While the downpour ahead of throw-in was not what anyone wanted, the rainbow that appeared as it abated may have been more telling of what the evening was to offer. Old foes Seneschalstown stood between Cilles 2005 and Division 1 glory and this was not a night when the boys in blue were going to be denied.
After some to-ing and fro-ing over date and venue, the final was fixed for Meath’’s own field of dreams – Páirc Tailteann. A steady stream of traffic headed west from the Gold Coast ensuring the lads would have healthy and vocal support.
Warm-ups done, the referee called the captains together for the toss and it was show time. Cilles got of to a great start with the opening point but Seneschalstown soon found their rhythm and pinned us back in our half for long spells. It was looking a bit ominous as they reeled off 1-3 without reply.
But our lads are made of stern stuff and a point followed by a cracking goal brought the deficit back to the minimum. A Seneschalstown point just before the break left the half time score at 1-04 to 1-02 for the opposition. A big second half would be needed, but cometh the hour … or cometh the half hour …
Whatever was in the tea at half time, or perhaps it was Ronan Murphy’s hair-drier treatment, but Cilles were simply awesome from the first whistle of the second period. An early goal and a flurry of top class points saw us race into a 2-05 to 1-04 lead and we were playing some brilliant football. Our defence was on top, our midfield motoring and our forwards were shooting the lights out.
But Seneschalstown aren’t our closest rivals for no reason. A missed penalty (which our keeper said he had covered!) was followed by a quick point and then a goal to leave the sides tied at 2-05. A quarter of the game to go and Cilles had been dealt a few hammer blows again. How would we respond this time?
The next 15 minutes encapsulated what this team is all about. They dug deep, showed great team spirit and literally blew Seneschalstown away. In the closing period we outscored our rivals by 1-03 to a single point. When the lads needed it most they found it – like all great teams. They won – and they won with style, endeavour and the highest levels of skill. Every single player left every last ounce on the pitch. They delivered on their potential – the potential we all recognise in them.
The celebrations will long be remembered. Among players, managers and parents. They showed what the performance meant to everyone and when the captain lifted the cup, he lifted the spirits of all the proud Cilles people present. It was the culmination of a remarkable League campaign which saw all three U14 sides, in Divisions 1, 7 and 8, crowned as Meath League Champions – a phenomenal achievement!
It has been a real pleasure to watch the group of 2005 lads develop both as footballers and people since they were seven or eight years of age. They were always marvellous footballers but the way the group has gelled, built that camaraderie and are developing into young men has been wonderful to behold and a testament to parents and coaching staff.
A couple of years ago when a new set of jerseys was being ordered for the 2005 lads, a member of the coaching staff told them that the jerseys would have ‘A Great Bunch of Lads’ on the back over the number … it was only in jest but it would have been fitting!
The final word is for the coaching team. The match report above deliberately omits players names because everybody was a hero last night and every player played a key role – as did the players in the other two finals. But this year’s coaching team – a mix of old (not age wise!) in Dave and Pearse and new in Joe and Ronan deserve to be name-checked. They have done a marvellous job with the lads and deserve much thanks and appreciation. Go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir. Cilles Abú!
Words by Pearse Gilroy