On October 22nd, our Boys Senior Football team took to the hallowed turf of Croke Park to compete in the Corn O' Donnuchu final against the very formidable outfit of Holy Family , Rathcoole. Unfortunately, it was not to be our day as the Holy Family boys proved to be too strong, emerging victorious in a score-line of 8-9 to 3-5. However, it is a score line that does not reflect just how keenly contested this match was and we are immensely proud of how the players represented themselves on the day and we have many, many positives to take back home to Sruleen from the performance.
It was a contest in which our players more than matched the Rathcoole boys for intensity and determination and indeed were possibly the better team in the first 10 minutes but unfortunately we could not capitalise on any short spells of dominance we had in the match by registering scores on the scoreboard. The Rathcoole boys, on the other hand, clinically took advantage of any scoring opportunities that they created and it was this superior efficiency in front of goal that ultimately turned out to be the winning of the match for them. (At times it felt like they just couldn't miss but this is only testament to their class and skill!). Our boys were also a much younger and smaller group of players so it was no mean feat for our lads to be able to mix it so well with such a classy outfit! The boys also deserve huge credit for their attitude throughout the match as even when it seemed that the match was out of reach, they fought until the bitter end and never dropped their heads even once! What more can we ask for ? We can be nothing but extremely proud. They also handled defeat with humility and great sportsmanship which is always nice to see.
Each and every member of the panel deserves huge praise for their achievements this year. Matthew, our goalkeeper, has been one of our best players all year and indeed had another solid performance in the final (there was very little he could do about the goals as they were either great strikes or rebounds from his own saves). Matthew is a brilliant shot-stopper (his crucial double save in the semi-final against Scoil Santain kept us alive at a time when the match could have slipped away from us) but perhaps the most impressive feature of his game are his precise, Cluxtonesque kick-outs!
In the full back line, Sam, at corner back, played superbly well and came tearing out with the ball on numerous occasions. What is most impressive about his performance is that Sam had barely played any Gaelic Football until this September! At full back, Jayden produced a very solid and typically composed but steely display. Jayden has a brilliant attitude and has been one of our most consistent performers over the past few years! All the younger players look up to Jayden! Our speedy left corner back , Fabian, was typically tenacious and played with great determination right through to the final whistle.
In the half backline, Fabian's twin brother, Julien, played with a composure that belied his lack of experience and was one of our best winners of primary possession. These two brothers have improved at such a rapid rate that we can't help but be excited about what they can produce when the quest for the cup starts all over again next September! If Round Towers GAA club are looking to recruit some tough and speedy defenders, they need not look another further than Fabian and Julien! Kesther at centre back was quite simply outstanding! Kesther is as talented an athlete as they come but also a fierce competitor and his work rate on the day was outrageous. He turned over Rathcoole attacks time and time again and even managed to contribute a superb goal and a point to our own tally. He is a fantastic footballer and a player that we think could develop into something really special if he were to join Round Towers GAA club! Charlie was our only Fourth Class boy in the backline but Charlie is not one to shy away from the heat of battle as he won many the tight scrap for possession against boys who were much greater in size than he was. He is also one of our most skilful footballers (can kick with left foot just as well as he can with his right) and will be a vital player for us in the coming years.
At midfield , Jack Rothwell's performance was simply sensational! He may be small in stature but he has the heart of a lion and he covered every blade of grass on Tuesday. Jack may be a very talented footballer but more than anything else he is the one who encapsulates the fighting spirit of this great young group of players.
And what can we say about our captain, Szymone? It was never going to be an easy task to match Rathcoole's talented midfield pairing but Szymone and Jack more than held their own. Like many of our players, he may not play Gaelic Football for a club but Szymone's high catching throughout the year has been magnificent and he produced another excellent display in the final again. He is also a great leader and the perfect role model for the younger players, both on and off the field! If you ever want lessons on 'Respect', come to Szymone!
In the half forward line, Evan displayed with great composure and skill on the ball. This is a game that comes naturally to Evan and I hope he feels compelled to continue to play it in the coming years. Brandon saved his best match of the year for the final. We have always known that Brandon has great potential but now we can see that he is blossoming into the brilliant player that we always knew he could become. Some of his ball-winning and direct running on the day was a joy to watch and we are once again very excited to see how he can take his game to an even higher level next year. As for Luke, when you see a young boy from Fourth Class going on solo runs in a senior final where much older boys from the opposing team can't seem to be able to catch him, you know you have a special talent on your hands! His fantastic point from the side line in the first half was one of the highlights of our match.
In the full forward line, Cillian gave it everything he had. He has the ability to catch high ball on the edge of the square and indeed proved to be our match winner in our group game against Corduff. Darragh has been our top goalscorer this year. He is another player with so much natural talent who proved to be a constant threat to the Rathcoole defence the whole match. Kyle, the youngest player on the team, is a crafty footballer who had no fear of competing against the bigger lads in the Rathcoole full back line. He is the ultimate goal poacher and I don't think there are many 9 year olds in the county that can claim to have scored a goal in Croke Park in a Primary School's Senior Cup final, no less!
As for our subs, Cian, who is also an excellent soccer player, has been a valued member of the panel for two years now. Alex came on in goals in the second half and was very assured. Dean has also made great improvements this year and has always had a great attitude. We also had two younger players on the panel who have great potential. Harry has already demonstrated that he has the skillset to become an excellent footballer and is improving at such a fast pace that we are confident that he will be an important member of our team in the coming years while Sean is another player with great natural talent that we have high hopes for.
Yes, we may be getting carried away as ultimately the score line reads as if it was a comprehensive victory for Rathcoole. However, we have to take into account how young our team is with 7 of the starters being in Fifth Class and 3 of them being in Fourth Class (I imagine you would be hard pressed to find a younger team playing in Croker that day)! It was a spirited display and one in which we can take great heart from.
We also mustn't forget that our Junior team won the league this year and we must extend our congratulations to Mr. Scott for this victory and thank him for all the great work he did with the boys! A fantastic achievement!
We also want to thank the families and parents for the incredible support you have given us and the boys since the football season has started. The amount of interest you have shown has been really heart-warming and you have been so encouraging to the boys during all the matches. We know they did you proud in Croker!!
Finally, we want to congratulate Holy Family, Rathcoole on another well earned victory against us in Croker. I remember joking with their managers from last year that it could be a long, long time before we meet each other again on such a big stage as Croke Park considering both sets of teams were due to lose so many outstanding players to Secondary School for the following year but it is a testament to the good work that they do at that school that they were able to rebuild a team that could perform at such a high standard against us. Hopefully, our healthy and sporting rivalry can continue for the coming years (and if it were to occasionally occur on the biggest stage again (ie. Croker), well, that would just be a bonus)!