U13 HURLERS HELD WITH LAST MINUTE POINT FROM ST SYLVESTERS.
Erin Go Bragh 3-3
St. Sylvesters 2-6.
The pre match instructions to the team were "Get in the face of the opposition or your will be beaten off the park". The 2 teams were meeting for the first time but Erin Go Bragh had watched Sylvesters in the U12's Camaint final in 2015 and knew that they were facing a very tough skillful team. Coaches Niall O'Hara and Eamonn Campion hoped for a repeat of the performance the Erin Go Bragh team had put in v Liffey Gaels in the playoff league final in 2015, where every member of the team had played to their absolute potential, which saw them promoted from their division. Before the throw in the EGB coaches quietly discussed tactics on the line and were hopeful that their team could at least keep within touching distance of Sylvesters. A seven man defense was deployed with the hope of preventing Sylvesters getting close enough to pick off scores.
The task got even harder when, in the 3rd minute, Sylvesters midfield almost walked the sliotar into the net. It was a wake up call. Midfield duo Vickers and Padden dropped deep and battled for every sliotar. Daly, who was playing at centre half forward was now down in his own midfield and half back line. And so the battle began with Vickers, Padden and Daly winning free after free for their team. Campion was on free taking duty on the day and was getting great distance on the sliotar. In the 13th minute Padden was fouled near the halfway line. Campion stepped up and drove the ball long. Luke McEvoy got on the end of it and buried the sliotar in the back of the net to level the game up. Daly won the Sylvesters puck out and was immediately fouled. Campion stepped up to pop the free over the bar and put the boys in green 1 point up with 14 minutes on the clock. But that was to be their final score of the first half. Syls stepped it up a level and pushed forward for scores. Erin Go Bragh continued to battle with super block downs from O'Hara, Byrne and Daly, preventing potential scores for Sylvesters. Two good saves from Nitoi and clearances from Madigan, Ford, King and Humphreys kept Sylvesters at bay. But playing with such intensity was bound to bring fouls, and in the 21st minute Byrne gave away a foul directly in front of the goal. There was no missing it and Sylvesters were level once more. Shortly afterwards Sylvesters went in front from another free (1-2 to 1-1). Nitoi pucked it long and up went the hand of Padden, plucking the sliotar from the sky, under severe pressure. He broke for space and drove it up the pitch. Doherty got on the end of Paddens long drive and put it into the path of Evans. Evans in turn played a good ball into Hayes who shot narrowly wide. The long puck out made its way down to the Sylvesters half forward line and yet again it was Byrne who was on hand with another great block down. The sliotar broke for the Sylvesters midfield who had been following up and it was played in where Madigan cleared the 13 metre box with a good overhead batdown. King picked up the loose ball and cleared the lines.
The sliotar was not long cleared when, in the 25th minute, it arrived back in again. This time a long ball into the edge of the EGB 6mtr box landed on the head of the Sylvesters full forward and deflected off his helmet beyond the reach of Nitoi in goals. (2-2 to 1-1). This was followed up by 2 further points for Sylvesters in the final 5 minutes of the first half. Coaches O'Hara and Campion were praying for the half time whistle when young David Evans pulled up with a leg injury. David had played earlier in the day with his U12's team, along with Daniel Hayes, Shane Ivory, Sam McGrath and Tomas Vickers, and had a brilliant win over St Peters of Ballyboughal. Evans was replaced by McGrath just before the half time whistle.
Trailing by 6 points at half time and with heads beginning to drop the EGB coaches set about trying to lift the team and to give them the belief that they could get something from the game. Humphreys, Doherty and McGrath swapped positions with Humphreys moving up to the full forward line, McGrath moved out to half forward and Doherty moved to half back. The move proved to tip the balance in favour of EGB. With Humphreys and McEvoy fighting for every ball, it gave Hayes, Daly and McGrath a chance to get up in support of their team mates and put real pressure on the Sylvesters back line. Daly, Padden and McEvoy were drawing frees from the opposition as they were throwing themselves into everything. Unfortunately, Campion could not punish the fouls from the deadball but he was now operating in a roaming role up and down the pitch and causing all kinds of problems when he got on the ball. It took 11 minutes before EGB could find their range and it was Daly who gathered the ball out the field before breaking 2 tackles and driving a long range point over the bar. He followed this up 2 minutes later when he spotted the keeper off his line and lobbed him to find the back of the net from 30mtrs out. Now there was just 2 points in it (Syls 2-4 ; EGB 2-2). By no means was this a one sided second half. Sylvesters attacked time and time again. Vickers was doing a man marking job and O'Hara, Byrne and Doherty cleared their lines time and again with Campion and Padden racing up and down the park in support. Any long balls in were dealt with by, Ford, King, Madigan and Nitoi, who all combined to clear the ball off their own line in a goalmouth scramble. With just 15 minutes of the second half gone McGrath signalled to the line that he had nothing left in the tank (after his earlier match with U12's) and on came Shane Ivory to make his first appearance at U13's. He was immediately in the thick of the action winning his team a free. Campions free was caught by the Syls goalie and cleared out the pitch. We had to wait until the 21st minute for another score as both defenses were playing very tight games. Hayes won a free for EGB. Campion played it short to Humphreys. Humphreys shot was blocked down. The clearance was won by Doherty who worked it to Vickers before it made it's way back to Campion who found the back of the net to put EGB back in front. Daly won the Syls puck out and drew a foul. Campion popped over the resulting free to put EGB 2 points clear with less than 9 minutes left. Sylvesters threw caution to the wind and began to pile forward. For 9 minutes the EGB defense of Nitoi, King, Madigan, Ford, O'Hara, Doherty and Byrne, supported by Vickers, Padden and Campion, held firm. With so many players in tight space both teams were giving away fouls and the game had to be stopped a number of times to allow treatment on the field for players from both sides. EGB held their 2 point lead until 31 minutes when Sylvesters brought the deficit to just a single point from a long range free. With 34 minutes gone a foul on a Sylvesters forward resulted in a 20 mtr free. They made no mistake from the free and they drew level. It was to be the last action of the game which saw both sides go away with 1 league point each. After holding Sylvesters scoreless for 30 minutes of the second half the EGB lads were gutted to draw the game, after fighting back from 6 points down at half time.
Team: M Nitoi (Capt), C King, M Madigan, C Ford, O O'Hara, L Byrne, J Humphreys, G Campion, S Vickers, J Padden, E Doherty, D Daly, D Evans, L McEvoy, D Hayes, S McGrath, S Ivory, T Vickers.