With a sense of foreboding, the rain threatened to descend from a dull grey sky up over O’Toole Park. 4 middle aged ladies playing golf were the only signs of life near the hurling pitch as the lads from Palmerstown were first to run out to warm up. A noticeable breeze blew towards the Crumlin clubhouse and the stage was set when the black and orange colours came out to join the red and white in this Dublin Senior Hurling Championship tie. The match was barely under way when Ballinteer Saint Johns were first to register a score with a pointed free coming from Oisin Power. Pats nerves were quickly settled when Liam Rushe netted from within his own half on the far sideline. The free which gave Rushe this opportunity came when Ballinteer half forward James Gilligan was adjudged to have overcarried while attempting to evade his marker; Rushe struck a long high ball in which was short of the crossbar but bypassed Ballinteer keeper Louis O’Faherty into the net.
Pats were now settled in to what would be a very closely fought encounter and could have gone 3 points up had midfielder Peter Keaney’s shot found the spot. Ballinteer soon recovered from this early setback and when half forward Gavin Byrne latched on to a Liam Rushe clearance, the Ballinteer man struck a quality long range effort to reduce the arrears to 1 point. Pats next score came from the stick of man of the match Shane Stapleton. Lining up to take a ’65 from a central position, Stapleton elected for a quick pass off to a team mate; running on to the return pass Stapleton ran the sliotar 20 yards forward and tapped over a simple point. The match was soon level when Power knocked over another free closely followed by a superb long range effort from half forward Ciarán Lane deep in his own half. An exchange of pointed frees by Stapleton and Power respectively kept the parity going midway through the first half. The first key moment of the game came during this period when Ballinteer corner forward Fionan Clabby chased down a Pats defender in possession and was judged to have been hit in the process. The honours of converting the penalty fell to his brother Aodán but the Pats defence was up to the challenge and tapped the ball past the post for a ’65 which was handily converted by Power.
Another careless free, characterising the match as a whole, was given away this time by Johns and the sides were again level when Stapletons effort sailed over the bar. This tit-for-tat scoring would continue with Pats getting a score from play followed by Aodhán Clabby taking a superb point on the run after shipping a hard knock. On several occasions leading up to half time Pats showed signs of threatening the Johns goal but the Ballinteer defence was well marshalled by captain and full back Cormac O’Brien who snuffed out serious danger on more than one occasion. In contrast Johns were finding it particularly difficult in the middle third where the industry of Pats midfielders Keaney and Darren Mooney, combined with a defensive contribution from the half forwards, made space hard to find on the tight Crumlin pitch. It appeared the breakthrough for Ballinteer had come from a long range effort, in a similar vein to Rushe’s early goal, when Glen Whelan made a solo run along the far sideline and took a shot at the posts from the middle third; dropping in on the box the ball sailed into the net and Johns were now two to the good. Pats reduced the arrears to one just before half time when half forward Dave O’Hanlon took possession from a sideline and knocked over a point from play. HT: Ballinteer St Johns 1-7 St Pats Palmerstown 1-6
The second half began in lively fashion when Stapleton made a darting run towards the opposition goal and pulled the trigger only to be blocked by Ballinteer’s corner back Ronan Collins. However Pats soon levelled the score when full forward Aidan Glennon tapped over the breaking ball. Ballinteer would go on to dominate possession for the next 10 minutes of the match but failed to make it count with 3 consecutive wides (including two from frees); following some clever thinking from Whelan a low lateral pass across to Aodán Clabby was converted for a simple point to go back into the lead. After some good graft by Fionán Clabby, Whelan was able to pull the trigger from the far line for another Johns point. Pats refused to allow Johns to pull clear and the response was instant with a marvellous point on the run by Liam Rushe; breaking free from the keen marking of two Johns players, Rushe ran 5 yards towards the posts and fired over from a central position.
Pats strung together some nice passes in the final third following on from Rushe’s point but the final result was a wide from a Stapleton effort. However another Pats attack gave the Ballinteer faithful a scare when the ball landed dangerously in the Johns box only for a brave block using the body by half back Gavin Byrne. It appeared that surviving this scare was to be the tonic Johns needed to shake any complacency away in the run in towards the final stretch. Whelan then won a fortuitous sideline, and a quick pass off from Joe Maher allowed Aodán Clabby to lash another ball over the bar. When Stapleton’s next effort from play failed to register, and James Gilligan had hit over a lovely point from far out, it seemed that the momentum would remain with the Marley Park side going into the final stage.
However, at 1-11 vs 1-8, the momentum swung dramatically away from Johns when a bad defensive mix up in their box, no doubt facilitated by the physical presence of Stapleton, gave the Palmerstown side an equalising goal. When Pats half forward Dave O’Hanlon took possession in the corner and evaded Collins, the first impression from his solo run at Louis O’ Flaherty’s net was a certain goal for Pats. A good block by O’Flaherty gave Pats a ’65 which was sent wide of the sticks. Johns did manage to register one final score ten minutes before the end when Power knocked over another free. Power’s free had been earned by the industrious Aodán Clabby who was surely the Ballinteer side’s most prolific forward. However with tails firmly up, and a decline in the Ballinteer attacking threat, Pats laid siege to the Johns defence in the final 5 minutes. Facing a strong wind Stapleton’s next free went wide but the main protagonist in this encounter made amends seconds later when he pointed from a free given away cheaply near the 40 metre line. Two fantastic points from play by Pats, scored by Stapleton (on the run) and Peter Keaney respectively, and a final ’65 by Stapleton gave victory to the Palmerstown side. FT: Ballinteer St Johns 1-12 St Pats Palmerstown 2-12