Written by: Eoghan Bateman

The Irish Junior Cup has come around and the first round is against Cork Harlequins. With the initial victory of the long drive being conquered the Clontarf 2nd XI get into their starting positions for the game, quietly expectant of a result and hoping to make the journey worthwhile.

Clontarf take tip. The ball comes into center midfield and then out wide. Cork Harlequins press immediately and win the ball high in the Clontarf half, proceeding to drive straight towards the Clontarf circle. The ball is hit across the face of goal into a busy area, and after going through a number of players takes a deflection off Ian Hattaway and ends up in the back of the net. 1-0 to Harlequins with less than a minute gone. Clontarf set themselves up again, somewhat shocked by the early goal but well aware that there is a lot of time left to turn the tide.

Clontarf respond positively as the game kicks off again, starting to get a foothold in the game. After a few visits to the opposition’s circle the players can feel that something is coming. In quick succession Clontarf score two and take the lead, first with the ball falling to Jack Geraghty who despite being surrounded by opposition players slots it home, followed by a tap in from Mark Gorman who knows exactly where to be and when to be there in order to capitalise. The first quarter ends 2-1 to Clontarf who are feeling rejuvenated after turning the game around.

The 2nd quarter presents both sides with time on the ball and opportunities. Harlequins begin to use their experience to move the ball around well and have an increase number of entries into the Clontarf circle. After a rebound from a short corner Clontarf goalkeeper Stephen Cairns rushes out and goes for a tackle with his stick but is unfortunate to miss the ball and catch the player. A stroke is awarded for an intentional foul, which the Clontarf players contest against but to no avail. Cork Harlequins put the stroke away bringing the score to 2-2 going into half time.

Cork Harlequins continue to look dangerous going into the 3rd quarter and soon win another short corner. The ball is played down the right post with runners coming in for the deflection, one of whom is successful in lifting the ball with his reverse stick into the neck of EĆ³ghan Bateman defending on the line. Another stroke is awarded and Harlequins convert it yet again giving them the lead. Clontarf respond by attacking aggressively and after receiving a few unpunished stick tackles midfielder Ryan Maher responds with a stick tackle of his own resulting in a green card. John Lennon retaliates and is also given a green card leaving only 9 Clontarf players on the pitch. Clontarf set up defensively, working hard to fill the gaps but somehow manage to weather the two minute storm and see the quarter through.

Clontarf come out with intensity in the final quarter and are pushing much higher up the pitch than they have done for the duration of the game thus far. They know they need at least an equaliser to keep their dreams alive. Midway through the quarter Clontarf break away and initiate an attack. The ball somehow falls to Jack Geraghty who finds himself with acres of space around the penalty spot. Geraghty calmly looks up and slots the ball neatly into the bottom right corner, showing great composure in the most crucial of moments. The game is tied up at 3-3. Clontarf keep pushing for a winner but the full time whistle is blown bringing the game to shuttles.

The five shuttle takers put themselves forward, some of whom seem fairly reluctant but raise their hands none the less. Cork Harlequins are picked to go first. Their center midfielder who had been identified as a dangerous player steps up to take it. He drives to the left but goalkeeper Stephen Cairns makes a double save to deny him. Luke Abbott steps up next. He drives to the right, looking like he might cut back inside but continues to narrow his angle and slots the ball past the keeper at the near post. 1-0 Clontarf. Harlequins score their second shuttle bringing it to 1-1.

Pierce Hendy is up next. He carries the ball left and turns his back in the keeper. He quickly spins open side but the keeper gets in front of it to deny him. Still 1-1 after two shuttles each. Harlequins send their third taker and Cairnsey saves yet again using his speed and agility to keep the attacker at bay. Jack Geraghty steps up for Clontarf next. He sees that the keeper is slightly off to one side and calmly slots the ball into the corner making it 2-1.

Harlequins forth taker steps up and once again misses. The umpire blows the final whistle incorrectly thinking that Clontarf have one but the players recognise the mistake and don’t celebrate prematurely. They still need one more to win. Gareth Borland steps up. As he approaches the circle he sees some space to one side of the keeper and drills the ball into the bottom right corner. At the sound of the ball hitting the backboard the Clontarf players begin to celebrate and the final whistle is blown.

The high work rate of the Clontarf team throughout the game and the excellent goalkeeping from Stephen Cairns has won them the match, 3-3 at full time and 3-1 on shuttles. The team will return to Cork on 12th November for the next round against the Church of Ireland 2nd XI.

Final score: 3-3 full-time, 3-1 shuttles. Goal scorers: Jack Geraghty x2, Mark Gorman. Shuttles: Jack Geraghty, Pierce Handy, Gareth Borland