St Catherine’s Park: Na Gaeil Óga 0-14 v 2-17 Réalt Dearg B
Farnham Drive: Erin’s Isle 1-8 v 5-10 Réalt Dearg C
“When everything falls into place, like the flick of a switch, Well my mama told me, there’ll be days like this” - Van Morrison, Belfast 1995
In fairness to her, Van’s old lady had it sussed.
When Padraig Pearse stepped out onto the plinth of the GPO on that fateful spring morning 100 years ago, he could have only dreamed that a collection of young (and some not so young) Irishmen from all corners of this island could produce such a perfect storm of Gaelic expression.
The proclamation of this great nation that Pearse eloquently read on those steps so many years ago encapsulates the Réalt Dearg achievement on 20 March 2016 in a far better fashion than I ever could: “having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself... now seizes that moment, and supported by... exiled children in America and by gallant allies elsewhere, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.” These results reverberated in far flung places. Most notably South Bend, Indiana where pints were drunk, tears shed and cows left unmilked as the Stars made their proud declaration of victory to the world.
In similar conditions to that unseasonably sunny spring dawn in 1916, Dubliners went about their business unaware of the great historical occasion that was taking place in their midst. Garrisons spread throughout the city would become battlefields where young men’s blood would be spilled in pursuit of their “august destiny”.
The opening skirmishes were played out in front of the bemused residents of Dolphin’s Barn. The early engagements were a whimper compared to the heavy artillery employed later on. Perhaps disbelief that the ultimate goal could be achieved, or perhaps a confidence that can exude from the efficient execution of a well-laid plan. Retrospection will surely tell all when the annals are documented.
Then the battle raged. John Tarpey plucking grenades from the sky, Conor Maharaj with some warrior poetry from play and placed balls (and two well executed penalties) that Thomas MacDonagh would have relished, and Colm Gahan with some interesting horizontal hurling due to faulty boots, the excitement was building. Four points up at half time, not enough. More ammunition required. Second half, the deluge arrived but there was no Helga to provide artillery against the rebels this time. Jamie O’Hara’s beautiful sortie proving fruitful, Tarpey’s scud missile elusive but deadly.
Excellent interplay was the order of the day. Possession worked to the right man in the right place to take the shot. Niall Mullane leaping high to win possession and battering opposition out of the way. No roadblocks now, no backward steps, no surrender. The opposition spent, the battle petered to a finished. Throw on John Barry, back from a broken leg inflicted by an uncivilized weapon on a former battleground...sentimental applause? Not a chance, disciplined soldiers to the last are these men….
The opening battle won, focus shifted to Lucan where the young upstarts Na Gaeil Óga were encamped. In a bittersweet homage to the Sherwood Foresters on Mount Street all those years ago, the fresh raw recruits were ill equipped and under prepared (I am aware of the irony of metaphorically comparing an all-Irish speaking club to the British Army but the narrative works so I’m sticking with it!). O’Droma in an all too familiarly Irish role of the insider plotting their downfall.
Again, excellent interplay and execution of the gameplan was the basis for victory. Stephen Casey in particular encompassing all of Pearse’s republican ideals, a living representation of “In this supreme hour ….. by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness …. to sacrifice themselves for the common good”. Timely offloading of possession to men in the best position to inflict the most damage. Jack Mac, Stephen Barry, Kieran Kelly to the fore on the scoreboard but Deise was well prepared to take pot shots himself, successful on occasion. Keep the enemy guessing.
But battles are not always won on offensive tactics alone. Impressive rearguard action from Tom Kehoe in particular with able deputies in Concannon and O’Connell stifled many potential flashpoints. Podge Buckley, the young whippersnapper entered the fray and immediately plundered two goals. Can’t be having a Corkman score a hatrick today - move him out the field before he gets cocky. Impressive management amid the tempest.
The south and west of the city defeated, attention turned to the northside and the fields of Finglas. Keith Barr of that address once publicly declared that there wouldn’t be a cow milked in Finglas after their Dublin club final victory of 1997. Well I’m sure the cows slept easy on Sunday night with perfectly empty udders as their hurlers were laid to waste. The C men were not to be denied on this day of days.
Fielding a half back line with a combined age older than the Proclamation itself, the Réalt Dearg men were brimming with life, if not hurling, experience. The fact our right half back was around to see the excellent documentary Insurrection (you should watch it, it really is very good) for the 50th anniversary celebrations was no impediment. Leon rolled back the years with a superb exhibition of hurling. The two Nialls, Kelly and Heavey dealt early hammer blows. Hero of the hour though must go to John Barry. Succeeding in finishing the work of his fellow Corkonian earlier in the day, he completed a hatrick on his full return to competitive action. Perhaps there is some sentiment in our ancient game after all.
Shout it from the rooftops - St Patrick’s representation of the Holy Trinity has been usurped. Forevermore, when Irishmen and Irishwomen gather together, the three leaves of the shamrock will represent the three famous victories won by Réalt Dearg on 20 March 2016.
“All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born” - Easter, 1916; WB Yeats.
Réalt Dearg A: Gary Thompson, Derek Kenny, Cathal Hester, Brian Gavin, Eoin O’Dwyer, Niall Mullane, Colm O’Gorman, Paul Warren, Conor Maharaj, Matt Lynch, Padraig Buckley, John Tarpey, Jamie O’Hara, Colm Gahan, Gary Hurney
Martin Murphy, Kieran Kelly, David O’Connell, John Barry
Réalt Dearg B: Marc MacLiam, Caomhin Concannon, David O’Connell, Conor O’Droma, Brian Gavin, Tom Kehoe, Kieran Kelly, Keith Lawler, Stephen Casey, Rory O’Loughlin, Stephen Barry, Jack McNamara, Shane Murphy
Colm O’Gorman, Martin Murphy, Padraig Buckley, Colm Gahan, Mike Butler
Réalt Dearg C: Marc MacLiam, Kevin McEvoy, Kieran O’Brien, Brian Kelly, Leon Flanagan, Cillian Thornton, Ross Kelly, Brian Finn, Shane Murphy, Dave Sheehan, Mike Butler, Paddy Ryan, Niall Kelly, Niall Heavey, John Barry