Castleknock hope to seal deal in replay
They were anticipating a battle royal, and it's exactly what Castleknock got in their epic drawn All-Ireland JFC semi-final with Kenmare Shamrocks on Sunday in Mitchelstown (1-9 to 0-12 after extra-time).
For Castleknock mentor Ray Holland, it was a case of mixed emotions, having seen his side lose a four-point lead entering the final 10 minutes of normal time.
"I think we should have held on," he said. "But it was one of those days where they found a bit of momentum after they got a score or two. We didn't field our own kick-outs when they were getting those scores that put more pressure on us. It was one of those days where there was just so little between the teams. With some different tactics and strategy next time, I believe we can be successful."
Holland, however, is shrewd enough to realise that Kenmare will equally believe that they could have been using this week to prepare for an All-Ireland final clash with Galway champions Ballinasloe, who beat An Port Mór of Armagh in the other last-four encounter: "You can't complain. They could have won it, we could have won it."
The build up to this game perhaps garnered more attention than most other matches at junior level because of the returning Ciarán Kilkenny.
From the first whistle, Kenmare targeted the Dublin star, and for long periods he faced two-on-one battles as he shipped heavy punishment throughout. Despite that he made telling contributions at various stages including slotting the equaliser right at the finish.
Holland hopes he can influence the replay even more.
"He possibly didn't have the best of games by his high standards," Holland reflected. "I think that was more down to the fact that their (Kenmare) tactics worked. But when you have a guy as good as him on your team, teams are going to target him and try and stop him. That's just it. If we can free him up a bit more the next day we'll get more mileage out of it."
Another who has set tongues wagging in recent months is Shane Boland, whose all-action approach has seen him put in regular man-of-the-match performances. Sunday was no different and Holland was quick to praise his midfield dynamo.
"Shane has such an engine," he enthused. "He's so skilful and for a lad who isn't that big to dominate midfield the way he does is fantastic.
Over the course of the campaign, the Dublin 15 men have played an impressive brand with pace and quick movement in possession their focus. However, a January game, after days of heavy rainfall, hardly creates the ideal environment for that style of play to flourish.
With that in mind, Holland will be glad that Mitchelstown will not be the setting for the replay.
"We are hoping to get a drier pitch and it would suit us much better. Our lads like to use their pace so give us fast ground any day."
The replay will take place this Saturday in Cashel (2.0).