Kilmacud Crokes 4-12 v Realt Dearg 2-7
1986 was a wonderful year for hurling lovers. Tipperary crashed out of the championship at the first hurdle, Cyril Farrell bamboozled Kilkenny with his 2 man full forward line and laid the foundation for Galway's 2-in-a-row, and Jimmy Barry Murphy put a fitting cap on his career with a 6th All-Ireland medal. 86's greatest contribution to our ancient game, however, may have remained hidden for some 32 years. For while Joe Cooney was romancing the ball to the Kilkenny net and Kevin Hennessy was leading Cork to the promised land, that hurling hotbed of San Diego was welcoming it's newest resident, a baby by the name of Eric Lee.
Having taken his time to find his true calling, the Californian was given his bow by manager Kevin McEvoy just 3 weeks after showing up in Drimnagh Castle, and wasted no time in making his mark on the scoreboard. No doubt directed by Kev to keep it Cali and Snoop around the small square, Eric's finish was as cool as Ice Cube when the Kilmacud keeper dropped it like it was hot after a hopefully early ball in.
Buoyed by Eric's Hollywood introduction (sorry Ronan), RD made use of the wind with Ruairi Henchy and the evergreen Caoimhin Concannon leading the charge down the middle of the attack. The Clareman found his range after an early wide to finish with 0-3 from play, while the Kilmacudians struggled throughout to cope with his driving runs from the 40. Caoimhin added a nice score from a tight angle, one of 5 players ensuring the California of Europe was well represented throughout the team, with a Galway man in every line as the county emerges from it's Liam MacCarthy induced beer coma.
Abbeyknockmoy man Finbarr Conroy coped excellently when thrown in at the deep end, a welcome addition to the club's no.3 depth chart in the face of a certain Kilkenny man's inevitable suspension. Fellow Westerner Cillian Thorton continues to grow into the captaincy, combining Gearoid McInerney's catches and rampaging runs with Gearoid McInerney's struggles in actually getting a strike away. Flanked by Gavin Deacon and James Brooks and aided by battling wing backs Kev McEvoy and Dave Lynch, Kilmacud were kept at bay aside from an excellent catch and turn by a nippy corner forward which gave the ever vocal Bernard no chance in goal.
The remainder of the half was back and forth, Henchy keeping the scoreboard ticking over from placed balls, and even your humble scribe managing to get on the scoresheet when intercepting a horrendous short puck-out. Alas it was to be this reporter's last meaningful contribution as a questionable challenge left Realt Dearg with a one armed midfielder shunted into the corner and this match report to be typed one handed. The trio of debutants was completed by the more mobile of the midfield partnership, Ballygunner man Declan O'Beirne mopping up endless ball and keeping the Kilmacud half back line honest by driving forward and finding his forwards with quality ball throughout.
Coach McEvoy returned to the juke box at half time, the San Diego Song continuing with Eric's move to the half forward line, as he proved they can catch more than waves in his part of the world with his impressive aerial skills. And McEvoy's men were given real hope when a brilliant catch and turn by Caoimhin opened up Kilmacud once more and he blasted to the net.
As the wind picked up however, Kilmacud managed to get on top again, despite the RD half back line bravely putting their hands up repeatedly to take short puck outs and ease the pressure as Bernard faced into the teeth of the gale. Their best efforts were undone, however, in the space of 3 second half minutes, as two momentary lapses were punished with goals to leave a real mountain to climb.
But this game was not another to be thrown onto the pile of second half collapses for this team, the scoreline very harsh in the end with Kilmacud's goal leading a charmed life in the dying minutes, excellent pressure from the full back line ultimately smothering efforts from Leon and Caoimhin in a frantic last 10.
All in all an encouraging performance for the Cs, who with a little luck would have been right in the game at the death. Although overshadowed by the club's first check-in at the Hotel California, Finbarr and Declan proved priceless additions in problem positions, while the additional games in Junior F this year leave more wiggle room than last year's 4 team group. Next up is Na Gaeil Oga on Thursday week, stayed tuned as I try Tupac even more California references into a match report.
Réalt Dearg: Bernard Herlihy, Gavin Deacon, Finbarr Conroy, James Brooks, Kev McEvoy, Cillian Thorton (c), Dave Lynch, Gary Walsh (0-1), Declan O'Beirne, Leon Flanagan, Ruairi Henchy (0-5, 2 frees), Brian Finn, Eric Lee (1-0), Caoimhin Concannon (1-1), Niall Heavey.