Thursday, June 22, 2006

HOOP DREAMS

It was with a song in my heart that I floated down to Tolka Park last night for the return of eircom League football, hopeful of seeing some real action and endeavour after countless world cup disappointments. Just my luck to get France in work; wasn't going to take a team 'cos I knew I wouldn't win anything, seemed like a waste of 20 euros; money better spent on a buy one get one free offer from those nice Apache Pizza people.

I was persuaded to take a share in a team, and subsequently drew Les Bleus - bon chance pour moi- once they top their crappy group I'll be on a profit. Don't feel so confident now.

Anyhow I arrived to an empty Drumcondra ground at about 7:30;more players than spectators at that stage - things improved. The assembled Hoopites were strangely quiet and never found their collective voice until the second half, and then only briefly.

This was my initial experience of second tier football; with most of the first division members based outside the Pale and all stubbornly refusing to play their home games in our capital city there's not much opportunity for me to take in a game.

I sat through a bizarre music mix that rattled out of the PA system and led me to the conclusion that they play 1st division music at 1st division matches. The Gladiators entered the arena in full battle regalia. Tom Connolly held his whistle aloft - let battle commence- after three weeks without a game this was a joyous relief. Then reality crept across my consciousness. It's f'in freezin'. There was I all t- shirty on midsummer's night frantically searching through my bag for something with sleeves. There was a gale blowing from the Drumcondra end which tested the roof of the old stand to it's extremes.

Rovers played with the elements at their back in the opening period. I spotted a triumvirate of interested onlookers perched closely together high in the stand; Nutsy, his trusty lieutenant Eamo and Aidan Fitzpatrick. The Cats boss took notes ahead of his charges tussle with Rovers next week while the other pair exchanged knowing glances as the game progressed. Were they hoping to pick up a bargain during the transfer window? There was certainly some fine talent on display, and a couple of useful footballers.

Rovers impressed, but their opposition must be put into some context. Kildare played like a side which hadn't wanted to get off the coach. There was no belief that they could achieve anything other than a defeat. Upon the restart, a goal to the worse and the gale at their backsides they flirted with resistance temporarily but retreated into their defeatist shell soon after. After Rovers scored a second from the spot they again gave the impression of rallying; but this was safe in the knowledge that they had secured their anticipated defeat.

The only solace that the Thoroughbreds can take from the game is that they've gone some way towards bedding in both Philly Gorman and Alan Kelly to the side. Kelly had a quiet game, and the visitor's forward line was a lonely place to be last night, though Gorman was a willing worker when the ball was in his vicinity. He needs games under his braces at this stage.

Rovers will do well to keep Shels'olly hands off the young Almond that is Padraig, his touch, speed and skill lit up the game. He was supported by a fine display from David O'Connor, before both were called ashore with a busy programme in mind, whilst Jamie Duffy showed tantalising glimpses of his potential. These players provided the 100's and 1000's to a pleasing attacking display from Pat Scully's predominantly young charges. It was only when their concentration lapsed that Kildare threatened to threaten.

And a welcome back to Barry Prenderville, who was credited with the opening goal on his return to eircom League action. And welcome back to the eircom League!

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