St. Colmcilles GAA Club, Pairc Ui Rís, Piltown, Bettystown, Co Meath 089-4440124

If this game is ever made into a movie which let’s face it, is highly unlikely – it’s more likely to be along the plotlines of a great robbery rather than a great escape. As Skryne’s talismanic full-forward Brian Smyth understated it beautifully afterwards, “We might ha’ kina’ stole tha’ from ya”.

A stoppage-time penalty which was slotted to the corner of the net ultimately won it for Skryne in what was one of the best stewarded Gaelic football matches in the long and distinguished history of the GAA in East Meath.

If you want to read a more objective analysis of the match with full acknowledgement and reference to the Skryne team and scorers, then as the BBC often says ahead of bland professional soccer results, you’d best look away now.

The Cilles Junior D juggernaut – of sorts – has been on the road for three years now. The 202 plates looked a little more apt on some of the injection of fresh blood this year with Weir, Harris, Flynn, Bennett, Collier and Dalton, to a man showing that the future is bright. This silver lining was offset by the additions of Coffey, Brannigan, Diamond (he came to one training session, at least) and the annual return from the cold of perennial retiree, Stephen O’Neill. To be fair to the hamstrung David Marron, there were glimpses of a footballer in him which he managed to conceal in the early part of the short season, at least.

A bit like bears stumbling from the woods after six months of hibernation, the motley crew assembled in rainy Pilltown post-Covid but showed none of the loss of condition that the ole’ grizzly might.

Under the tutelage of the evergreen Enda Grogan assisted by Paul ‘Covid-compliance’ Nash,  Oisín ‘aren’t Monaghan great’ Gartlan and the soft-spoken Jack Black, the lads embraced training with all the enthusiasm of revellers looking for shots of a different kind in Dublin’s Berlin D2.

While many other sacred traditions such as the Orange marching season and September All-Irelands fell victim to Covid, the rite of passage that is the pre-season outing against Duleek didn’t. So much so, that there were two of them – games, that it – with the neighbours wondering what in the name of Jaysus we were doing with their erstwhile protégés, Colin Duignan and Dáire Ferguson. Cilles had brought them back to their old stomping ground but to no avail, Duleek/Bellewstown stuck to their guns and said you can keep them, without proof of purchase, there would be no refund on the lads.

Stuck with Ferguson and Duignan, the Junior Ds stuck bravely to their guns but with old reliables like Brian Kelly, Mark Magill, Owen O’Brien and Niall Kerbey playing an increasingly withdrawn/invisible role, the net was cast wide and in came Gary McCloskey and some chap called Rory Hennessy. Oh and Dave Sheeran too, but he waited a right while.

Next, it was off to Annaghminnon Rovers – yes that’s a real place – for another challenge match. Annaghminnon Rovers GFC is a Gaelic football club from the small community of Stonetown in the parish of Louth, a fact some of the lads would have done well to check on Google Maps before ending up on the outskirts of Ballycastle.

A comprehensive group win over Simonstown, when even Barry Kelly played reasonably well followed before the acid test, the second group match away to Moynalty in a time long ago when spectators were allowed at games. Sunderland ole’ boy, Brendan McGill more-or-less beat them on his own complemented by a wonderful showing from David Marron. The talkative Shane Cassidy and the elder Magill were typically tenacious in defence and skipper, Niall Ronan thankfully showed none of the form which led to a ‘cooling down’ in relations between himself and Michael Cheika. This game also marked the return to club colours of Carl ‘The Lion’ Dowling who helped himself to three bad wides, right at the death when the game was level.

A challenge match in Senchelstown was next for the band of brothers, Caiman Hall turned back the years with a virtuoso performance and Tadhg Bennett missed a goal that Stevie Wonder would have safely tucked away.

And so to the final day of August 2020 and Cilles’ date with destiny – a winner-takes-all final group game at home. A place in a second consecutive county final up-for-grabs. Skyrne the opponents and a squad of almost forty presenting themselves in Pilltown to provide management with plenty of selection headaches.

The gilet jaune movement were out in force to keep law and order of course. In spite of a ropey start, a Hall goal settled Cilles with entrepreneurial wing-back and glove salesman, Darragh Kelly driving forward at will. Sheeran and Gerry O’Donoghue meted out some punishment in the middle, Lorcan Smith was impersonating Conor McGregor at six while Alan Miley’s kickout strategy seemed to bamboozle his teammates and opponents equally.

Leading narrowly at the break, Cilles looked to have one foot in the final when Bennett goaled and Hall fisted over to push the seasiders out to five points up but it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. Unfortunately, she still hadn’t left her chair to go to the mic and nursing the most dangerous lead in football, Cilles were to concede a controversial late penalty which Skryne goaled to win by a single point.

A cruel end for Cilles but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and budding new friendships were forged, afternoons and evenings away, competitive edges rediscovered, silly whatsapps exchanged and slagging aplenty but no pints drank.

All-in-all, an interesting year. No cup but life goes on. A huge thanks to Enda, Oisín, Paul, Jack and Niall as well as our in-house photographer, Brian for being quick enough on the camera to capture many of our players in possession as well as of course, our hardworking and selfless volunteers and committee.

By Dodge Peno (Sean Perry) 

Photographs: Brian Mulligan