Terenure College A.F.C.

MANAGER’S DIARY OF THE SEASON.

Terenure College AFC, Season 2002/03, Division 2 Sunday.

INRODUCTION

So here goes with Manager’s Diary, Year Three. The positive comments from most (I hope) of the lads prompted me to keep the Diary going so here again are my reflections, hopes and observations from training and most importantly the matches that made up Season 2002/03. I’ll leave my thank you words to the end of this season’s offering and again I hope you enjoy the hour or so it takes to read.

Phelim Warren, 20/4/03.

9/7/02, Pre Pre-Season.

Doesn’t be long in coming around, two more days and our pre-season preparations begin. A lot of us haven’t been idle mind you, since soon after the disappointing Golden Goal defeat in the Cullen Cup semi to Newtown (who went on to beat Tymon Celtic 4-0 as I expected), there’s been plenty of Thursday/Tuesday kickabouts. Early numbers were small but we’ve had 20 or so the last couple of weeks, so that should help those in their bid to get fit for the season.

As hoped, we’ve stayed in Division 2 and from last season we have our annual opponents Black Forge, also from last season we’ll have Alpine Express, Aer Lingus, Meath Rangers, St.Joseph’s Boys, Pegasus and Walkinstown with new opponents in Blackrock College (rivalry there for us past pupils), Clane United, Glenville and Esker Celtic. Apart from Blackrock who we played in a pre-season friendly last season (a farcical 5-4 win, see last season’s diary), I know nothing about the others, but if we get off to a good start, we have every chance of having a real go at this Division.

Having got a few ideas on the FAI Introductory Coaching Course back in May with Fergus, Al Leckey and Brian Cullen, I’m looking forward to trying a few things out and seeing how the lads respond and hopefully improve as players and ultimately as a team. We will have more training equipment as well, so I really am looking forward to this season with a fresh mind and clean slate for team selection. Hopefully our end of season injuries to Mick, Fergal, Karl and Richie Lombard and Al’s end of season hernia will be cleared up and both sides can have the strongest possible squads for the start of the season.

Declan Fitzpatrick makes a very welcome return to the club to manage the 3B team, Declan’s vast experience, knowledge, enthusiasm and devotion to this club will be invaluable and I look forward to working with him. My sincere thanks to his predecessors, Seán Doherty and Fergus Bishop, whose support and patience was of huge help to the progress of the first team over the past three seasons.

See you all Thursday night.

11/7/02 Pre-season training starts

A massive turnout for the opening training session of the season, 27 in all eventually, 21 of whom were ready to go bang on 7.30. It’s amazing the work that can get done when the session starts on time and after the session I got plenty of compliments on the lay out of the session, so from that aspect I’m delighted with tonight and with the response from the lads.

The aim this season is to involve as much ball work within the necessary running and that’s how it pretty much panned out, there will be a quota of physical work to be done, but it won’t be the same as before. It’s great that we have the new equipment and so many footballs, it will help us to achieve what I want to do in training and while I know there’s room for improvement on the structure and operation of the session, like I said it was a very good first night back. I can think of at least 10 people who are due back, so very encouraging numbers wise.

18/7/02, training

Having had 30 on Tuesday, we’d a similar amount tonight and again there were few latecomers, so the response has been great in the three sessions. Sadly Ross Griffin broke an ankle on Tuesday, hopefully not a sign of another injury plagued season. The only members of last season’s first team panel yet to be down are Fergal, Ger and Darren. Darren will be down next week, not sure what the story is with the others.

We finalised a friendly this night week v CYM in Bushy as our posts are still gone. I should have a strong team, though Mick Stanley is away next week, but with Anto having done all three sessions to date, he’s a likely starter. So far so good.

25/7/02, friendly match, Terenure College 2, CYM Terenure 5

A warm, sunny evening for our first workout of the season and though we’ve been beaten, I’m overall pleased enough with our efforts tonight. The result is probably a bit hard on us but the object was to give them a decent game and we did that.

We started well and took the lead after 10 minutes, Dave Flood’s free from inside our own half was misjudged by their centre half and Raftie ran on to lift the ball over the keeper for a good finish. Richie Lombard in his old wide right role started tremendously well with his direct running and was giving the left full a torrid start and Dec Brady was also impressive in the opening half.

They equalised when we gave their lad too much space to turn inside the box. His shot would surely have been saved by Jerzy, but it took a wicked bounce off the ground and totally fooled him. Young Jerzy handled very well and was vocal and commanding in this half and I was delighted with him. CY took the lead after about 25 minutes with a nice move which was cooly finished.

We bounced back well though and twice from corners from Denis on the right we should have equalised. Dec headed over and Raftie shot wide both from close in. So 1-2 at the break.

We began the 2nd half strongly again and after Richie won a free on the right, Karl floated it in nicely and Raftie bulleted a header into the far corner. I made three early changes as promised, Colm slotted in well to left back, Richie O’Loughlin to right back and Kev Brady replaced his brother beside Karl.

From the hour mark however, we started to get a bit sloppy and twice we were punished for giving the ball away 25-30 yards from goal, so they went 4-2 up and I was a bit annoyed at our carelessness there. We kept battling though but some of us tired appreciably with the exception maybe of Denis and Richie Lombard who looked fit and strong. I was pleased with Denis up front, he kept showing well and kept his patience, but we didn’t play it into him enough and our over-reliance on the long one to Raftie didn’t come to much.

With about five left, we left a player unmarked at a corner and he finished it very well for a 5-2 result. They deserved it fully, but we kept trying and it was good for the likes of Karl and Richie Lombard to get 90 minutes under their belt and for the whole team this 90 minutes will help towards attaining better fitness. So all in all not too disappointed and delighted with the performance of Alex Wilson in goal, he made two or three excellent second half saves to go with his first half composure. Impressive from young Jerzy.

30/7/02, training.

Another great turnout, 29 eventually, including first shows from the O’Dwyer brothers, which was a relief to see. After a brisk warm up, Dec Fitz put us through some hard but very necessary running. Our fitness was found out last Thursday against CY, so we needed it and to be fair, no one slackened and everyone seemed to be honest. Seconds have a friendly on Thursday in Bushy and I’m hoping to get a game Sunday week, if we have a keeper to call on. Jerzy will be back, but I’m not sure if it’s too soon for Al and he’s not back yet from holidays. No injuries to report touch wood from the training, I’m pleased the way we’re looking so far.

1/8/02, training.

With the 2nds playing Dunedin Woodlands in Bushy in a friendly, we’d only 11 to train tonight and for the last half hour or more it absolutely poured down, but we’d a good enough session, without killing ourselves with running. 2nds won their friendly 3-2 with goals from Dec Dolan and a double from Colm Costello. Dec Fitz said he was happy with the result and performance and attitude from everyone, albeit with plenty of room for improvement and food for thought.

6/8/02, training

Tonight I decided to split the squads after the warm up and physicals. Dec Fitz gave them an excellent 20 minutes or so of hard running and to be fair, everyone is really putting it in well. I want to devote one night a week to my own squad to work on our teamwork and developing our possession and passing and it wasn’t a bad start from that point of view. I believe this will help both squads develop as after all the more you play with your team-mates, it can only improve the overall effectiveness of the team. There’s plenty of room for improvement in our ability to pass and keep the ball and that’s what I’ll be concentrating on for the next few weeks.

I hope to organise a game for Sunday or next midweek as the lads are really buzzing and a game prior to the League will be ideal. Good news also that Al Leckey trained well and he should be fine by League kick-off time, if maybe a little short of sharpness. A month into training and apart from the unfortunate Ross Griffin, we’ve had no injuries and long may it continue that way.

13/8/02, training

The quality of work from the lads tonight was highly impressive, particularly the 5v5 possession exercise we did for about 20 minutes. A game can’t come quickly enough, but our league campaign kicks off this night two weeks away to St. Joseph’s Boys where we won twice last season. It will be a testing start and they should have two games under their belt when they play us, but once we go there with our strongest possible squad, I’d be confident of doing well, though Raftie will miss out as he’ll be on holiday.

We were to have a game with Terenure VEC on Thursday, but someone in their club decided the match would not go ahead which was disappointing. I can’t seem to get any games with anyone and it’s frustrating because the lads are really flying, so it looks like our next game will be our League opener. The 3B side kick off their League on Sunday away to Lucan United. Everyone’s trained really well and I’m hopeful that Dec’s team can get off to a flyer.

18/8/02 The Leagues Commence

Our first opponents, St. Joseph’s Boys kicked off their season with a 2-1 win over Pegasus so we’ll have to be wary of that Tuesday week. Elsewhere, Walkinstown and Meath Rangers played out a local derby of epic proportions, a 6-6 draw and I mosied down to Brickfields to watch Black Forge and Glenville play out a drab scoreless draw. Forge were as I expected them to be and my motive was to see Glenville in action and I left with my fingernails unbitten. Nothing of note to fear from either side, but of the two I’d expect Glenville to do better than Forge.

In Div 3B, Dec’s team got off to a decent enough start, drawing 2-2 away to Lucan, by all accounts the draw was as good as they could have hoped for, coming from behind twice with Raftie scoring the goals. So a reasonable beginning and something to build on in their second game on Sunday next away to Ballyogan.

22/8/02, training

We’ve put in another excellent 90 minutes or so, the five v five from halfway line on the pitch was very impressive. For Tuesday’s opening league game, Richie Lombard misses out with a recurrence of his knee problem and Mick Stanley’s abroad on business, but Raftie’s available after all, so we’ve a strong XI to take to Tivoli Terrace.

27/8/02, league game, St. Joseph’s Boys 1, Terenure College 1

Difficult to describe or sum up tonight’s opening stalemate, but it has to be said that our lack of matches was apparent tonight. While our fitness was excellent, we got very sloppy at times, giving the ball away needlessly especially in the first half and falling down with our final ball or finish and I’d put that down to match sharpness.

It was a game we had firm control over in general, but Joey’s to their credit stuck to the task and I think a draw was about right.

We opened brightly enough and some brilliant play down the right by Denis saw Kieran Murray’s far post volley saved and scrambled away. Defensively they were humping in a lot of hopeful stuff but Sparky was mopping up easily and Floodsie calmness personified beside him. Bully and Darren at full backs were strong and tidy and supported the midfield wide men very well.

We got the opener on 18 minutes, more excellent play from Denis saw him dink one down the left channel for Raftie who turned and crossed right footed. Fergal had taken up a great position and the ball broke nicely for him and he drilled in a shot from 8 yards. We never really built on that goal and as I said, possession was being given away too cheaply and I wanted that rectified as we spoke at half time 1-0 up.

Our passing did improve for a time, but we’d follow five good minutes with 10 ordinary, though we should have gone two up after an hour when Ferg found Raftie with a delicious pass, but the ball bobbled and Raftie’s effort was wide. He also went close after a great move involving Denis, Fergal and Bullie and the second would have killed them off. But not long after our chances, they carved us open and missed the best chance of the game. Despite Bullie’s shout that this was a wake up call, we didn’t heed it and they got a free just outside the box after 70 minutes. It was chipped forward quickly and with the defence in disarray, we allowed the ball to hop twice and their fellow poked home a dreadful equaliser from our point of view and I was pretty browned off seeing us concede such a soft goal.

We were on the rack for the next 10 minutes, but to be fair we dug in well and defended well and we definitely finished the stronger. Karl had a couple of shots which sadly always fell to his left foot and Denis had a great chance to pick out Raftie in the last minute but the keeper smothered the pass.

So a point to start with, we never sparked and with quiet games from Karl and Kieran, we relied too much on Fergal, who thankfully showed some real brilliance and is a good sign that he can reproduce the form of the League winning season of two years ago. I believe we will play a lot better in our next two games on Sunday against Glenville and Tuesday against Walkinstown, both away.

1/9/02, league game, Glenville 4, Terenure College 2

Well we’ve really shot ourselves in both feet today with the goals we gifted to Glenville. While one would probably say ah excuses, excuses, I would point to four one on ones we messed up today, two by Raftie and one each from Fergal and Karl and the fact that I overheard their manager saying we were the best team they’ve faced in their four games to date. So really it’s the type of game we should not be losing and it reminds me of the 2-5 reverse to Walkinstown last season.

We began really well again and were ahead in 8 minutes. A lovely ball by Karl found Denis in the inside right channel and from outside the box Denis lofted a wonderful shot into the far corner which the keeper never smelt. We were well in control but on 25 minutes we were caught badly following a free in a good position for us. Mark took the free but they cleared it and from there, first Darren and then Floodsie dived into tackles leaving their player clear and he easily scored past an exposed Al.

Worse was to follow after about 40 minutes, Al’s hurried clearance into touch saw an unchallenged player run unopposed to 25 yards out; his shot crashed onto the bar but the rebound was headed home by another unopposed Glenville player and from being comfortable 1-0 up, we were 2-1 down going into the break.

I sensed some frustration from some of us and we needed to stop lumping balls in to their defence. Glenville are a big team and they were easily winning the aerial battle and we needed to get Karl, Fergal and Kieran on the ball better. We did start the second half on the up but within five minutes Al rashly rushed to the edge of the box and was rounded by their player. He frantically rushed back but our defence couldn’t get to the breakdown either and a simple finish to an unguarded net saw us 1-3 down. I brought off a disappointing Kieran and quiet Dec and on came Mick and Red Richie. Mick immediately welcomed his opponent with a scything challenge from behind and received a yellow soon after following another tackle on the same player, though Mick would’ve been damaged had he not gone in fully as he did, so I wasn’t as bothered by the tackle as Glenville were.

With 65 minutes gone the almost non-existent touchline caught Mick out and we conceded a soft throw. A clear push in the back wasn’t spotted by ref John Caulwell and again as the ball came across the box Al couldn’t collect and our defence dithered and another absolutely terrible goal resulted and game more or less over.

We kept trying and made some good situations, Ferg got through on his one on one but elected to square it and Raftie unbelievably had strayed offside and his goal was chalked off. I was livid with the ref but to be fair, Ferg reckoned Raftie did go offside, but as Ferg also said he should have buried it himself. Karl’s free from outside the box was fumbled into the goal by their keeper on 82 for 2-4 and minutes later Karl got through for his one v one, but he scuffed his shot and the keeper scrambled it clear.

So a really disappointing result and we had a chat back in the College about where things went wrong and what we propose to do about them. I wasn’t going to have a go at them as it’s so seldom we’ve had that kind of performance and we never gave up, but I hope what we did address will see some improvements in Tuesday’s game in Walkinstown. It’s a game we simply must win if we’re to challenge for honours.

3/9/02, league game, Walkinstown 3, Terenure College 1

The lads are very dejected tonight, to a man this defeat tonight has hurt them and it’s frustrating for me that they’re down. It’s a game that could again have gone our way as it was 1-1 after an hour with us on top but the second goal for them on the break really knocked the stuffing out of us and we didn’t create much after that.

We began as we said we would, passing it better, with greater urgency and purpose and I was hopeful we’d get in front. But after Dave had twice looked shaky under long balls, he was left badly exposed after an attack by us broke down. Their lad got in a shot which Al parried but it struck Mick and went in, Al said it would have gone out for a corner only for hitting Mick and it summed up the goals we’ve been giving away.

But we didn’t buckle and Karl was winning a lot of ball for himself and driving us forward. Denis was unlucky with a volley following a corner and Bullie intercepted a loose pass to charge through, but with the keeper to beat he screwed it wide of the left post and he was mad with himself. But he made amends after 39 minutes when after exchanging passes with Sparky, he threaded a lovely ball through and Raftie poked home his first of the season for a deserved equaliser for us.

At half time I was really upbeat as we’d finished the half on the up with some aggression in our play but we badly needed the next goal. Denis again went close with a fine left footed shot just dipping over the bar and Fergal continued his excellent early season form with probing runs and intelligent passing and great competing.

But again a promising position for us broke down after Sparky gave a loose pass and we were suddenly outnumbered. The through pass saw Al come, then hesitate and that proved costly as the forward just got there ahead of Al and like Raftie in the first half, poked home from the edge of the box. I was hopping mad and the lads visibly sick, but while we kept battling, it was more huffing and puffing at this stage. Raftie was withdrawn after 70 minutes or so, but Kieran didn’t get into the game the way I hoped he might and Walkinstown made it 3-1 on 83 minutes. A ball into the box was headed goalwards, Al could only parry and as usual lately, it fell to the feet of an opponent who scored from the rebound.

So a third game without a win and like I said a lot of dejected players afterwards. Our fitness is fine, our commitment without question, but we’re passing it poorly and too hastily; we’re not defending properly from the front, through midfield or in defence itself and I just hope I can keep the doubts at bay that seem to be creeping in. Pegasus are next away on Sunday and I still believe we can kick start our season in that one even though I will be down Floodsie and Fergal, both away. We don’t have a divine right to win always and football has a habit of kicking you when you’re down, but we won’t feel sorry for ourselves, I’m confident we cant turn it around.

8/9/02, league game, Pegasus 3, Terenure College 6

A fully deserved win for us today, the three goal margin certainly doesn’t flatter us and it was a decent performance with some excellent goals, even if we did get a bit sloppy again for the last 15 minutes.

It was decided that Dec would stay deeper than normal in front of the back four to give us extra protection there and as usual as the game wore on, Dec carried out his task to perfection as his covering, tackling and aerial power broke up a lot of Pegasus play.

But we got off to a bad start, a long ball down our right flank saw the ball glance Sparkie’s head and their winger was in and shot past Al from a tight angle. It took us a fair while to settle and the first 15 minutes we didn’t get much of a look in. It took a good effort from Denis from 20 yards to get us going and for the last 25 minutes of the half we dominated. The increasingly influential Denis was blatantly taken out of it by the Pegasus keeper after he rounded him and only Brendan Coughlan knows why he didn’t award what was a cast-iron penalty. Denis got a yellow for his justified protestations.

After 38 minutes our pressure finally told. Raftie took a quick throw on the right and after Denis challenged the ball bounced eight yards out and Kieran Murray steamed in and headed in very well for a deserved equaliser. Minutes later a left footed rocket from Denis smacked the bar and when the ball came in again, Raftie set up Bullie whose screamer was tipped over by Pegs’ keeper. A brilliant save. From the resultant corner on the right, Karl’s delivery was met by a free header from Raftie and we were ahead. We were rampant now and our third goal in five minutes again involved Denis, whose short square pass was buried low into the corner from 25 yards by Karl for a lovely goal.

So we came in for half time very pleased with ourselves and I was delighted with the patience of the lads after going behind so early. We’d murdered them last 15 and we set about them second half in a similar vein. Kieran’s goal lifted his level of performance greatly and our shape was a huge improvement on our two recent defeats. 52 minutes in and we made it 4-1. Great tracking back by Kieran saw him regain possession on half way and Mick found himself clear on the left hand side. He cut in and switched the ball to his right foot and he floated a lovely cross right on to Raftie’s nut and his header gave their keeper no chance. Great goal.

Red Richie came off soon after and Anto went in at right back and shortly afterwards, we finally sealed the points. Denis (again) showed great awareness to set up a rampaging Darren inside the box and Darren’s shot was parried out to Raftie who shot high to the net for his hat trick. Karl came off as his knee was a bit dodgy and I made my first appearance of the season.

As we took our foot off the pedal, we gave away a couple of bad goals as we started to try get a bit too clever, but there was no way back for Pegasus. Right on full time a corner from Man of the Match Denis was headed in from 6 yards by Mick and a final score of 6-3. So with the defeats out of our system, it was nice to be able to see some of what we know we’re capable of, even if we did get sloppy near the end. We’re up and running again now and with Raftie’s hat trick, as he said himself, normal service had been resumed. So I’m happy with today and bloody relieved. We’re back, hopefully.

15/9/02, Leinster Junior Cup, Blackrock College 4, Terenure College 3

At least we haven’t lost three points today as we continued to give away stupid goals with basic errors and it’s doing my head in right now.

Barely five minutes had elapsed when Al elected to stay on his line for a cross which was scrambled away for a throw. From the throw we allowed them in too easily out wide and a cross to the far post was headed in unchallenged. So already we’re chasing a game.

We don’t wait long for the equaliser as Karl lofts a ball down the middle which Raftie does really well to get to, his lob strikes the bar but he backheels the rebound to Denis and Den drills his shot high into the net from 10 yards for a well worked equaliser.

We’re the better team as the half wears on without creating a huge amount, but near half time Fergal gives away a needless free with their defender under pressure. The free is hoisted in and neither Mark nor Mick can deal with the situation and their lad runs in unchallenged to leave Al helpless and I’m fuming with our inability to get bread and butter stuff right. With one or two negative comments coming off the pitch at half-time I snap and after a couple of ranting minutes I calm down to tell the lads to keep patient, we’ve made better use of possession on a lively pitch, but we have to stop the moaning with each other and defend properly.

There’s little one can do however, when you’re on the wrong end of a dreadful refereeing call, as their player’s call of “Leave it” was ignored by the ref and with Al off his line, the 25 yard shot ended up in the far corner. We’re rightly furious as Mick had been blown up in the first half for a similar call, so we’ve a real mountain to climb now at 1-3.

Blackrock are then on the end of a really poor decision to even things up as a very harsh second yellow for one of their players sees them down to 10 men, but we lose Darren injured soon after and I replace him at left back.

We’re still not really firing though but with 20 minutes left, a great ball from Bullie to the far post is killed in an instant by Denis and he shoots low left footed for a great goal and 2-3 with plenty of time to go.

Shortly after however, I fail to deal with a harmless ball lobbed in and when the ball comes back in again, Mark’s head gets in the way and leaves Al wrong footed for an embarrassing own goal that sums up our defensive woes in almost every game this season. Gary Copeland comes on for Dec and I move into midfield to accommodate Gary.

With seven minutes left, Karl is pulled in the area, but his peno is too close to the keeper who saves to his left, but we keep trying without playing the way we know we can and with four to go, Gary’s clever through ball frees Karl whose shot is blocked but Denis follows up to score a superb hat trick, what a season he’s having so far and it’s a shame he finishes on the losing side. Denis has been head and shoulders above anyone in the team so far this season in terms of performance and attitude and it’s a shame the rest of us aren’t matching him.

So time runs out despite some more hairy defending referred rightly by the injured Darren on the touchline as like something out of Disneyland. It would be funny if it wasn’t so bloody true and we’re out of the LJC at the first hurdle 4-3.

Like I say, these goals are doing my head in and too many of us are making elementary errors giving us mountains to climb. Jerzy’s performance today for the 2nds and Al’s apparent lack of confidence has persuaded me to give Jerzy his chance in the next game we play, it probably sounds a bit harsh on Al but sometimes harsh decisions have to be made and I believe this is one decision that I need to make. After last week’s decent win, we’re back to square one form-wise, but like I said at the start, at least we haven’t lost points.

29/9/02, league game, Alpine Express 3, Terenure College 2

Our poor start to the season continues with a desperately disappointing second half display which saw us meekly surrender a 2-1 half time lead and in the end we got what we deserved, nothing.

Jerzy came in for his first appearance in goal for the first team following an impressive last few outings for the 3B side and with Floodsie in at left back, Mick continued beside Mark in the centre with Richie coming in at right back. We started well and went in front on five minutes. Jerzy’s kick out was headed on by Dec, Denis collected, turned and freed Kieran Murray with a great ball. Kieran skated down the left and his cross was met with a stooping header from Raftie to put us 1 up. Couldn’t ask for a better start.

We were unable to hold the lead sufficiently long enough to build on it as our offside ploy failed and their player rounded Jerzy easily to equalise on 13 minutes. They then got a succession of corners, a lot given needlessly enough away. Though they didn’t really threaten given the amount of corners, Jerzy did make a flying save from a header from one of the corners and apart from a couple of hairy moments of his own doing, Jerzy had a decent enough debut.

After 20 minutes, Denis again did well and his lob forward was a bit long for Raftie, but Raftie hunted down the centre half and robbed him on the edge of the box, he ran on and beat the keeper easily right footed and we were 2-1 up. We played some decent stuff between then and half time, Bullie shot into the side netting after he showed great determination to battle through and Denis also found the same side net from a difficult angle after getting round the keeper. So I was happy enough at the break.

The second half started poorly for us and got worse as a catalogue of inaccurate passes, indecisive offside calls and lack of midfield competitiveness gave the momentum to Alpine. Karl was struggling badly following his bout of bronchitis and very few of us came out of the second half with any credit. After we failed to compete high up the pitch on a long ball, they broke down our right and when the ball was played across, their lad hit a rocket from 16 yards giving Jerzy no chance for 2-2. Minutes later it was three, more non existent tackles down the other side and their winger got ahead of Kieran to score easily after an hour. I withdrew Karl (he probably shouldn’t have played) and Ken Carney came in for his debut and to be fair Ken did quite well in the half hour he played. Sadly we created so little, it was a difficult situation for him to come into. Our one chance came after 80 minutes, Denis found Raftie who swivelled well and shot but the keeper saved well to his right and the game petered out as we lost again.

I’m at a loss to explain what’s happened this season so far, a combination of too many players not finding any form, basic passing, defending and competing are completely absent in our play and there’s also a lot of bitchiness on the pitch lately when things aren’t going right, so we’ve a lot to address in the coming week’s training. While I don’t like making wholesale changes, my patience is wearing thin and if we’re not careful we’ll be down amongst the also-rans. There’s just no excuses today, simple as that.

6/10/02, league game, Clane Utd. 0, Terenure College 1

No prizes for guessing this was our best performance of a troubled enough season and though they had more possession, it was a tribute to our defensive display and our competitiveness and solidity all round the pitch that Jerzy didn’t have a save of note to make in the game.

We spoke beforehand and during the week at training that our tackling and general competing has been pretty much non-existent and there was a huge improvement in that today which gave Clane notice that we weren’t going to be pushed or bullied around. This aggression gave us what proved to be the winning goal after only 8 minutes as pressure on their back four outside the box led to Bullie sprinting into the box and his shot was only half saved and the ball ran kindly for Kieran Murray who poked home right footed from 7 yards.

A great start and we were playing quite nicely in the opening 20 minutes as Clane got rattled and started to try to ref the match, the number two never shut up at the ref as did a few of them. We only had one real scare near half time when a fellow got behind Mick; Mick claimed he got a shove but your man still should have scored, but dinked it over the bar.

I was concerned however at our sloppy passing that crept in towards half time, it was coming back too quickly at us and I was afraid of the pressure it was putting the back four under, but our back four was really excellent as a unit today and our concentration at set-pieces admirable.

We created some very good situations ourselves out wide, Raftie and Kieran both put in great balls across the goalmouth but no one was there to apply the killer touch. Across midfield, Karl got through a mountain of work and Dec was back to his swashbuckling best and he really broke the heart of his midfield opponent and this commitment spread to all eleven players. Ken Carney toiled well up front for 75 minutes, replaced by young Steve Jordan who has impressed in training, so it’s good that a couple of players are emerging to put pressure on the established lads.

The ref in his wisdom added a few more grey hairs to my head by playing five minutes of injury time, where he got them I don’t know, but we defended with our lives in the injury time corners and the lads were delighted at the final whistle and I’m really pleased for them. Nothing much has gone right up to today and we showed signs today that we can have a say in this League. While I wouldn’t get carried away with the win, I have to say I had a feeling of a job well done by everyone today as I had a nice few afternoon pints in the Morgue. Our next two games sees us at home for the first time this season, so we must follow up today with two wins. But today’s a good scalp.

13/10/02, league game, Terenure College 8, Meath Rangers 1

Our first home league game of the season and our wonderful record in the College continues, with a seven goal hammering of an eventually dispirited Meath side.

Our left side from last week’s good win in Clane was missing, with Darren working and Kieran away, so I went in to left back and Fergal slotted in for Kieran.

I was heartened by Meath Rangers only turning up when we were running out to warm up and I was confident of a good start. We should have got that when great pressure by Bullie saw him clear, he squared it to Fergal who played in Raftie to finish, but the ref called it back for a very poor and incorrect offside decision.

After about 15 minutes, we did get ahead, Karl volleyed into the area and Raftie rose to head over the keeper. Five minutes later Mick’s throw well up in their half was collected by Karl and he went down in the box under an awkward challenge and the ref pointed immediately to the spot. Karl picked himself up and made no mistake with the peno to put us 2-0 up and in control.

We reverted to clumsy and sloppy play as the half wore on and they got a goal back on 25 after a series of passes their bloke easily beat Jerzy. Just before half time, I got caught in possession just outside the box and when their winger squared it, they were queuing up, but from 8 yards out their fella screwed wide and my sigh of relief was palpable. I was pleased to hear the half time whistle soon after.

At half time, I was anxious that we cut out the growing impatience of a few of us as I didn’t want the bitching back and we also needed to pass the ball an awful lot better. First 20 we’d done fine, so we had to get that back. From the kick off for the second half, Mick sent a searching ball up the right and Denis did well to win a corner; Floodsie mis-hit the corner to the near post, but Raftie’s big right peg walloped the ball into the back of the net for a great start to the second half and a 3-1 lead.

Our confidence lifted, we played far better stuff, with Karl getting better as the game wore on and Fergal and Bullie getting better service. 55 minutes in, a moment to remember for Ciarán Rafter and all concerned with Terenure College AFC. A long ball over their defence, Raftie ran on to round the keeper as so many times before and he slotted into an empty net for a 4-1 lead and his 500th goal for the club. This is truly an incredible achievement for Ciarán, to reach that milestone is amazing at any level of football, he has done it in 18 seasons and I can’t praise Raftie highly enough. Well done Big Fella. He seemed a bit overcome as he loped back to the centre circle with another hat-trick to his name.

Still we didn’t take our foot off the pedal and after 62 minutes, they finally threw in the towel after our 5th goal. Karl dinked the ball forward, Raftie headed on and Sparky ran in to challenge the keeper. The keeper spilled the ball and the grateful Sparky slid in number 5.

I immediately knew we were safe and told subs Ken and Steve to warm up. Within another minute we got a free outside the box. Mick’s effort was blocked but the ref ordered a retake and Raftie put the ball down and drilled it low into the far corner to make it 6-1 and 501 goals. As we trotted back, I withdrew the Big Fella and Karl as well to give the young lads a decent run.

Number seven arrived after 70 minutes. Good work from Ken and Bullie saw Fergal’s shot tipped onto the bar and over. Denis quickly played the corner to Mick and Mick’s deep cross was headed down by Sparky and Bullie drilled in his first of the season from 10 yards. Minutes later, Bull was hacked down on halfway and their fellow got his second yellow. Bullie was understandably annoyed at the foul and verbals and some pushing led to Bullie being booked. Their number 4 joined in and pushed his head into Bullie’s face with the ref yards away. Bullie again was furious at this action and followed the four to confront him. Though Bull did nothing further, the ref rightly sent off their number 4, but decided to give Bull a second yellow for not walking away and Bull was off. I think it was a case of the ref deciding he couldn’t send two of theirs off and none of us, but it was harsh on Bullie.

Anyway, it calmed down a bit except for a few more hacks on Fergal who took a lot of stick today. Steve struck a post and after the ball was cleared, Dec slammed a 20 yarder off the underside of the bar. Right on full time, good play from Ferg and Dec led to Dec’s cross on the right headed in by Denis from 7 yards for an 8-1 win.

So a good display today, it was nice to get some goals too and five different scorers is important. Personally, I was pleased with my 90 minutes work and I’d plenty of gas in the tank. With Darren and Kieran back for next week, I’ll have my strongest squad of the season to choose from unless there’s any injuries from today. Results elsewhere went well with both Joey’s and Walkinstown losing, so we’re back in the race now and I hope we can keep our momentum going, though we can still play an awful lot better despite today’s excellent result.

20/10/02, league game, Terenure College 2, Esker Celtic 4

Back to square one today as Esker won their first league game at the eighth attempt in what was a very poor performance from us.

After last week’s big win over Meath, I kept an unchanged eleven with Gary Smith joining Steve, Ken and the returning Kieran on the subs. Conditions started badly with rain and wind and they got progressively worse as the game wore on.

I’m not superstitious, but when they won the toss and elected to play towards the lake, I felt uneasy, it’s the first time in a couple of years we’ve played away from the lake goal, but we got off to a good start and Raftie put us ahead within 15 minutes. Floodsie’s lofted long ball down the right found Bullie and his run and near post cross was steered over the keeper’s head by Raftie for an excellent goal. We failed to build on it as the increasing breeze kept us pinned in our own half.

We conceded a sloppy equaliser not long after the opener and we were having problems all over the pitch in our possession, passing and reactions to danger. But we had a golden opportunity to re-take the lead after about half an hour; more good work from Bullie made the chance and when Raftie couldn’t convert, the ball ran free for Ferg and it looked like he must score, but the keeper saved well and from the rebound they handled and we had a peno. Karl struck it high but wide to the keeper’s left so it remained 1-1.

Minutes later disaster for Jerzy. A long hopeful punt downfield and Jerzy dashed outside the box, but his mishit clearance went straight to an Esker player who rolled the ball into the empty net; I felt for the young lad as kicking is one of his strong points, but it happens the best of them. We were lucky to escape right on half time, when their lad ran through but the post kept us in the game 1-2 at half time.

I felt hopeful we could retrieve the game with the elements in our favour, but our plans for the second half went down the jacks within a minute of the restart. Sparky passed the ball back to Jerzy on the six yard box, but amazingly he mishit the clearance again and the Esker player ran in and scored to put us 1-3 behind. I couldn’t believe it and poor Jerzy was distraught. I waited five more minutes and took myself off and got Clane matchwinner Kieran on, with Bully moving to left back.

We were unable to play with any rhythm or cohesion and I can’t remember a decent chance until the last 15 minutes. They added a fourth when we failed to clear a free-kick and Jerzy was beaten from 20 yards by a rocket of a shot. I’d earlier introduced Ken for an out of sorts Denis (though I could have taken many of us off) and I gave Gary Smith his debut with 20 left for Dec.

Gary did very well for his 20 minutes, showing keenly for the ball and using it well when he got it and was most unlucky to hit the post from 15 yards after good play with Ken. Ken also was foiled near the end by the keeper, but Esker held on easily for a deserved 4-2 win (Sparky’s 45 yard free deceived the keeper with the gale force wind for our second goal).

There wasn’t a word afterwards from the unfortunate Jerzy and though his misfortune led to goals, our performance (Bully and Gary excepted) was very very poor and I reckon we’d have lost despite the soft goals. Maybe we were a bit cocky after our win last week and certainly Esker had greater hunger than we did and their third goal really lifted them even more. We never got to grips with the conditions and we completely wasted the wind advantage in the second half. I need to give some serious thought to my next starting eleven.

3/11/02, league game, Terenure College 1, Blackrock College 2

With last weekend being a bank holiday, this week afforded us a chance to get the Esker game out of our system and while Tuesday’s postponement of training did cause a bit of disruption in our preparation, I still had named a very strong eleven and expected a bold showing.

The day started badly with Karl calling me at 8.30 this morning to withdraw due to a back problem which was causing him grief at training on Thursday, so Dec Brady got the nod having been left out originally to accommodate Gary Smith’s full debut.

The pitch stood up remarkably well to yesterday’s downpour and we elected to play towards the Templeogue Road goal as the gale was blowing more towards there.

We made a decent enough start, Dec was fired up to hang onto his place and Gary started well, using the ball well and sensibly. Bullie and Kieran on the wings were lively and Bullie was unlucky that his great cross just evaded Raftie. Similarly, Mick put in a terrific cross again which just eluded the Goal King, but I was happy with our start.

Sadly, self destruct happened on 24 minutes arrived when a harmless enough cross squirmed under Jerzy with Mick having called to clear it, and when the ball went free, the Rock forward had an empty goal at his mercy. My frustration was there for all to see, we just concede stupid goal after stupid goal almost every feckin week, giving us mountains to climb.

We finished the half the better side, with Denis going close following great link up with Gary and Kieran, but we still went in at half time behind to that appalling goal.

The second half began well again for us, we were passing it better and Darren and Kieran doing the business down the left, one great move saw Denis release the flying Spur, but his great cross was just glanced wide of the far post by Raftie. I sensed we’d get at least a point out of it as we were competing very well and looking solid enough at the back, though Jerzy did have one great save to make and Darren made two quick saving headers as the game moved to the last quarter.

After 78 minutes though we were a bit slow to compete on our left at a throw in and they worked the ball well and the ball was crossed to an unmarked man at the far post who beat Jerzy easily and 0-2 down. I’d withdrawn Gary for Fergal minutes before and Mick came off after 85 for me to replace him.

We continued to try for a goal and after Kieran got upended on the edge of the box, Raftie planted the ball low into the corner to give us something to chase for the last four minutes, but Bullie’s shot over apart, it was more desperation stuff and Rock ran out 2-1 winners.

This was a frustrating result as I felt we deserved at least a point from the game, but our superior possession wasn’t used as well as it should have been and at times again mouthing at each other was creeping in. As Manager I’ve got to stamp out this bitching once and for all even though I’m repeating myself before every game not for us to do it, players’ frustrations are getting the better of them and it isn’t helping our cause when we’re behind.

Denis is frustrated that we’re not “playing smart”, for all our possession from the back and decent build up, our final ball is too often hopeful and without decent penetration and our crossing from good positions letting us down too often, so that’s something I’ll have to address in training this week and next. We’ve no game next weekend as it’s Bullie’s stag weekend in Amsterdam, so assuming we get back in almost one piece from that, I’ll probably write a censored few lines about Amsterdam when I get back. If nothing else we can forget about the bad results and go completely mental for a few days. Let the shenanigans commence.

8/11/02, trip to Amsterdam for Stag Weekend for Bullie

“Where is this madness going to end?” – Richie O’ Loughlin to Fergus surveying the chaos and carnage on Saturday afternoon in O’Reilly’s Pub in Amsterdam.

“Get that monstrosity off the stage” – Dec Brady in Moulin Rouge

“Powerslam” – Quiet Man Dec Brady again

“This place is surreal” –Clank sums up Amsterdam

“You just couldn’t write this stuff” – Fergus Bishop

“Cunny Kenningham” - Jerzy

Just some of the memorable quotes on a weekend of utter insanity for the 19 blokes who took in the dubious delights of Amsterdam. 13 of us represented the club, the main man Bullie, best man Donal, plus Floodsie, Karl, Gus, Gar, Ger Breen, Richie, Denis, Dec, Jerzy, Clank and myself with six additions, Sledge, Andy Mc, James, Gaff and brothers Andy and Ger Hayes.

Everyone gelled into a potent group who terrorised barstaff, locals and talked shi*e for the most part from the time we arrived at the airport on the Friday morning to the time the last stragglers left on Monday. Other memorable moments/sights were Dec Brady’s Christopher Reeve impression; Gussies “encounter” with a very unfortunate cleaning lady and turned into song by Gussie to the tune of “Hey Baby, ooh aah etc; Breen pogoing up and down stairs in O’Reillys; Breen (again) screaming “G’Day G’Day G’Day” all over O’Reillys after Ireland’s great rugby win over Australia; Jerzy going spare with United’s drubbing by City; Denis ghosting in and out of the groups all weekend (he’d give Duffer a run for his money sleeping); Gar, Karl and Andy failing to find the City Hotel and ending up sleeping in a boat. The list is endless…

I know a lot more memories will spring to mind at different times for everyone of the 19 lads who had the pleasure of joining Bullie on his big weekend. It was a privilege to be part of it and as Gus said, you couldn’t write this stuff. Cheers everyone, I haven’t laughed as much in years.

While we nursed our Sunday morning hangovers, Dec’s 3B side had an excellent 5-1 win over Kinvara/Ards with two for Alan Sweeney on his debut and Ken Carney scoring his first two goals for the club. Well done lads, two good wins on the spin and great to see so many lads emerging this season. Hopefully Dec’s side can maintain their momentum.

26/11/02, training

Since the weekend in Amsterdam, the miserable wet weather has washed out the last two weekends for us, though Dec’s 3B side played on Sunday and notched up their 3rd successive win with an impressive 4-0 win.

I addressed their form tonight at training, congratulating them on their form, fitness, togetherness, work rate and no little skill and I said they were showing us the way lately and to keep it going. I also mentioned to those who’ve played for me this season that I wasn’t going to wait around any longer for form to improve and that too many of us weren’t fit enough and too many of us were in a comfort zone. With John again unavailable to train this week and Darren only coming back, I’ve decided to give Kevin Brady the centre half spot for Sunday. He was outstanding there at the end of last season for the 3B side and it’s a good game on Sunday to see how he does and I’m confident he’ll do just fine.

There are other players from the 3B side more than knocking on the door and I expected to see an improvement in every sector ahead of the weekend match against Castle Celtic in the Cullen Cup first round. To be fair, we had an excellent session tonight.

1/12/02, Cullen Cup 1st Round, Terenure College 2, Castle Celtic 1

Similar conditions to the Esker defeat with a gale blowing across the pitch, so I stressed before kick off that we’d have to adapt immediately to the elements and dictate early. I also asked us to show greater urgency at set pieces, quickly taken frees, movement for throws and corners and I was confident we would perform well after a good week’s training.

Right from the kick off, Denis’ pass reached Kieran and he charged down the wing and put in a good ball for Raftie who was unlucky to be blocked, so we signalled our intention early. A free for us on halfway was floated beautifully by Karl down the right channel and Gary Smith got beyond the full back and dinked it over the advancing keeper for an excellent goal after about 10 minutes.

I was happy enough with our first half, though were giving away a lot of silly frees and we were being penalised with some awful refereeing as well, but once we kept patient and used our wingers more we’d be fine.

Gary came into his own second half and Kieran on the other wing had his best game of the season and terrible offside decisions from the ref chalked off goals for Dec and Gary. Dec also missed a sitter after I’d got clear of the full back from another quickly taken free by Karl. I squared it to Dec who missed it completely and Raftie should’ve scored when it broke but he missed as well.

With just over ten to go, a cross from their left was headed across goal by Kev and their lad headed easily past Jerzy from close range for a soft goal. I was sorry for Kev as he’d done very well at centre half as I hoped he would. They were still celebrating as we kicked off and Karl found Kieran with a precision pass. Kieran sprinted clear and gave a great square ball across and Denis had made up the ground to score from close range. That goal knocked the stuffing out of them, though Jerzy still had to make an excellent flying save from a free, one of dozens given by a ref who had a dreadful game.

We held out comfortably enough and I was pleased with the 2-1 win. The gale made it very difficult to play decent football but we did as best we could and our work rate and commitment and attitude was spot on today. Hopefully we can finish the year with a bit of momentum.

8/12/02, league game, Meath Rangers 1, Terenure College 1

This feels like a defeat today, not just because we beat these 8-1 earlier in the season but for the hatful of chances we squandered today. We should easily have repeated the margin of the last victory but it was one of the days when we just refused to take chances.

The same eleven that finished as last week started with John Geelon making a welcome return to the bench and Will Kearney making 13th man; Karl’s back injury had failed to recover so Fergal started in centre midfield. Ferg’s through pass after 5 minutes put Raftie clear but his lob just cleared the bar and Raftie said afterwards if that’d have gone in, he’d have taken the other chances that came his way. Indeed Raftie had two or three more that he normally would’ve taken with his eyes closed and Gary Smith knows he should have done better when sent clear. At the other end Jerzy was a virtual spectator as we played all the football and dominated.

Right on half-time their plight was made more difficult after their number 6 got a ticking off from the ref. The player then spat right in front of the ref as he finished the few words and an instant red was produced. Stupid plonker, I’d have sent him off as well, it was so un-necessary. So we trudged in at half-time scoreless but I was happy enough with our general play if not our finshing.

The second half continued as the first, they defended in numbers as Kieran Murray and Floodsie ran riot down the left, but more misses from Raftie, Denis, Dec and poor final balls were frustrating me big time. Jerzy continued to spectate from the other end, freezing his nuts off no doubt.

With about 15 left, Floodsie yet again lofted one forward, Raftie beat the offside and rounded the keeper at last to score easily. Thank God I thought, 1-0 will do at this stage. Minutes later, we were a bit slow to close down their winger and he forced a corner. Jerzy came to collect and seemed to catch well, but as he fell towards the ground, the ball came loose and one of their lads poked the ball at walking pace and it rolled into the goal. I couldn’t believe it, their first threat and it’s 1-1.

Still we owned the ball, John had come in for a tiring Gary with 20 left and helped set up a good chance that Denis was unlucky not to finish. Right on full time we cleared a Meath free and being an occasional gambler, I just ran forwards in hope to get something. Denis kept the ball in well on the right and his cross reached Raftie at the near post; Raftie squared it to me 10 yards out but rather than taking the touch (and I’d loads of time), I swung impatiently and snatched at the ball. It trickled harmlessly wide and that was the last chance.

So a 1-1 draw which does not help our cause to get into a challenging position. I know I’d be more concerned if we didn’t create the chances against ten men, but it was a pain in the arse we failed to convert.

It was Tuesday before I put my own miss out of my mind. It was a shocker.

15/12/02, league game, Terenure College 3, Clane United 1

A very impressive finish to the calendar year for us today as we swept away Clane United, completing an excellent double over the Kildare side.

The front two for us today was a bit in doubt with Denis away with the job Christmas do and Raftie awaiting the birth of his second child. But Nicola gave birth to a second boy (Charlie) early on Saturday morning and Raftie unsurprisingly declared himself available for the game, so Gary got the second front spot and Fergal his preferred right midfield role with a thankfully fit again Karl in central midfield, so it was comforting to have Mick and Bullie as 12th and 13th.

Clane were very late appearing but they started better and Jerzy made a terrific save low to his right early on from a close range header. But we found our feet and started playing some decent stuff. Our showing from throw-ins was a huge improvement and Karl was able to start plenty of situations as we showed a good urgency and competed well. We found ourselves behind though after about 20 minutes, a ball was dinked down the channel on my side and my man got beyond me and as Jerzy advanced, he lobbed into an unguarded goal for a soft enough goal from our point of view.

We didn’t panic though or dropped our heads, Kieran and Floodsie continued their growing partnership down the left with some excellent work and Gary was showing well up front. On the half hour we levelled. Ferg regained possession with a good tackle and Dec stormed into the area. He found Gary who helped it on to the unmarked Raftie at the far post and the happy father beat the keeper for 1-1, totally deserved.

At the half time break I was very pleased with our general play and performance, Mick and Karl astutely pointed out that their number 7 was dangerous, so Kev was advised to get as tight as possible as early as possible and snuff out that threat. As the half started and wore on, Kev completely broke the number 7’s heart and spirit and Kev was immense for us today. This enabled Karl and Ferg to influence more and drive us on.

Just after the hour mark, Karl spotted my run up the right and I ran onto Karl’s pass. My first touch was good and I knocked the ball in early and Dec steamed onto it to volley in from the edge of the area for a great goal, his first of the season. I was starting to tire and that cross was my last action of the game and Mick replaced me.

Clane started to lose composure and that played right into ref Noel Blake’s hands as I reckoned would happen. Sure enough their captain wouldn’t shut his mouth following a yellow and the red card was produced inevitably. Mick went very close with a header and Raftie was denied a certain peno, but in fairness Blakey had a decent game. With about 15 left, I got Bullie on for Gary and went to 5 in midfield to protect us, not that the defence needed protection with a rampant Kev winning everything.

Bullie made an immediate impact following good work from the tireless Fergal. Ferg played in Bullie down the right and Bull’s lovely cross to the far post was met by Raftie’s nut for the clincher, 3-1 and game over.

I was impressed with us today all over the pitch, good stuff in possession, excellent work rate and honesty, we got our foot in when needed and it was our best performance of the season. While everyone played a big part, I’d have to single out young Kev Brady for special praise today. This was a step up from his first two games for us at centre half, but he was outstanding and I reckon he has arrived now at this level and I expect him to go on and get even better for us there.

I hope this performance can turn our season into two good cup runs and see us climb the table. The three points today were really crucial, but the lads were ready for the task and we won well.

A Happy Christmas to all and peaceful New Year.

2/1/03, training

A good session after all the food and especially drink over the Christmas, though there were four or five of the squad I wanted for this weekend’s game against Black Forge unable to make it so I’m a bit concerned with that. Having weighed everything up, I’ve decided on the same outfield team that started against Clane will start again this Sunday. It was after all our best performance so it’s impressive that four medal winners and regular starters from two seasons ago in Mick, Bullie, John and Denis will be kicking their heels on the touchline. Alec Leckey comes back in goal for the injured Jerzy who injured his shoulder in the Clane game.

5/1/03, league game, Terenure College v Black Forge, postponed

The frost arrived with a vengeance, making the pitch unplayable. Kieran Murray had withdrawn yesterday so Bullie would’ve come in, so next week’s training should be sharp and urgent with (hopefully) 15 lads vying for a start. Next weeks game was to be Alpine in the Watt Cup but it transpires we’ll play DCU in the Cullen Cup 2nd round so a place in the last 16 beckons, so I expect a good week of training and a similar performance to the Clane game. Weather permitting of course.

12/1/03, Cullen Cup, DCU v Terenure College, postponed.

I’m not a happy camper today, the weather hasn’t been too bad but they’ve called the game off and it’s very bloody suspicious especially with the Colleges still closed. They’ve also nicely got around Roger in that we couldn’t switch the game to our place, so I’m very suspicious indeed and Raftie’s fit to be tied. Everyone’s pissed off in their text messages to me, we were really up for this. Pain in the ass.

19/1/03, league game, Terenure College 1, Alpine Express 2

High flying Alpine were the visitors today and to be honest we didn’t deserve anything out of the game, our spirit and honesty kept us in it, but we created very little going forward especially in the 2nd half.

The only change from the Clane game was Denis just getting the nod over Gary up front. I had initially picked Mick for right back but he was honest enough to admit to me that he didn’t consider himself match fit enough to start, so I continued in there. I appreciated the gesture from Mick.

We were slow out of the blocks, Alpine having a game last week showed as they were sharper and winning the early battles and they kept us pinned in our own half first 20 minutes. Jerzy made a very smart save at his near post from an early move. We also weren’t helping ourselves with too many frees being given away and Dec earned an early yellow for a needless enough lunge that summed up our early problems.

Yet we took a scarcely deserved lead on about 25 minutes. A ball broke for Kieran Murray just inside our half and he as he went inside past a player, Alpine pushed out for offside. The gap appeared and the grateful Spur raced through it and beat the advancing keeper right-footed for an excellent individual effort. Kieran’s adding a lot of consistency to his game lately and I hope it can continue, though we have to get him more of the ball.

We started playing a bit of decent ball for the remainder of the half though Raftie and Denis up front weren’t getting much of a look in and Denis started to get frustrated with himself and both were getting caught offside repeatedly. But we went in 1-0 up at the break and I was very pleased with that.

Within two minutes of the restart however, Alpine levelled. A harsh enough free for obstruction against Kev on the left side of our area was awarded. As the free was floated in, their centre half escaped Raftie’s attentions to head goalwards past Jerzy. I desperately ran back and hooked the ball off the line but incredibly the ball smacked the angle of post and bar and bounced into the path of the Alpine player who headed in unchallenged. I was left cursing our luck and our bad marking.

As the half wore on we were unable to keep possession and repeatedly failed to clear our lines properly and on the occasions we did get forward, we kept plodding down the middle with the offside count mounting. With Denis fading, I got Gary on after an hour and I ran out of gas after 70 with Mick coming in. Gary showed well and was lively but lived on scraps for his half hour.

With 15 left, Floodsie was dispossessed on half way and the Alpine lad raced through. Jerzy made a great save and from the rebound Mick blocked it on the line, but it was third time lucky as the next rebound again bounced nicely for the Alpine player who hooked home from 10 yards. Two rebounded goals, they got the breaks in front of goal but they deserved them.

Bullie replaced Fergal almost immediately but didn’t really get a chance to shine as we kept wasting our possession. Dec had a scrambled chance near the end but like I said at the start, we didn’t deserve a point today. So our sixth defeat out of 12 games, I’m worried now with our League position, we have two successive Cup weekends coming up, so hopefully we can rediscover some sort of form and momentum and finish the League respectably. It’s close at the top with everyone dropping points and that adds to my frustration at how we’ve performed. Peculiar game football.

26/1/03, Cullen Cup, DCU 2, Terenure College 2. DCU won 3-2 golden goal.

For the second year in succession we went out of this Cup to a golden goal and like last season’s semi final defeat to Newtown, this was a game where we deserved at worst, penalties.

With Karl and Fergal missing from last week, John Geelon came into central midfield for his first and long awaited start of the season and Bullie came back for his first start as a married man. Denis and Mick made up the 12th and 13th.

We started well in difficult conditions with a gale blowing across the pitch and 15 minutes in Kev Brady’s long ball down the channel saw Bullie and Gary combine nicely. Gary pushed a lovely ball through and Raftie staying onside stabbed it home right footed from 10 yards. Great start and already doing the things we didn’t in last week’s game with Alpine.

DCU settled and their movement up front was causing us a few problems with the number 9 their most dangerous player and it was him who equalised after about half an hour. Two or three of us failed to make the necessary tackle on him and from the edge of the box his well struck shot swerved past Jerzy’s despairing dive. Soft goal. Worse followed about 10 minutes later, a long ball over the back four and the left winger, looking suspiciously offside chipped a lovely ball over Jerzy, so we were hit by sucker punches to be 1-2 down approaching half time. Kieran went close for us and John hit the bar direct from a free with the rebound scrambled away from Bullie.

Mick pointed out the nine being allowed too much time and space, so like the Clane game we told Kev to follow him everywhere and stay tight. I was happy enough with our work on the ball so I hoped that would continue as we sought to chase the game. We immediately tore into them down the wings, Floodsie and Kieran on the left and especially meself and Bullie combined to great effect with Gary Smith showing really well as we got into good positions time and again. Raftie got on the end of one such move and his header from Bullie’s cross was brilliantly saved by the DCU keeper; another move with meself and Bullie saw the latter’s cross just evade the diving Raftie.

It was one way traffic; Mick was brought on after an hour for a quiet enough Dec and Mick’s better quality on the ball kept us driving forward with John outstanding in the middle, though Jerzy kept us in the game after Mark’s backpass fell short, Jerzy blocked the shot with his legs, yer man should’ve scored. With Denis warming up and us still behind, Gary and Bullie linked up yet again and Bullie swung over a “Beckham”, Raftie rose nicely and headed it past the stranded keeper. Great goal, 2-2 and only one winner at this stage.

DCU finally managed to get a bit of a foothold again as our momentum diminished towards the end of the 90 minutes. John was feeling his hamstring, Gary looked shattered, but we finished ok and Floodsie had a half chance following a corner, but the 90 minutes finished on a 2-2 score.

We started extra-time playing towards the goal we attacked second half, but nothing much was created as tiredness crept in and Floodsie succumbed to cramp. The nearest to a golden goal came at our end, a cross from the right evaded Jerzy, hit me on the knee six yards out, but as the ball rolled towards the line, I was able to recover and hook the ball away from danger, unlike last week, so my relief was palpable.

The second 10 minutes of extra time saw John going off as he’d given everything and Denis finally introduced. DCU began the half better and after about 2 minutes following a couple of corners/throws at our end, a shot from 20 yards deflected off Floodsie and beat a despairing Jerzy for the winner for the students. Sickener, absolute sickener. It just isn’t our season this season, I was really pleased with our efforts today, passing and movement excellent, spirit and work-rate was tops, we just don’t seem to be getting any breaks this season. This was a real chance today to make the last eight and I’m hugely disappointed we haven’t taken it.

2/2/03, Watt Cup 1st round, Alpine Express 4, Terenure College 0

Our last chance of challenging for silverware ended in tatters and while 4 nil is probably a bit harsh, I’ve no complaints with the defeat.

With enforced absences to John, Kev and Dec and Karl again absent injured, Mick came back into defence beside Sparky and Ferg and Denis went in to centre midfield so we’d a strong enough 11 to start with Ken and Donal on the line. We began with a very strong breeze and started well enough with Denis and Ferg getting some good possession and using it quite well. Again Kieran Murray continued his excellent form wide on the left and gave their defence plenty to think about early on.

That said, we gave them two free headers from corners that could have ended in goals but as we approached half time we were doing ok. Following a throw deep in their half, we were on the wrong end of a refereeing blunder similar to the Blackrock goal in the Cup game last September (ie no name called), the ref let them play on and a long ball got in behind Sparky and their bloke finished coolly past Jerzy for a soft but crucial goal.

I was seething at half time, we’d played ok but were getting nothing off a poor ref but I still was hopeful of a decent fight second half. Within 10 minutes of the restart, we were gone.

A couple of half hearted tackles down my side and the left winger got beyond Mick and as Jerzy advanced and saved, the ball flew up and the winger followed up to score from two yards. Moments later, Mick pulled the jersey of their player just inside our half and the ref harshly took out a second yellow for Stan (first one for dissent). So two down against the wind and ten men, even my natural optimism evaporated.

To the lads credit we kept trying to play and Denis and Kieran showed the way with great heart and skill and as we pushed on trying to retrieve something, the inevitable gaps appeared and Jerzy was exposed and helpless as Alpine punished us with two further goals.

As the final whistle blew, I got us all together on half way to stress that though silverware was now gone, we have 8 league games and we can and should approach them with 100% effort. We can roll over and die for the season, but where’s the sense in that? I’ll be able to make one or two changes now as the season comes to a close, but I’ll continue to give it my all and I asked the lads for the same and I reckon I’ll get it. It’s been a frustrating season but that’s the way football goes, ups and downs, good and bad and there’s plenty of enjoyment still to be got to the end of the season. Besides there’s a few teams we owe, the likes of Joey’s, Blackrock, Walkinstown and Glenville who we play next week. Bring ‘em on.

4/2/03, training.

Though I haven’t named the team for the Glenville game, Colm Costello will start following outstanding displays for the 3B team. He gets the nod up front and I’ve decided to leave Raftie out. Though still our top scorer, he hasn’t been playing well enough and like I said on Sunday, I can see how things go with one or two different changes between now and the end of the season. John will also return in defence beside Sparky so that’s a major plus for us.

9/2/03, league game, Terenure College 2, Glenville 0

The motivation today that I began with in the dressing room was our farcical 2-4 defeat against these in September. Having seen these in action on the opening day, their league position was in my opinion false and though they’re a big strong team physically, I felt we could get about them with our passing once we played that way. So the instruction was get it down and get it wide and for Kieran and Bullie.

We tore into them early doing exactly that, some very clever passing and movement and Glenville were immediately on the rack. Colm was very unlucky following a corner to see his shot taken off the line and John shot just wide from the rebound. Sparky went close with a header from Denis’ excellent corner delivery and Glenville were rattled and showed themselves to be a shower of moaners. They did get in behind us once or twice but Jerzy saved well and Floodsie made a great last ditch challenge also as Glenville found their feet.

After about half an hour we crafted a deserved goal. Ferg won a tackle well and Denis played a nice ball to Gary who released Bullie with a great ball. Bullie’s cross to the far post was inviting and Colm did really well to challenge the keeper and as the ball dropped Kieran drove it into the unguarded far corner. Glenville continued to try and ref the game all over the pitch and as the half time whistle went my first words were that we weren’t going to let these mouthpieces go home with anything today.

Glenville began the 2nd half better without creating a whole lot of danger and with Fergal and Denis outstanding in the middle, we were always dangerous and our commitment and determination never wavered. John went close with a header and Bullie shot just wide and the keeper made a fine double save from Denis as we continued to press for the 2nd goal. I got Raftie on for Colm after 65 to freshen things up a bit though I was very pleased with Colm’s performance and he will be all the better for us for today’s game.

We got the 2nd shortly after. Raftie found Denis wide on the left and Denis done really well to whip over a ball; they half cleared to Fergal 25 yards out and Ferg ran forward and shot low and the keeper was unable to hold it and the ball squirmed over the line for the type of goal we’ve been conceding all season. I was absolutely ecstatic as it crossed the line. Up yours you shower of moaning oul wans.

Jerzy still had to make a couple of excellent advances, he was really on his toes today as was everyone in a convincing and deserved win. It was heartening to see Fergal back to near his best today and John gave a towering display with Sparky not far behind. Beating this shower today was satisfying, a clean sheet was a real two fingers to them. Well done today lads, a really excellent way to bounce back after two Cup defeats and most importantly, three points.

23/2/03, league game, Terenure College 0, St. Joseph’s Boys 1

Sums up our season, a good performance followed by a bad one and today we were awful. We created so little and were it not for a heroic performance at centre half from John, we’d have been beaten by 3 or more.

Our only effort of note that I can remember was a brilliant piece of skill from Gary on the edge of their box and a fine effort which was very well saved by the Joey’s keeper.

Their goal was a scrappy enough situation which again summed up so much of our defending this season. There’s so little to write about this game, it’s really best forgotten.

16/3/03, league game, Terenure College 2, Walkinstown 0.

We’d three weeks to get the Joey’s debacle out of our system with the weather having put paid to the last couple of games. Still and all, we haven’t trained as well as we might the last couple of weeks with too many of the lads missing sessions, in fairness through no fault of theirs as regards working and/or injuries.

While we’d a strong eleven available with Raftie and Dec Brady on the bench, I was a bit concerned with our fitness levels, but I expected a far better effort in terms of passion and commitment and focus and from the off we were at it big time.

Gary and Colm were showing great movement up front early on and we were getting the play wide and causing them a lot of early problems. I think they slightly underestimated us and our early good play gave us heart to push on.

Denis went close after a scuffed kick by their keeper and Colm forced him to save as we kept them on the back foot. After about 20 minutes, another good move down the right saw Denis commit the keeper; the ball ran loose for the inrushing Bully and his shot took a deflection on its way to an unguarded net for an utterly deserved lead. Minutes later Gary went very close after good build up with Denis and Kieran, Gary also nearly got in after a mazy run past 4 or 5 players, he’d a great game for us today.

At half time there wasn’t much to say as we’d done so well and Jerzy had been relatively untroubled, just more of the same and get the next goal.

Second half started a bit scrappily for us but Karl got second wind in the middle and I saw plenty of ball down my side and we looked comfortable. That said, Jerzy made a great save advancing from his goal after we got caught a bit square and Jerzy’s handling from their corners took a lot of pressure off us and enabled us to break quickly as a result.

I got Raftie on for Colm on about 70 mins as their centre half was starting to dominate and he needed fresh legs to keep him occupied and as Denis tired a bit, Dec Brady got on after 75 and made immediate impact with crunching tackles to remind us all what he’s about. We got a deserved second after 85 minutes, Karl won an important header and Kieran went on one of those lung-busting runs and his square ball found Raftie 8 yards out who slid the ball home with his customary expertise. Game over.

So five games left, I hope we can string a couple of wins together now, with John and Ferg available for next week, I’ll have decisions to make again. We were solid from 1-11 and the two subs and our work on the ball at times really excellent and we competed far better than our last outing. There’s no doubting our capabilities, our inconsistency has frustrated us totally, but it’s a good day today.

23/3/03, league game, Terenure College 0, Pegasus 0

Another clean sheet, our third in four starts and I have to pleased with that, but it’s a mood of frustration on me as I write this. Pegasus competed well and gave us a game but our second half in terms of passing, keeping possession and chances made was lacking and though not as bad as the recent Joey’s defeat, it was a poor second 45 for us.

A few enforced changes with Sparky up to his eyes with his thesis, Kev came in for him alongside John and I gave Mick the start ahead of me at right back, he’s been gunning for a game and trained well this week and I’ve had nine successive starts so I’m due a break. Up front, Colm was on Cup Quarter Final duty with the 2nds (who sadly went down 1-5), so Raftie kept his place after last week’s goal alongside Gary.

We started brightly again with the now ultra-consistent Kieran Murray doing his stuff wide on the left and Bully on the other side getting down his flank and we got numerous early corners. John was a bit unlucky with one and Raftie even more unlucky when his header was taken off the line by the Peg’s right back. At the other end, their number nine was keeping Kev busy, but Kev as usual stuck to the task and the man more importantly.

Another corner and another Raftie effort, this time a low right footer saw the same full back again prevent the goal on the line as we pressed for the opener, though we were caught on the break once and Jerzy had to make a fine save having narrowed the angle well. Denis continued his fine vein of form in central midfield and looked really in the humour as we went in at half time scoreless.

Pegasus began the second 45 with far more purpose and upped the tempo as we struggled to make an impact on the game. Our sloppiness led to verbal frustration and the game degenerated into a bit of a bore, and this seemed to rub off on a fairly disinterested ref. I tried to liven things up getting Fergal on for a quiet Raftie and pushing Denis on and though Ferg did some good things, he didn’t get the movement ahead of him we needed.

We were blessed though when Kev misjudged a long punt downfield and their man bore down on Jerzy but smashed the ball high over the bar and into the lake, one of four balls that ended there today. Yes it was that kind of day. We lost Kev injured to be replaced at centre half by his brother Dec and our communication between Jerzy and the back four degenerated into complete confusion as Mick threatened to boil over, but we held it together and eventually the ref put us all out of our misery and the game ended as it started.

So a disappointing game, but at least we didn’t leak a goal late which would have completely peed me off, nothing much happened today, though we didn’t make much happen for ourselves either and it sums up much of our season.

30/3/03, league game, Black Forge 2, Terenure College 3

This fixture was postponed 3 times this season against our seemingly annual opponents Forge. Our six league games over the past three seasons saw them beat us twice in 99/00, a 6-2 win for us and 1-1 draw in our League winning season of 00/01 and a double for us last season, 2-1 at home and 4-2 in Brickfields so I was confident enough of our continuing our good run against them.

That said we had plenty of withdrawals from our recent panels as Kev, Colm (both injured), John, Gary (unavailable), Mick (at the Grand Slam game) and Jerzy (a freebee to Amsterdam no less) gone so back into the team came Al Leckey in goal, Red Richie at centre half alongside the returning Sparky, Dec Brady back in the engine room and a first competitive call up for Dec Dolan following his excellent form of late on the 2nds. Steve Jordan made up the 13 having been with us a couple of time this season and I intended bringing Steve in anyway with or without absentees.

Yet another lovely day for a game, but the tight pitch in Brickfields meant we knew time and space in midfield would be at a premium and we knew what to expect physically and tactically from Forge, ie get stuck in and hoof the ball forward all the time.

We didn’t get out of the blocks at all and from the kick off they cut through us easily and I left a player onside as I failed to switch on but we scrambled the ball away and we were lucky our early airy-fairy attitude didn’t cost us. A superior side to Forge would surely have punished us.

I awoke from my lie-in following a corner on the left for us after 12 minutes. Denis’ delivery was caught by the keeper who quickly bowled the ball towards the Forge man. He had his back turned and I latched onto it 30 yards out. My woeful shot ran nicely into the path of Sparky who’d been up for the corner and Sparky struck a lovely shot from the edge of the box past the stranded keeper for the opener for us.

We settled after getting a nice break like that and yet again The Spur Murray was outstanding in his workrate and ball carrying and he was a constant menace to the Forge full back. Just as we were in control of the game, they equalised and how the ref missed the foul on Sparky I’ll never know. The Forge man took his legs blatantly as Sparky ran back towards goal, but the free never came and he slotted past the blameless Al. Karl got a yellow for his justified protestations, it’s as well he didn’t hear my ones as well. Dreadful decision and set the tone for a dreadful performance.

We bounced back well though, Karl was getting more involved and Bully getting some joy on his side and he was just wide after a fine move and good run from him. Our second goal was again from a corner on the left. Denis knocked it in low and the ball was half cleared invitingly into the air; The Spur charged onto it to volley an unstoppable shot from 15 yards into the net. Great strike from Murray.

We again were comfortable for the rest of the half, but in the last seconds of the half, the unfortunate Richie sliced a clearance and it fell right into the path of the Forge player who dinked it over the stranded Al’s head. An absolute shambles of a goal.

So 2-2 at half time and I said to the lads that the only ones who’d beat us today would be ourselves, such was the goals we conceded and again some verbals were creeping in to some of us so that had to end. We’d seen how slow they were at the back so we needed to get that back and give more in the tackle and compete on a par with them. We did that for much of the second half, as Kieran Murray yet again made a good situation passing to Denis whose fine shot was just wide. Denis returned the compliment soon after following a brilliant move down the right and his cross was met with a flying header, but incredibly Spur’s header went just past the post.

As promised, I got Steve on for Karl and Dec Dolan for me, with Bully going to full back. Steve got involved quite soon and used possession very well and when he put Spur free on the left we were in, Spur squared it across and Raftie jabbed home but amazingly the ref blew for a ridiculous offside call. We were making the chances now and it was surely only a matter of time.

With about 10 left, Dec Dolan got upended with a late tackle just inside our half. Bully floated in the free, Raftie headed on and Denis got beyond his man. One touch was all Den needed to control and he finished excellently for a well taken goal. Forge had four or five corners near the end but we defended well and Richie atoned for his error earlier with a commanding second half with Dec Brady back to his best in midfield so we ran out deserving 3-2 winners.

So I was pleased to get out of here with a win, we play them again on Thursday at home, our last home league game of the season. I hope we can continue our good form against Forge and with a bigger pitch I expect us to drag their slow defence around and make some decent chances. Since the Joey’s disaster, we’re two wins and a draw so hopefully we can finish our last three games strongly.

3/4/03, league game, Terenure College 3, Black Forge 1

Sometimes successive fixtures against a team can be a bit of a pain, but I was really looking forward to tonight’s game having defeated these four days ago. I was also heartened by the return to the back four of John and though Dec Brady’s late injury on Sunday put him out of tonight’s game, I was more than happy that Richie would do the job in his place. Young Stevie Jordan held his place for the unavailable Karl with Gus called up as 12th man. I only got word of Bully’s withdrawal late, so was unable to get a 13th body at that stage.

Strangely enough we again were a bit slow to get going, 2nd to a lot of the 50-50s, but once Gary found his feet out on the right we started to destroy them out wide, with Spur Murray doing the same on the left.

Raftie missed an early chance after Denis had set me free on the right; he then hit a post after great work between Gary and Steve again down the right. More excellent play between those two saw Gary’s pinpoint ball across the goalmouth blazed over by Spur. But we didn’t get frustrated and it was only a matter of time before one counted as Forge hadn’t threatened Al in goal despite 5 or 6 corners.

The goal finally arrived after about half an hour. Raftie did well down the left and his cross reached Denis who killed the ball and the inrushing Spur drilled it into the far corner for a very well taken and deserved goal for us. We controlled the rest of the half with Steve getting more influential and Richie giving everything beside him. John and Mark were dominating their front players.

Knowing Forge as well as we do, we knew we had to get the second to break their spirit and we also knew they’d get the foot in and though not much happened to get upset about, ref Bren Coughlan was a bit lenient with some late stuff, one scything tackle on Steve I remember especially was nasty, but he waved it away and Stevie in fairness didn’t blow his top.

15 minutes into the second half, Sparky passed the ball out of defence and followed it out. Taking a pass from Stevie, he continued running and with them rushing out blindly for offside the ball broke well into his path; with the Forge keeper slow to advance, Sparky got there first, rounded the keeper and slid the ball into an empty goal for 2-0. They were upset at the no offside decision, but there was no offside to be called and their lad got a yellow for dissent as they inevitably lost their heads at being behind to Terenure yet again.

Five minutes later it was 3-0 and game over. Again they tried to play offside way up the pitch and sub Gussie kept the ball well to then feed Stevie who rolled a nice ball into the flying Spur’s path. Spur sprinted on, dummied to shoot thereby committing the keeper and he placed his shot nicely to his right for his second of the game and seventh of an impressive campaign for him.

Forge to their credit kept battling on, they always do and with less than 10 to go, a sickening clash of heads between their 9 and our John saw John taking no further part in the game. His lack of coherence after the game was a worry, but I suppose we’ll all be like that in about 24 hours when we invade Galway for the weekend.

But back to the game, with the luckless John counting the stars but not getting beyond two, Richie went into the back four for the remaining minutes. My tackle on the 11 only found their central midfielder, whose ball into the box was lost in flight by Floodsie; their lad finally controlled it and thumped it past Al who had no chance. I was annoyed that we couldn’t keep the clean sheet, but after the season we’ve had I’m grateful for another win and 5 wins and a draw out of 6 against Forge last three years.

With two games remaining, we now have a chance to salvage fifth place behind Joey’s, Alpine, Clane and Glenville. Blackrock are just ahead of us, but I think if we can beat them next Thursday night and defeat Esker 3 days later, we’ll take the fifth spot which wouldn’t be at all bad when one looks back on some of the disastrous days we’ve had this season. Alpine are the only team to have beaten us twice so far this season and our last two opponents will be looking to do just that, so we owe both Rock and Esker. It would be a good finish to the season but one game at a time Phe.

Roll on the weekend and Galway, the Grand National and whatever other animals await us.

10/4/03, league game, Blackrock College 0, Terenure College 1

Our storming finish to the season continued with an utterly deserved win as we ensured that only Alpine have beaten us twice in the League (though Esker will be trying to beat us for the second time on Sunday in our last game). Their keeper saved them from a hiding with some top class saves in the second half.

I was forced to change the eleven just before kick-off as Floodsie got delayed at work so I moved to left back and brought in Collie at right back, so Floodsie would join Dec and Gary as subs, with an exciting looking midfield four of Bully, Steve, Karl and Spur, I was hopeful we could turn the tables on Blackrock this time.

We again started slowly as Rock caused us some problems at corners and throws as we were slow to pick up men, but we had the best early chance when Steve released Denis with a clever through ball, Denis committed the keeper and when the ball broke for Bully the keeper saved though he was outside the area and possibly a bit lucky to not to get a red card. Raftie’s free was just too high.

We started to settle into it, Collie was completely at home at right back and Steve was impressing mightily, strong in the challenge, composed on the ball and reading the game very well. After 25 minutes, we got the goal our play deserved.

Jerzy kicked a long clearance downfield, Spur Murray won the ball in the challenge with the full back and Spur’s cross found Raftie who controlled well and swept past the keeper to end his three game barren spell in front of goal for his 19th of the season for us.

We went in comfortable at half time, Jerzy hadn’t had anything of note to worry about and they hadn’t really hurt us with John and Mark dominating. I got Floodsie on for me at the break as I wasn’t contributing much and Floodsie should have started, Collie was excelling on the other side so it was an easy decision to change things.

We went for the throat right from the restart; Spur had an early header from Karl’s corner well saved and Karl started to motor better than he has all season with Steve outstanding beside him. Steve was most unlucky not to score after dispossessing the Rock player, he chipped goalwards but the keeper clawed it away. Raftie also forced a save as we started to run riot.

The move of the game should have brought number two, a great ball by Collie down the right channel found Karl, Karl advanced and sent in a lovely cross and the charging Steve arrived but his header agonisingly crept the wrong side of the post. I was hoping the missed chances wouldn’t come back to haunt us, but Rock were living on scraps, though Floodsie did have to make one vital intervention.

Gary got on for Bully after 65 and immediately got in on the act and after a mazy run, forced another save and minutes later the keeper again pulled off a stunning low save to his left to deny a 25 yarder from Spur. So it was one way traffic and with minutes remaining I got Dec on for the excellent Denis for some added protection. We managed without any real scare and it finished 1-0.

So I was delighted with our performance tonight, our second half in particular was top notch, making chances, passing the ball well and competing and concentrating for the full 90. So with one game left, I reckon we have fifth spot assured with an outside chance of fourth.

13/4/02, league game, Esker Celtic 1, Terenure College 2

A satisfying end to the season. Since the Joey’s nightmare performance we’ve finished with five wins and a draw and three clean sheets and today was another game for us to avenge an earlier defeat, so the lads were well up for this today.

Collie kept his place at right back after his excellent 90 on Thursday, but Steve asked to play for the 3B team’s last game of the season, so Dec came in for Stevie with myself and Fergal on the line.

The beginning of the game was a bit scrappy with neither side taking much command and passing a bit awry, but we were again competing the way we should and Dec was looking commanding in the engine room early on. There was little by way of chances before we took the lead after 27 minutes.

Bully chased a long ball and was fouled right on the end line just outside Esker’s box. Karl rolled the free to Raftie who completely fooled the onrushing Esker players by dragging the ball onto his right foot. From a tight angle, Raftie smashed a right footer past the surprised keeper, a brilliant goal from the Goal King to bring his tally for us to a paltry 20 for the season.

Like Thursday’s game, Esker weren’t hurting us that much and we went in at half time value for our lead. We were sloppy from the restart however, but their equalising goal started in their box. Spur was penalised (harshly I thought) for an alleged dive in their area and from the free, we gave away another one 35 yards from goal. Their lad curled it in dangerously and as their forward ran to try head it, Jerzy dashed from goal to try interecept; they both missed it and the ball ended up in the net for a shite goal from our point of view. Jerzy don’t like playing Esker, though he excelled himself for the rest of the game, making two excellent saves and handling very well at corners.

We didn’t fold though and not long after their soft goal, we were ahead again. Great play involving Karl and Bully ended up with Bully releasing Spur down the left. Spur got in an early cross and Denis flicked it goalwards skilfully; the ball hit the post but bounced back nicely to Denis who kept a cool head to finish. I was delighted for Den, he’s been back to near his best last few games and deserved that lucky break off the post.

Esker never gave up either though and it took a recovery tackle of miraculous proportions from Sparky to keep us ahead. We lost Dec to an awful looking ankle injury with about 25 minutes left and Fergal got on. Ferg showed some flashes of brilliance while he was on, his bit of skill to get Denis in for a chance was a joy to watch and Denis was unlucky not to get a goal and may have got a peno if he’d gone down when the keeper came out rashly.

It got a bit tasty at the end after Raftie clattered into one of their lads, but it calmed down after a few pushes and shoves and we ended up with a 2-1 win which was very pleasing.

Dec was taken to hospital where it was revealed he had torn ligaments, but at least he’ll have the Summer break to recover and we can be sure Dec will be raring to go next season.

So a very early finish to the league campaign and as it turns out, we’ve pipped Glenville on goal difference and finished in fourth place, which given our dreadful start to the season is an excellent effort and reminds me a bit of our 99/00 season, where a similarly awful start (3 defeats in in our first four) led to a good recovery to fifth in Div 2A. For the record, our 20 games resulted in 10 wins, 3 draws and 7 defeats, so a win every second game which reflects our inconsistency. A season of what might have been. Our last four seasons have seen us finish fifth and first in Div 2A and third and fourth spots in Div 2, so maybe we’re more consistent than I seem to think. Well done lads. We shall give it everything again next season.

Season Summary

So a very satisfying finish to a difficult enough season, the fact that we beat the eventual champions, Clane, both times shows what could have been achieved if we’d made a decent start. There were no excuses for the bad start as we had so few injuries all season compared to last and the stats will also bear that out.

Our early form was a real worry and hugely disappointing, but the lads eventually showed that we’re more than a decent side and a match for anyone on our day. It was also heartening that a number of younger lads made the step up from 3B to Div 2 standard, with Jerzy, Gary, Kev, Colm, Ken and Steve all showing they have the ability to become regular fixtures in the team and in Jerzy and Gary’s case, they achieved that so there’s plenty to look forward to next season provided we get everyone back on board. John’s return to the defence at the end of the season was also a big factor in our excellent end to the campaign.

Stats of this and the last season’s league performance make for interesting reading, for individual stats, they can be seen elsewhere on the website, but we actually fared slightly better away from home this season.

Home record was 5-1-4, with 22 goals for and 12 against, 16 points

And if we compare last season’s record to this, the following is the result

2001/02, P20, W12, D2, L6, F62, A45, Pts 38 and third place
2002/03, P20, W10, D3, L7, F42, A30, Pts 33 and fourth place.

Finally, my thanks to everyone who played and trained so well this season, the punctuality was pretty much spot on and made a huge difference to getting decent training sessions in. To Seán, Al and Gus who took sessions or parts of sessions when I was absent or late myself, I’m very grateful. To the wives, girlfriends, kids of all the lads, thanks to them for being so patient.

To our chairman Rodders for his unflinching support and phone calls, our Secretary Fergus for his Trojan and selfless work, to our treasurer Graham who loosened the purse strings without a grumble when equipment was needed, go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir.

To our website maestro Al who kept the site up to date and entertaining and to our matchday reporters Sparky and Seán who reminded everyone of the key moments in games and invented some other ones in their dreams/drunkenness. Thanks guys, they are always worth a read.

Thanks also to Group 1 Security who supplied the 3B side with a new kit; to Tony at The Morgue for his continued sponsorship of our club, it is greatly appreciated as is the money we get from other sponsors and not forgetting the support from Terenure College itself for the facilities we enjoy and the wonderful pitch which is maintained so brilliantly and a credit to the groundsman. If I have left anyone out, it is completely unintended.

I’ll leave the best wine to last. To Dec Fitzpatrick who returned to the club at the beginning of the season for his last hurrah. Dec’s leadership of the 3B side was an example to everyone and his team achieved a consistency and solidity that put my team’s efforts in their place for much of the season. The fact that three or four of his early season squad were lost to my squad shows how well he coped and brought in different players to do such a good job and Dec leaves this club with the best wishes of everyone for the future. He can dole out the verbal banter but he also took it on the chin and laughed with the rest of us. Dec’s work on the training pitch was also of great assistance to me and having known Dec on and off since the mid 80s, I have learned a lot off him. It was fitting that Dec’s last season should see him attain his 500th appearance for our great club and that is a wonderful achievement (as was Raftie’s 500 goals mentioned previously) and testament to his passion, dedication and fitness. So thanks Dec for all your kind words, help and everything else that made this season hugely enjoyable and we wish you the very best in the future. You will be sorely missed.

The rest of you are stuck with me for another season. See you in July for pre-season again.

THE END.

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