croker brings out emotions
cumann na mBUNSCOL FINALS
CHEERS and tears....of joy. A Croke Park show-stopper. That was the magical scene at yesterday's Allianz Cumann na mBunscol Hurling and Camogie finals.
From early morning, the buses streamed down the Clonliffe Road. Inside were excited supporters, some even too small to peep out the windows.
And in they arrived to the great house. The imposing statue of Michael Cusack watching their every move.
The lower decks of the Cusack and Hogan Stands were full of colour and anticipation. The pitch has never looked better. It was as smooth as the hall carpet in The Shelbourne.
The day was blessed with good weather. Nice periods of warm sunshine.
The big screen was on. It had a message of welcome for all. Cumann Na mBunscol have been opening their doors since 1928. Fifteen matches were on the schedule. Three pitches were in use.
The GAA President Aogan O'Fearghail was a VIP. Also in the audience was the Dublin CEO, John Costello.
Looking at the quality on display filled him with optimism.
The blue-bricked road is paved with promise. Many future Dubs were on the stage. Every player got a gold medal. And a memory for life.
Hurling royalty also enjoyed the occasion. The great Nicky English was at ringside. Nicky was purring at the charm of the skills. It was all there.
Pure striking, brave blocking, superb fielding and a harvest of picture scores.
The last match on the menu summed up the quality of the occasion.
It was the Marino final. Hollypark played Bayside.
It was a thriller. It was level at the end of normal time.
And the teams still couldn't be separated at the end of extra-time. So the schools will get to polish the trophy for six months each.
And that was the ideal conclusion to a delicious debate.
"You were fantastic," said referee, Philip Carr. And so they were.
On the Bayside team was Conor McKenna. He had an excellent match. He's the grandson of the late, great Brendan McKenna of Burgh Quay.
Brendan could have filled all the pages of the Evening Press with the drama that unfolded.
Bayside's Seán Gallagher struck a wonderful sideline. He helped himself to 1-3.
Joe Flanagan also gave a towering performance. He hit 2-2, while in midfield, Eoghan Baldwin made a telling contribution.
Hollypark had a jewel of a centre half-back in Barry Wolahan. He was simply magnificent.
So was Brian Hayes, who got three goals and two points.
Martin Nolan was with Bayside. He has seen a million matches. But none as good as this.
The opening game also saw a super sideline speeding over the bar.
It came from the stick of Tomás Ó Muirthile, who excelled at midfield for Gaelscoil MÍde.
He cracked in a goal at the Davin end that had Conal Keaney written all over it.
The Míde full-forward, Pádraig Ghallghoir, scored 2-2 to cap a terrific offering.
Míde were playing Gaelscoil Bhaile Brigin, who also had a fabulous midfielder in Tom Ó Greacháin.
The game was graced by a tremendous goal from Ruadhan Mac Anna.
Rebecca Cooke also struck a collector's item of a goal for St Helen's. As the opposition mentor said: "You have to admire class like that."
It was the Sciath Nuri. The big Portmarnock derby.
Friends playing for the same club, Naomh Mearnóg, and many living on the same streets.
Marnock's had a jewel in Orlaith McGarry. She scored 3-1. She played in the style of Angela Downey. Marnock's wore the black and amber.
Cormac Pugh was also on the hat-trick trail for Scoil Mobhi. They were involved in a riveting debate with Scoil an tSeachtar Laoch.
The tie that followed that was the Corn Oideachas. It would have had Dickie Rock singing from the candy store on the corner.
The Rock brothers, Fionn and Conn, were in majestic form for Belmayne. In the first half, Fionn went on a stunning solo down the left wing. For a second, the crowd thought that Nicky English had changed into his playing gear. Belmayne were playing Our Lady's, Ballinteer, managed by the Marlay marvel, Fionan Clabby.