Ronan Pelow’s robust injury list meant a barrage of new faces as DUHC resumed their league campaign against Clontarf last Saturday. Trinity have developed something of a mental block where this side is concerned, and were looking to shake off the memories of relatively disappointing Intervarsity and Irish League Trophy results over the past two weeks. The absence of Andy Gray and Brian Cleere wasn’t a help in this regard, while Johnny Orr was also benched and Aengus Stanley could only assist the back four by bellowing advice from touchline.
Cian O’Reilly and Chris Tyrrell looked intially lively, probing down both flanks, but were unable to provide the killer ball in. Stuart Cinnamond had the best chance of the opening period, set up by Tyrrell, but couldn’t get a clean shot away. With Barry Glavey demonstrating his characteristic grace under pressure to extricate himself from various tight spots, Trinity gave as good as they got in the opening exchanges.
Clontarf, though, are as good as they come in Division Two hockey, and in the manner of Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction, soon turned the tables on their tormentors. It took a stern Ian Gorman challenge to stem the tide as Clontarf stormed through the centre, but neither he or Ben Hewitt could stop the ‘Tarf left winger the next time he weaved his way into the circle. A short corner was the result, but the only casualty was Hegarty’s stick, broken clean in two in a impressively hardcore feat of goalkeeping. Provided with a replacement, he used it to keep things level when faced with a one-on-one in open play a few minutes later, as the intensity rose and Glavey resumed his love-hate relationship with the Leinster Branch umpires.
Daire Coady, brandishing the captain’s armband, had abandoned all concern for his bodily integrity as he threw himself about the park in the effort to keep the Clontarf attack at bay. That said, some of his passing out of defence was wayward, and it was he who conceded the next short corner when the ball came off his left hoof. Several bodies blocked the first volley, but the rebound was somehow scrambled in for a demoralising 0-1.
A goal down, Trinity found it hard to maintain the patient hockey that had allowed them to put it up to Clontarf in the first twenty minutes. As passes failed to find their mark, “Calm it down” and “Take it easy” were the refrains of Pelow and Orr on the touchline. Before the students could settle, though, they were stung for another: Nick Odlum did well to block the initial chance and clear wide, but the cross came back at pace, and, after another goalmouth melee, the ball thumped into Hegarty’s backboard again.
Coady attempted to rally his troops; he was eventually able to find his range to pick out Cinnamond in the oppostion 25. The layoff to Hal Sutherland, steaming up in support, was judicious, but the substitute was unable to clear the Clontarf goalie with his chip. With Glavey not getting enough ball, it was a simple matter for the northsiders to punish such impudence during their next attack: with Trinity defenders diving around recklessly, the short corner was inevitable; its conversion, routine. As the eerie tinkling of an ice-cream van echoed through the vicinity (by now it was raining; clearly there was something fishy going on there), half time came with Trinity three-nil down and chasing the game.
In a sign of Trinity’s confidence that they could recover the game, the “injured” Orr and Stanley were pitched into the fray, and made an immediate impact as Trinity reasserted themselves. Their fellow substitute Beverland won a short corner after ‘Tarf were caught out by a dubious free against them. The score that would have given them that crucial bit of momentum proved elusive, though, as Glavey sent the ball wide to the right.
With Stanley making inroads down the right flank, and the midfield looking that bit more settled, Trinity had plenty of possession but no clear-cut chances until Hewitt – much improved from a quiet first half performance – was hacked as he burst into the circle. Glavey, in no mood to be denied, sank his putt at the second attempt to make it 1-3.
There was just a few signs that the home side might crack under pressure. A free in the Trinity 25 was reversed for backchat, and their captain was sin-binned for kicking the ball having just lost his stick in a collision. He was back in the blink of an eye, though, and all that Trinity could muster in his absence was another fruitless O’Reilly run.
Clontarf were too good to get really upset, and having taken 45 minutes to score one goal Trinity didn’t look to have the cutting edge to get two more. There was plenty of bark, but no bite.
Orr and the acrobatic Henry Butler looked busy but a touch ineffective in midfield, while O’Reilly and Beverland both missed decent chances. When another short corner opportunity was saved by the ‘Tarf goalkeeper, Alan Bell’s stats will record that only one out of three such efforts were converted. Had they all been, the game could at least have been tied.
Clontarf displayed no such profligacy; when their final shortie of the day arose, it was dispatched clinically, low and to the right of the diving Hegarty. They were good value for their 4-1 win, but DUHC will regret those key misses.