Dublin Club Hurling
Lucan Pull it Out of the Fire in Colossal Battle
Lucan Sarsfield’s 2-23 St. Jude’s 2-21 (aet)
There’s no nice way to lose a senior championship quarter-final, but as ways goes, it wasn’t far off being about as harrowing as it gets for St. Jude’s. You’d rarely see a bunch of players as devastatingly inconsolable as they were at the final whistle of extra time. Some couldn’t speak, while others couldn’t bring themselves to get up off the ground. After a blitzing opening to the second half they looked to be coasting, eight points up, before two Kevin O’Rielly goals from dead balls, one an unlikely side-line cut almost from the half-way line, hauled Lucan back into the game. Even then, it was the courage to muster up two injury time points which saved the day for Lucan in normal time.
And even after Lucan took the lead for the first time in the game just before half time of extra time, it was Jude’s who came out the stronger, scoring the equalising point after Danny Sutcliff rose majestically in the full forward line to pluck the ball out of the air and hand it back to Canice Maher to point. And with Neal Mangan pulling the strings in the middle, they looked like they were ready to push on.
Lucan, however, showed massive resolve, and helped in no small part by phenomenal dead ball precision and sheer striking power by O’Rielly, never gave in. They hung on right until the end, and as extra-time drew on, their endeavours paid off. They took the lead in injury time with a long range point from half back, Trevor Lee, before substitute Ciarán Dowling added another almost immediately.
All of a sudden you could feel a palpable sense of shock on the Jude’s sideline. As the realisation quickly dawned that at a two point deficit so late on was probably unassailable, you could visibly see the deflation on the faces of all and sundry on the Jude’s line.
Normal time followed four different patterns of play, broken into four sections. For the first ten Jude’s were thoroughly dominant. Lucan were set up with a sweeper, but in this opening quarter it proved entirely counter-productive.
Jude’s, Rob Hardy, was free at the back for the most part and his aerial dominance as well as Cian O’Sulivan-esque intelligence to cover the most efficient space across the back, saw the Jude’s half back line almost impenetrable for the first ten minutes as they ran up a 0-5 to 0-1 lead.
As the half went on, however, the foundations behind Lucan’s game plan began to become apparent. As they settled into their rhythm they started getting more ball in hand and began casually throwing the ball around the back allowing half backs and midfielders onto more possession. This allowed them to plant their feet and pick out their forwards, and more frequently, with wing back, John Bellew and midfielder, John McCaffrey, to the fore, take ball off the shoulder and cut through midfield.
Corner forward, O’Rielly, would announce himself on the scene of what would be a rousing performance by striking two delicately struck points form wide on the right. This would mark a period of thorough Lucan dominance. Soon he would become even more notable for a haul of long range frees, one of which was struck, without wind assistance, from his own “45”.
It has to be said that once Lucan got into their stride, the extra man at the back was a double edge sword. Not alone was it allowing Lucan find a spare man in possession, but they used him methodically on the opposition’s puck-out. Whichever way the puck went, you could be guaranteed that if the spare man wasn’t there to compete as an extra man in the air, he was there to mop up the break if it wasn’t won cleanly. This seriously reduced the influence that Dublin star, Sutcliff, could typically have under puck outs as he couldn’t manage to take a clean one the entire first half.
In fact, if it wasn’t for Lucan’s self inflicted Achilles heel, they may well have taken full control at this point. They were thoroughly dominant in the second quarter, but began to illustrate a pattern that would be a thorn in their side from beginning to end. The lines between high intensity tackling and needless fouling became blurred, and Jude’s were continually fouled, frequently where forwards had their back to goal and had more than a single defender to cope with! This constant concession of unnecessary frees was the only thing that allowed Jude’s to remain level at ten points apiece at half time.
The third section of the game saw Jude’s race out of the blocks after half time with four unanswered points, but just as Lucan appeared to have stemmed the tide, they were hit with two goals in three minutes. The first saw Lucan keeper, Kevin Roche, intercept a through ball, only to knock it towards centre forward, Paul Maguire, to tap home. This was shortly followed by a peach of a ball played into full forward, Fionn O’Riain Broin, who beat his man and buried it.
Another Jude’s point and you could have been forgiven for assuming it was running away from Lucan, eight points down with just over a quarter of an hour remaining. O’Rielly had other ideas, however. With sixteen minutes remaining and the sun in the eyes of the men on the line, he blasted a not so central 21 yard free to the net to give Lucan hope.
Six minutes later, an immense side-line cut from the same man, from just shy of the half way line, sailed towards the square. As a melee of players competed for it, it evaded everybody, keeper included , and found the net. And like that there were two points between the sides.
Even then it took two injury time points for Lucan from a long range O’Rielly free and from Ciarán Dowling to pull it out of the fire, and that same fighting spirit got them over the line in extra time.
As their supporters waited for them even after a warm down, to give them a standing ovation, you could hardly argue that they weren’t worth it. As for Jude’s, they’ll rue what might have been!
Lucan : Kevin Roche, Philip Smith, Barry Aird, Rob Lambert, John Bellew, Chris Crummey, Trevor Lee, John McCaffrey, Joey Byrne, Ronan Smith, Matt McCaffrey, Paul Crumey, Kevin O’Rielly, Joe Moran, Kevin Fitzgerald. Subs Aidan Roche, Ciarán Dowling, Peter Kelly.
Scorers : Kevin O’Reilly 2-15 (1-10 frees, 1-1 side-lines), Paul Crummey 0-2, Ciarán Dowling 0-2, Chris Crummey 0-1, John McCaffrey 0-1, Joe Moran 0-1, John Bellew 0-1
St. Jude’s : Martin Hartnett, Ciarán Mangan, Ger McManus, Eoin McLoughlin, Tom Devlin, Alan O’Beirne, Rob Hardy, Neal Mangan, Donie Fox, Canice Maher, Paul Maguire, Danny Sutcliff, Ronan Joyce, Fionn O’Riain Broin, Diarmuid McLoughlin Subs : Joe McManus, Jesse Kennedy, John Ryan, Stephen Larkin
Scorers : Fionn O’Riain Broin 1-6 (0-3 frees), Donie Fox 0-5, Paul Maguire 1-1, Ronan Joyce 0-2, Canice Maher 0-2, Joe McManus 0-2, Danny Sutcliff 0-1, Neal Mangan 0-1, Ger McManus 0-1 (0-1 free)
By: Stephen O’Meara