St Nicks ran out 11 point winners in the end.
St Nick’s made their delayed start to the 2018 league season against local rivals Western Gaels on Sunday, determined to start the season with a winning start. With conditions perfect for football St Nick’s were focused on starting as they meant to go on, St Nick’s did just that from the throw in as they went two points up early on through scores from Kevin Stankard and marquee signing over the winter, Mark Duffy. Both players kicking excellent points off the right from 30 yards.
Then with about 10 minutes played, Brian Flynn opened his goal scoring account for St Nicks. Working the ball through the hands, the Nicks’s players created space well to give Brian his chance and he made no mistake when one on one despite the keeper’s best efforts. St Nicks couldn’t have asked for a better start but despite this, Western Gaels came back into the game using route one football, lumping the ball into their forward division at the earliest possible opportunity. This paid off somewhat for them as they tacked on a couple of points of their own.
St Nicks replied with points from debutants Mark Duffy and Cricky, who was doing excellent work in keeping the ball moving to other forwards as well. Western Gaels continued with their tactic of getting the ball in early and this paid off when they scored their first goal from a breaking ball. As the ball broke to a Gaels player, Connolly Jarret came out and made himself as big as possible, but unfortunately left a gap between his legs for the ball to go through. Both teams exchanged points before the referee’s half time whistle to leave St Nick’s a few points up at the break. Regardless of this, St Nick’s were feeling disappointed at the break, as in spite of dominating most of the play, their opponents were still in touch. St Nick’s knew they would have to up their work rate and intensity I they were to start their year off with a win.
St Nick’s started the second half in much the same way as they started the first, tacking on a couple of points from Stank and Duffy after some trojan work from the likes of Sean McCarthy and Bryan Flynn who was making endless runs and then bringing his teammates into play excellently. At this stage St Nicks were looking to drive on but the Gaels just about kept in touch with a couple of points from long distance, which is where most of their shots were coming from thanks to tremendous work from all the defensive division who were being well marshalled by Nigel Farrelly in an unfamiliar sweeper role. After about 45 minutes St Nick’s really started to add points and this time they were not being answered by their Bristol counterparts. Kevin Stankard was showing well time and time again and showing that on his day he can be as good as anyone, swinging over some lovely points.
Mark Duffy was proving a nuisance for the opposition defence, being able to turn onto his left or right and shoot to good reward. Bryn Flynn was always giving an option inside and he was able to add another point to his early first half goal. St Nick’s were at this stage refusing to let Western Gaels out of their own half thanks to some trojan work from Tim O’Loughlin and John Lyttle in the middle of the park. Our midfield partnership were ably assisted by a hard running half backline, with B Burn in particular making lung bursting runs to support play whenever given the chance. All of this pressure proved fruitful when St Nicks got a 45 after 50 minutes, Stank was only able to put the ball in on top of the goalkeeper. The Western Gaels goalkeeper must have thought he did enough to palm the ball to safety, but he didn’t reckon on Mark Duffy leaping 12 feet in the air to punch the ball to the net.
St Nick’s were now well and truly in the ascendancy and started to introduce substitutes to the field of play. When Western Gaels were able to break out of their own half they persevered the route one tactic, and were duly rewarded with a goal from a deft finish, fortuned by the charitable nature of St Nick’s goalkeeper, Connelly Jarrat. Western Gaels added to this score with a long range point but they were unable to reel in the St Nicks lead with the full back line not allowing another sniff of goal. At the other end of the field St Nicks continued to add scores through fringe player Ciaran Barrett. A 3rd goal was added through the Nick’s account when Brian Flynn proved that hard work really does pay off. As the keeper was trying to pick out a pass, Brian afforded him no easy route blocking down his clearance and sealing his man of the match display with his second goal. St Nick’s added on two more points, one through the tireless B Burn who swung over a point from an acute angle on the right hand side and another from centre forward Cricky leaving the final score line St Nick’s 3-15 Western Gaels 2-7.
A good competitive start to the season for St Nicks and one which they can surely build upon for the rest of the season.
By Richard Murphy