It's doubtful whether Cillian Thornton or Kieran 'Mushie' O'Brien have heard of Sun Tzu, (or any writer not featured Garfield books or the RTE guide) but if they did, they would most likely conclude that China's answer to Ger Loughnane, "hadn't a fuckin clue" as Mushie might put it. As most junior hurlers will know, leadership boils down to 3 things: Humility (no point having a big head when playing AHL 9), keeping a cool head throughout the inevitable crises that will arrive throughout every game, and good old fashioned pig headed ignorance. The Stars would need to source all 3 to emerge with a victory against Wild Geese, as they found themselves robbed of their management team of Kev McEvoy and Leon Flanagan.
Maintaining humility wasn't an issue, as the stand in manager informed his troops that he had been frustrated in his attempts to drop himself, and his stand in captain attempted to set up the Drimnagh nets without the use of the step ladder he didn't realise existed. As for cool heads, the first crisis of the day was ably handled as a rapidfire reduction from 15 starters to 13 was completed with minimum fuss, special thanks to Dave Lynch for tweaking a hamstring in the warm up and Dave Kenneally for not appearing, which admittedly make the job easier.
Amazingly, and I can't stress enough how uncharacteristic this is, this AHL9 clash started in a blaze, Shane Casey shot a superb opening point over his shoulder only to see it cancelled out by a goal by the Geese no.12, who I'm reliably informed by shemozzle goes by 'Unknown Player'. But there must be a strain of Tipperary blood in these Geese, as they were most vulnerable when on a high, and their goal was soon cancelled out by Casey scrambling a goal in response, before Eric Lee, bursting through the defence and remembering to only catch the ball twice ;) , was inches away from a goal of the season contender, coming away with a point to make it 1-2 to 1-1.
Things were going well at this stage and RD got another boost with the arrival of the cavalry on the sideline in the form B team boss Colm Gahan and general party crasher Mushie on the sideline, leaving the Cs with leadership quality no.3, ignorance, coming out the Cian O'Brien. In fact, ignorance overload started to afflict the Stars, Gahan and Mushie uncharacteristically losing their cool on the sideline as a chop on Casey at one end went unpunished and led to Geese's second goal at the other, (Unknown Player no.12 still a thorn in our side) while the ref failed in his attempts to scold the team captain when the coach for the day forgot that he had vacated the role and the captain for the day forgot that he had accepted it.
To be fair to the stand in skipper, he was dealing with his own problems, revealing himself to be a bigger goose than any of the opposition, equally adept at shooting wides off left and right. As for the men who could actually make an impact on the game, John Tarpey continued his return in style, winning plenty of ball in the half forward line and finishing RDs second goal with the entire Geese full backline groping him from all angles. Tarps kept the scoreboard moving along with Casey and the roving Kieran Parrock, who finished with 4 points, 3 from further out than the average puck out goes at this level. He'll be a superstar when he gives up the fags and has the energy to 'take his 4 steps' as our beloved A team boss begs us to do. Paulie Warren's own return from injury is gathering momentum, and he became the fifth, and only effective leader of the day, giving the half time team talk as the brains trust of Gahan, Mush and CT amended the line up.
There was one problem they couldn't solve however, and while Michael Corleone might have advised us to keep our friends close, but our enemies closer, it wasn't a whole lot of good to us on Sunday as no one could keep anywhere close to the mysterious Player 12, whose teammates confirmed (i) Was playing his first game this year, and (ii) Is a cracking player. Finishing with 3-5, and like Nicky English in '89, he ruined the game by getting too many scores. The unfortunate Declan O'Beirne, chosen on the basis of being by far the closest thing we had in terms of mobility, was tasked with tracking the danger man, and his usual driving runs from midfield were sorely missed as he battled to keep him under wraps.
The rare luxury of having a stacked bench kept the stars in contention though, Niall Heavey coming on to score a point from a not-quite-Parrock-but-impressive-nonetheless distance, and Brian Finn had his now standard all action, madcap cameo. Could he be in line for a start? Hopefully not. The James brothers, Egan and Brooks, added some much needed fresh legs to the forward line, Brooks especially bringing a great save from the opposition goalie. Pride of place among the replacements though was former manager Ross Kelly, showing he is still the spiritual leader of this team, the highlight of his 20 minutes arriving with an attempted decapitation of you know who in the Wild Geese half forward line. I was working on a Henry the Eighth leadership/decapitation reference, but I'm not sure Ross would have appreciated it.
Ultimately the scoring bursts of the utterly out of place wing forward in Black and yellow were too much to reel in, although a series of goal chances, if taken, could have made it a much tighter affair. In addition to James' unlucky late effort, Casey and Tarpey could both have had penalties, while the aforementioned gander of a temporary captain shot straight at the keeper from all of 3 yards out after being set up by Tarpey, and then kinda fell over after being set up by Eric. Our last score arrived courtesy of Cillian heroically leading the charge, winning a sympathy free on his 4th attempt to rise the ball.
The final score of 4-11 to 2-8 was cruel on the C men, as we add another story of frustration to the list, but Fingallians in championship next week provides an opportunity to wipe away any bad memories and set us up sweetly for a big July/August. Let's hope there's no lions being led by donkeys on Sunday, we miss you Kev and Leon.
Realt Dearg C: Caoimhin Concannon, Gavin Deacon, Kieran Parrock, Richie Phelan, Cillian Thornton, Gavin O'Connell, Declan O'Beirne, Paul Warren, Gary Walsh, Eric Lee, John Tarpey, Jack Patton, Shane Casey.
Subs on: Brian Finn, Ross Kelly, James Brooks, Niall Heavy, James Egan.