Cuala Intermediate footballers got their season off to a winning start when they overcame a stubborn St Jude’s challenge by the narrowest of margins, 0-10 to 2-3, in a nerve-shredding AFL4 encounter on Bray Emmett’s 3G surface.
Conditions made life difficult for the players at times but the Cuala lads showed a lot of maturity against seasoned opponents and dominated possession from the throw in. With Matthew Kiernan, Ryan Scollard and Tom Magee running hard, there was a constant flow of attacks towards the Jude’s goal. However, resolute defence and wrong shot selection at times combined to thwart the boys in red. In fact, Judes got the first score of the game from a long-range free before points from Gavin Hartnett and Donal Lehmann restored some sanity to the scoreline.
Great organisation and hard work by the whole team was making life very hard for the team from Tymon. Ronan Sweeney and Paul James led the attacking unit effort which ensured that Judes had little time on the ball while, defensively, Collie Brock, Neil O’Sullivan, Ciaran McDermott and Craig Lawlor were prominent in repelling everything that came their way. Cormac Quinn was solid as a rock in goals and there seemed to be little danger of Judes building any kind of score. Then disaster struck. Mishandling in defence allowed the Jude’s attack a clear run through on goal and, to their credit, the chance was taken and the net was shaken. However, Cuala stuck to their guns and continued to play with assurance. Ryan Scollard and Ronan Sweeney hit points after patient build up play to leave the sides level at half time.
Nine first half wides and three shots which dropped short tells the story of the first half from a Cuala perspective. A game that should have been put to bed was very much in the melting pot. It was all to play for in the second half.
Again, Cuala started off very much on the front foot. Kiernan and Andy Power were prominent around the middle of the field while Adam Hudson and the outstanding Darragh Collopy drove forward from the wingback positions. However, scores remained hard to come by. Points by Hartnett, Sweeney and Magee with two replies from Judes saw Cuala haul themselves into a hard-fought lead with less than 10 minutes to play. Unfortunately, another handling error saw a goal chance gifted to the opposition and again they took it, to grab a lead that they scarcely deserved. Given the low scoring nature of the encounter, this looked decisive.
Cometh the hour, however, cometh Tom Magee. Tom floated a 45 over the centre of the crossbar to leave the minimum between the sides. Then after some neat build up play, he worked a shooting opportunity and his right foot shot sailed over the bar to level the scores. In a dramatic end game, Cuala moved the ball up the pitch with lively substitutes, Luc O’Giolláin and Mark O’Grady prominent. The move found its way to Magee and this time off his left foot, he hit a towering effort which split the uprights. There was still time for one last Judes attack but brave defending by another substitute, Jacob Brennan, helped to save the day and Cuala ran out deserved – if very narrow – winners.
It was great to get the season up and running with a win and a strong performance. There were a lot of positives for management and players to take away – and a lot of things to work on in the days and weeks ahead.