AFL5 Ballyboden St Endas V Cuala
Sunday 24th July
Last Sunday’s home match against Ballyboden was a crucial fixture for our AF5 Footballers. Win it and we would remain top of the table with the winning of the league in our own hands over the last couple of games. Lose it and we would be dragged into the scramble for play-off places and all the potential heartache that can bring.
A lot of hard work had gone into getting into this position and there was a steely determination to ensure that the team maintained the impressive momentum that it had built throughout the season. Standing in their way was a Ballyboden side that also had title aspirations. So the Hyde Park stage was set for a cracking encounter.
Cuala came storming out of the blocks from the throw-in forcing the opposition back. Colmán McKenna and Cian O’Callaghan drove forward from midfield. Those early attacks resulted in a number of wides before Donal Lehmann converted a free to put Cuala on the board. Ballyboden were dangerous on the break and Enda Kelly and Ronan Murdoch made crucial interventions to repel their sporadic attacks. However it took another Donal Lehmann free to equalize after a couple of Boden scores.
Strong running from half backs Collie Brock and Dylan Treacy, linking well with Cathal O’Giolláin and Jake Malone nullified the Ballyboden sweeper system. However, with Ronan Sweeney and Donal Lehmann linking the play cleverly, the key to unlocking the blue defence in the first half was the supply of ball into Sean Moran stationed close to goal. One spectacular piece of fielding almost yielded a goal at the start but for a fine block by the Boden goalkeeper. There was no denying Sean on two other occasions as he gathered well and finished emphatically to the net both times. He then delivered the score of the half with a beautifully struck point off his left foot.
A number of shots that dropped short into the goalkeeper’s hands prevented Cuala from really driving the advantage home and Boden kept themselves in the game with a couple of scores. However, two more Lehmann frees left Cuala deservedly 7 points up at the break.
HALF TIME: Cuala 2-5; Ballyboden 0-4
Cuala again opened strongly with O’Callaghan and McKenna again prominent and had a couple of half chances that flashed across the goal – but the three-pointer that would have moved them well clear proved elusive. Ballyboden knocked over a couple of frees but points from Lehmann and O’Giolláin – both the result of flowing team moves kept Ballyboden at arm’s length.
However, a momentary lapse at the back allowed a Ballyboden attacker to progress along the endline. His pass found an in-rushing colleague who finished to the net to reduce the Cuala lead to four points. This was a test of the team’s mettle. And it was a test that they passed with flying colours.
Darragh O’Reilly’s kick out found a red jersey as he had done throughout. The busy Cillian Sheanon who had a tremendous second half carried the ball forward and from there the Cuala team coolly retained possession, recycled the ball and probed for a chink in the Boden armour. Cillian then injected pace and the ball was moved quickly through the hands to Cathal who finished a fine team score. Lehmann then tagged on another free.
Ballyboden continued to strive to come back but some tremendous blocking and covering by Dave Sheerin and Craig Lawlor proved to be the rock on which many of their attacks perished. This was complemented by some tremendous tackling back by Ronan Sweeney.
At this point, Derick Tansey entered the fray. He pointed after a jinking run and then after a well-taken fisted point by Sean Moran, he repeated the dose with another well-taken point to finish the scoring.
From there to the end, Cuala dominated possession with substitutes Mark O’Grady and Fergus O’Rourke prominent as the team held onto the ball snuffing out any hope Ballyboden had of getting the scores they needed.
FINAL SCORE: Cuala 2-12; Ballyboden 1-7
A very strong team performance saw Cuala gain a richly deserved victory against a good footballing side to stay at the top of the table. Their resilience, coolness under pressure and some of the high quality football played was impressive and ‘Bodes’ well for the future.
There is now a 4 week break as the league goes into abeyance for the summer holidays. The team then have two away games to play in the knowledge that two more wins will see them crowned league champions. The prize is in sight. The team are determined to reach out and take it.