinking about Sportslink now. They beat Pioneers 4-2 at the weekend so they’ll be going into the game happy. I tell the lads that we did not play well against Pioneers, we got the goals at the right time, so we will have to be fully concentrated for the task in hand on Sunday. Of the injured lads, Karl rang earlier to say he’s happy with his recovery, he’ll be down Thursday and Mark was busy in work anyway, he just wanted to rest his ankle till Thursday as well.

9/5/01.

Good news on the injuries, Brian got the ok from his physio, so he’ll be down Thursday and Richie reckons he’ll be fine also. Des is recovered enough to start, so it’s coming together nicely as regards player availability. That’s 14 OK for Sunday, I’m not sure I’m going to be fit, not that I’d have played anyway.

10/5/01, training.

The injured have returned, Karl, Brian and Richie O’Loughlin and they’re all looking OK. The biggest concern was Karl and I’m watching him closely as he joins in the game, but he’s moving well without really pushing it. Later on he says he did push it towards the end and everything was fine, so that’s a huge relief to me. We need everyone totally right and though he hasn’t had much action since the Tymon game on 17 April, it’s a major headache over that he’s fit. Gar is back from the States, so I’ve my strongest 14 available. I’ll tog on Sunday but I know I won’t take any part as I can’t sprint. Roll on Sunday, the pitch has been cut again and though the ground is hard, it looks absolutely superb. We’re ready.

12/5/01.

John has rang me at 5.30 or so to tell me that he’s been unwell since Thursday and doesn’t think he’s going to make it tomorrow. He will ring at 9.15 in the morning to decide. Damn it anyway, I know we can cope without him, but of all days I needed my best XI this was it, but hopefully a good night’s sleep will sort him out. Kevin Brady is drafted in for cover.

13/5/01, Terenure 5, Sportslink 2.

I’m down early to mark the pitch, it’s a sunny morning and by 11 o’clock the temperature will be rising in every sense of the word. At 9.25 the expected call from John comes and thankfully he’s OK to start so that’s a good start to the big day.

We’re ready for action very early, there’s not a whole lot I need to say apart from the obvious as regards the ref and our discipline which has been excellent all season. We have our method of playing and it has got us this far, so we won’t change it now. Des points out that with his dodgy ribs he won’t be coming for some crosses if he fears danger to himself, so the usual call will be clear it.

My mood as the game kicks off is very relaxed, but anxious that we start well. There’s a good crowd gradually arriving, parents, wives, girlfriends, ex-players and current players and it’s great to see. I hope we don’t disappoint them.

The first 20 minutes are closely contested and it’s pretty even, Des is called on early to make an excellent save with his feet after we half cleared a corner. At the other end Raftie sends a half chance over the bar and a brilliant volley from a dropping ball by Karl is scrambled away by the keeper for a corner. After about 26 minutes, we get a bit sloppy clearing our lines and Denis stays back playing their fellow onside; he just gets his toe to it and Des just can’t keep it out and we’re behind again. At least we have ¾ of the game left, so my instructions are don’t panic.

We keep the tempo up and Ferg and Bullie are doing well and I feel we won’t be long behind. Sure enough, 5 minutes after their goal following John’s throw, Richie is held in the area and the ref points to the spot. Karl steps up and thumps it confidently to the keepers left and we’re level. For the rest of the first half we have them on the back foot, but we go to half time at 1-1.

We must keep patient, we’re playing OK and keep the discipline, we had started to dominate so I want that to continue. Within a minute of the restart, Des’ kick out is played back into our half and a lovely ball goes between Mark and John. Des advances but the ball is already on its way in for a wonderful finish and 2-1 to Sportslink. We’ve been caught cold but thankfully we’ve 44 minutes to put it right.

We require less than five though as yet another corner is conceded by them on our left. Karl swings it over with his customary class and John rises majestically to power a header into the corner to the keeper’s left. What a time for him to score his first of the season and it means every outfield player has scored this season. The goal gives us the real impetus we needed and a lot of the tension starts to lift and gives way to glorious expectation. We’ve been behind twice today, but as I keep saying this team will just not entertain thoughts of defeat.

I think about changing but everyone is doing fine and giving it 100%, Denis is seeing red today though, he’s not fired up, he’s positively ablaze and after tangling with their keeper, he gets a yellow card. With just over 20 minutes left, the huge crowd who have given us great encouragement is treated to a goal to remember and one which finally broke this dogged Sportslink team.

Des gives it short to Mick and he makes ground on the right before passing it to the always available Ferg. Ferg carries it on a bit and lofts a searching ball down the channel for Richie to chase. Richie gives their man two yards start, but the Limerick Express gets to the ball and whips over a first time cross. Raftie rises and heads the ball back in the direction it came and the keeper is totally stranded as the ball arrows low into the corner. What a goal and I sprint 40 yards to embrace Richie as the touchline roars approval for a truly memorable moment. That goal summed up what this team is capable of and what’s great about this team. Simple football, effective football, football played with purpose and pace and a goal taken with supreme confidence by the Master Goalman Raftie.

3-2 and we’ve finally got our noses in front. Minutes later the league is ours. Richie again does great work on the right channel and it leads to a handball in the box. Karl’s hamstring is flagging but he still takes the ball and elects for less pace than his first peno. He puts it low to the same side and sends the keeper the wrong way for 4-2 after 78 minutes.

That proves to be Karl’s last kick and I bring on Gar for the last 10. A minute later, Mick and Ferg again combine well and Ferg dinks in a lovely cross for Raftie to head in number 5. It’s probably a bit harsh on Sportslink as they’ve really put it up to us but our 3 goals from open play have been superb and difficult to prevent. I call Raftie ashore moments later as I want him to get a personal ovation which his 47 goals for this team has deserved. What a truly incredible strike rate, 47 in 19 games, he only failed to score in one of those 19 matches and he gets the applause he deserves as Brian Cullen replaces him. The last 8 minutes sees us get sloppy and they hit the bar late on as we prepare to hit the bar in a short while. The excellent referee blows for time at 12.40 and it’s hugs and back slapping and shake hands all over the place and a bottle of champers thanks to ex-Terenure stalwart Paul Diffney. A quick celebration photo and we troop back to the dressing room as unbeaten Champions of Division 2A Sunday of Leinster Senior League for 2000/01. For the record the team that clinched the title today was:

Des Victory; Michael Stanley, Mark Hanlon, John Geelon, Denis O’Frighil; Fergal O’Dwyer, Karl Bishop, Declan Brady, Niall McCabe; Richie Lombard, Ciaran Rafter.

Subs: Brian Cullen, Gar O’Grady, Richie O’Loughlin and Kevin Brady.

15/5/01, Manager Summary.

This has been a wonderful season and to win the League obviously is hugely satisfying. To go through the season unbeaten is quite an achievement and I think of the 8 games where we went behind first, yet managed to win or draw. This team never ever gave in, 0-2 away at Seaford to 3-2 up (3-3 finish), 0-2 at home to West End, 2 late goals for 2-2; behind in both crucial Tymon games, won both 3-2 and 5-2

Behind twice in the clinching game, won 5-2. Those results typify the gang of lads I was lucky to have this season and they deserve their medals completely.

My memorable moments of the season are many and I could give a player of the year award to any of the regulars and give a convincing argument as to why he would deserve it. My favourite three goals of the season would be Denis against Club 88, Richie’s second in the 5-2 away Tymon game and Raftie’s first against Sportslink in the clincher. Not far behind is Dec’s screamer against Seaford and how can I forget Mick’s 25 yarder out in Drumcondra or Bullie’s rocket against Pioneers. Great goals, great season, great team. Thanks for this season lads, see you in July for pre-season again.

THE END

 
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