It was a case of déjà vu for Cuala as our U-10 team emulated the performance of last year’s U-10s when they again finished third in the annual John Humphrey memorial cup hosted by St James Gaels at the Iveagh grounds on December 27th and 28th. The competition is held in memory of a young St James Gaels’ player, who died tragically some years ago and it showcases the cream of under 10 talent in Dublin football.

The group stages on Wednesday 27th saw Cuala qualify as winners of a tough group which included the hosts St James Gaels, St. Oliver Plunketts, St Anne’s and Castleknock. In fact, Cuala went through the day unbeaten winning four hard fought games against their pool rivals.

First up on a blustery day were St Anne’s and early points by Gavin Hartnett, Oisín Murphy and Dan Casey gave Cuala a first half lead. However, the northsiders came back strongly and it was not until two second half goals by Andrew Power that Cuala put daylight between the sides. A final score of Cuala 3-5, St Anne’s 2-1 gave the Cuala lads just the start to the competition that they had been looking for.

The second game against St Oliver Plunkett’s was a much closer affair. It took some fine defending from Shane Sweeney, David Ryan and Emmett Burns to keep the opposition at bay. Goalkeeper Cian Moriarty also had a fine match and Niall O’Callaghan kicked a couple of great points as Cuala ran out winners on the score of 1-4 to 1-1.

In their third game, Cuala played the hosts St James Gaels. Cuala were very fast out of the blocks in this game with Cillian Kelly, Mark Lyons and Paddy Murray featuring very prominently. The scores came regularly and Cuala ran out eventual winners by 6-4 to 0-4.

Cuala’s final game of the day saw them engaged in a truly titanic battle against Castleknock. This was a fine game of football between two very evenly matched sides. It was neck and neck all the way but second half scores from Darragh O’Reilly, Jack McCarthy and Niall O’Callaghan eventually saw Cuala prevail by the narrowest of margins scoring 1-4 to their opponents 0-6 and top their group.

Cuala’s ‘reward’ for their all conquering performance in qualifying was to be drawn against the holders, Thomas Davis, when they reconvened the following day. This was undoubtedly the game of the tournament. In the first half, nothing much went right for the Cuala boys. At times only some great goalkeeping by Cian Moriarty and stout defending by Andrew Power, Emmet Burns and David Ryan stood between Thomas Davis and a big first half score. However, the team hung in there and gradually the likes of Cillian Kelly, Gavin Hartnett and Nicky Spain started to get to grips with their opponents and ensured that at half time Cuala remained in touch. The second half saw a very much improved performance with Oisin Murphy, Niall O’Callaghan and Darragh O’Reilly all getting on the scoreboard as Cuala gradually clawed their way back into the match. Unfortunately for them, the final whistle came too soon and despite their stirring second half fightback, Cuala came up just short losing to the eventual winners of the competition by just two points 2-6 to 1-7.

That meant that Cuala faced their foes from Day One, St Oliver Plunkett’s in the 3rd Place Playoff. This match was played in truly atrocious conditions with a ferocious wind whipping driving rain across the pitch. Despite the weather, the teams treated the drenched crowd to a great game of football. With Mark Lyons, Nicky Spain and Paddy Murray prominent, Cuala went into an early lead with goals from Niall O’Callaghan and some more great defending from Messers Burns, Power and Ryan. However, Plunkett’s fought tooth and nail and some fine scores meant that they went into the lead halfway through the second half. However Gavin Hartnett played Oisin Murphy through for a finely worked goal and then a great solo effort from Cillian Kelly helped to see Cuala home by the score of Cuala 4-4, St Oliver Plunkett’s 3-5.

So it was third place again for Cuala in this prestigious competition. The team can be proud that they featured so prominently in a event which draws some of the best U-10 talent from across Dublin. Their performances augur well for their future as they move into the under 11 grade in 2008. Congratulations to all involved.

The Cuala Panel over the two days was: Cian Moriarty, Oisin Murphy, Gavin Hartnett, Shane Sweeney, Dan Casey, Jack McCarthy, Andrew Power, Nicky Spain, Darragh O’Reilly, David Ryan, Cillian Kelly, Paddy Murray, Emmett Burns, Mark Lyons, Niall O’Callaghan.