AHL 8 at Kiltipper Road: Réalt Dearg B 1-8 Tomas Davis 1-16
AHL 9 at Drimnagh Castle: Réalt Dearg C 0-5 Clontarf 4-12
The 2018 AHL season threw in on what will be generously described as a “crisp” February morning. Clear blue skies overhead but a biting chill prevailed in what could well be one of the earliest starts to a Dublin hurling season in recent memory. Reports of emperor penguins having taken up residence in the moat at Drimnagh Castle were unsubstantiated but would not have been noticed such was the enthusiasm for the opening AHL engagement. The imminent arrival of the Beast from the East did deter the gathering masses who were enthused by the high noon start to proceedings at Drimnagh Castle. Parking at an absolute premium for the so called “Drimnagh Derby”.
The first half was a very tight affair, the epitome of early season hurling. If it moves pull on it, if it doesn’t, make it move and then pull on it the mantra from both sides. Jim Turner’s concern for the pitch required halting proceedings temporarily to request some extra turf from the sideline. No worries, RD’s finest bogmen were on hand to turn hurleys to sléans and repair the wounded surface. Underfoot conditions finally up to scratch, the Stars men finally began to find their feet. The hurling may not have been the prettiest but resolute defending and some Matt Lynch class got the scoreboard ticking over. 4 points to 1 the half time score.
In the second half, the RD engine began to purr nicely. Robbie Madden and David O’Connell contributing nice scores with the Men in Black getting to grips with the opponents in most sectors of the pitch. Ciarán Gough putting in a masterful display on his debut at centre back.But then, two hammer blow somewhat against the run of play. Counsel Gaels getting in for what will be grudgingly referred to as two shcuttery goals. Scored from a combined total of about eight inches, one a bit of a push over try. A bit of soul searching for the full back line.
It was then the character of the RD men in this new season was put to the test. And respond well they did, warming hearts despite the frosty air. A two point deficit turned into a one point lead in a few short minutes. In the end, honours were shared in the Drimnagh Derby. A point on the table after the first game of the season is a better position than recent seasons where league honours were still being contested at seasons-end - a building block for better things to come as the year progresses.
Réalt Dearg A: Gary Hurney, Mossy O’Mahoney, Cathal Hester, Brian Gavin, Eoin O’Dwyer, Ciarán Gough, Ronán Moloney, Brendan Walsh, Conor Maharaj, Podge Buckley, Matt Lynch, David O’Connell, Robbie Madden, Tom Kehoe, John O’Callaghan
Niall Mullane, Ultan Dillon, Mike Richardson
The B’s travelled to Kiltipper Road to take on a Thomas Davis side who had been plying their trade at a higher level last year. A recent challenge game had shown the considerable challenge awaiting the Stars men, but undaunted a sizeable squad of B men took to the astro turf of Kiltipper Road, a regular haunt of old for the more seasoned RD campaigners.
Plenty of punishment, both physical and verbal was dished out by both sides in the opening exchanges. The immediacy of the recent challenge game allowing rivalries to be renewed with vigour. Scores exchanged with rapidity also in the early exchanges, the hard underfoot conditions allowing for some quick ball to be delivered to willing forwards. Nice stick work from Niall Mullane and laser sharp accuracy from Colin Devereux part of the highlight reel for the Stars men. Hard working and tenacious performances on their RD debuts from Declan Phelan in defence and Stephen Flynn and Shane Casey in attack were noteworthy.
The quality of some of the Tallaght men on show blurred the lines somewhat between Senior B and AHL8, but the RD men did not flinch. Slightly rocked by the concession of a major, a challenge was set down to the Stars men. But Shane Murphy gets inspiration from seeing men in green and gold scoring in the Metropolitan area - so he decided to get in on the act himself and rattled the rigging.
Thomas Davis experience playing at a higher level probably told in the end, but the Stars men battled hard all the way through and were certainly getting on top the longer the game progressed. Brad Harte have the luxury of patrolling the entire RD defensive half with only Brendan Walsh for company on occasion. A frustrated Thomas Davis substitute getting his marching orders for foolishly trying to dislodge Mike Richardson’s head didn’t help their cause, but unfortunately time caught up with the Stars men in the end before they could claw back the deficit on the scoreboard.
Réalt Dearg B: Brendan Walsh, Declan Phelan, Kieran O’Brien, Billy Brazil, Mike Richardson, Mike O’Connor, Brad Harte, Colin Devereux, Colm Walsh, Ultan Dillon, Niall Mullane, Stephen Flynn, Shane Casey, Tom Kehoe, Shane Murphy
Podge Buckley, Conor O’Droma, Brian Gavin, Mossy O’Mahoney, Kevin Deady, Ronán Moloney, David O’Connell, John O’Callaghan
Realt Dearg's C team went down fighting in the second game at Drimnagh Castle as the fitness of Clontarf's youngsters and the type of squad depth rarely seen at this level overwhelmed Coach McEvoy's charges in the final 20 minutes.
The opening half was February hurling at its finest with both sides struggling to find their range, and while Dave Sheehan kept the scoreboard ticking over from placed balls the Stars would ultimately rue their lack of scores while playing with a breeze which, in the words of one Clontarf veteran, "is cuttin me arse in half".
Though the scoreline got away from us in the second half there were some positives to take from the game,with the highlight coming courtesy of Niall Kennedy, a late addition to the squad when the gentleman he was supposed to be operating on realized he was from Limerick and demanded a change of surgeon. Following some debate over the most suitable taker of a long range free, The Good Doctor took command and demanded the ball before coolly and calmly slotting a fine score to rouse his troops and haul RD back into the game.
The fact that the free was indirect, and the aforementioned debate surrounded how best to work the ball into the full forward line, seemed lost on the midfielder until the referee cut short his fist pumping to throw the ball in.
Kennedy and fellow midfielder Ruairi Henchy were the most effective players in red and black, while special mention must go to new skipper Cillian Thorton for an all action display which saw him at times choose to operate as an auxiliary halfback, despite his managers protestations. Congratulations too to Richie Phelan and Ciaran Crowley on battling debuts in a forward line who were starved of possession in the second half. No Fault and no doubt they'll have better days!
Réalt Dearg C: Bernard Herlihy, James Brooks, Gavin O'Connell, Gavin Deacon, Gary Walsh, Colin Swanton, Ger Kennedy, Ruairi Henchy, Niall Kennedy, Leon Flanagan, Cillian Thornton, Ciaran Crowley, Dave Sheehan, Richie Phelan, Dave Lynch
Kevin McEvoy, Niall Heavey