Those of us who are superstitious have significant dates in our calendar that are ear-marked as milestones on a yearly basis. We have been keeping an eye on them for so many years now they have almost become an annual feature of our lives.
July 15th is one of those special days. Those of us who were blessed to have been Sleansmen, Turfminers or farm hands will tell you that July 15th could make or break your year. I’m not sure if St. Swithin ever saw a Junior B hurling match; but he did profess a prophecy that if it rained on July 15th it shall remain for 40 days and 40 nights.
My own links to the gods are not as strong for various reasons but those who witnessed this JHC B Group 1 tie at Blunden Drive on Tuesday night must have had a deep feeling somewhere that this game could go on for the duration of St. Swithin’s famous theory.
For long stages O’Tooles held sway; Plunketts came back and looked destined to pull away with ease. O’Tooles fought back; Plunketts looked lost at sea until they finally came into port with a one point victory at the death. The famous Bishop of Winchester also stated the no apple should be picked or eaten before July 15th. In my estimation that makes for great pickings for Plunketts in the knockout stages ahead. They weathered the storm without ever panicking. As any good Sleansman will tell you, things can only get better if July 15th goes your way.
O’Tooles played with the wind in the first half; they found it difficult to obtain the match sliothar around the middle of the field for long stages before stamping a lead worthy of the breeze they possessed at the half way stage.
Stan O’Keeffe (2), Alan Kelly, Mark Butler and Liam O’Donoghue all registered minors for the home side in the opening quarter. Kelly and Butler dominated the aerial duels with the Plunketts half back line while Luke Blanchfield and Carl Shannon kept reins on the Navan Road attack; catching and clearing with abandon.
It took the visitors ten minutes to get on the board when James Cantwell pointed. By the 20th minute they were back in contention after GrassRootsGAA Star Man Shane O’Rourke and Eoin Whelan reduced the gap to two points.
O’Tooles finished the half magnificently. Liam O’Donoghue pointed four times; twice from long range frees while Stan O’Keeffe reacted best to Arron Lynch’s ground delivery by adding another minor to the scoreboard leaving O’Tooles (0-10 to 0-3) clear at the break. Indeed it could have been worse for the Navan Road side as Cathal Nolan and Graham Dinh had goal chances saved on the line by the outstanding Plunketts goalman, Darragh Carolan.
Plunketts needed a good start to eat into the deficit but it was the home side through Liam O’Donoghue (free) and Stan O’Keeffe that moved eight points clear; Emmett McMahon (free) replying for Plunketts.
The game came to life on 35 minutes when Ian Franzoni found himself free of the shackles of the home rear-guard; his major ignited Plunketts’ challenge. For the next ten minutes O’Tooles felt the brunt of the charge of the light brigade. Shane O’Rourke (3) and Emmett McMahon pointed before substitute Daz Creighton found himself alone in the O’Tooles square as Brian Staunton unleashed a shot goal wards – which was parried by Andy Farrell in the home goal – Creighton was on hand to tap the rebound to the net.
Eoin Whelan and Shane O’Rourke tagged on minors to see Plunketts into a 2-10 to 0-13 lead. With 13 minutes to go things looked bleak for O’Tooles but they rallied well and finished strongly. Liam O’Donoghue (free), “Jack” and Cathal Nolan all finished well-worked moves against a stiff breeze to tie the game.
Indeed O’Tooles should have raised at least one green flag but for the brilliance of Darragh Carolan in the Plunketts goal who saved point blank on two occasions. Entering injury time Plunketts substitute James Clarke landed the lead score from a free. Despite missing numerous chances to seal the issue, Plunketts held out to finish Group 1 of the JHC B as the top seeds heading towards the knockout stages.
Match report credit Brian G. O’Sullivan