The day began in the same manner as all previous historical clashes; with a downpour. This was reported by Trinity News number 9, Billy Nash, who as per usual was the first to know about the weather, way up there. TN arrived at their home ground early to get through their thorough pre-match warm-up, which saw the home side’s Mascherano-like holding midfielder, Duncan Moss, sharpening his studs. The University Times arrived some time later and cracked on with their warm-up; striker Colm O’Donnell finished a pack of Benson and winger-come-captain Conor Bates drank cans of Dutch. The scene was set.
The referee for the day was meant to be the known UT collaborator Jack Leahy, but an unknown assaillant had taken out Leahy’s tibia with a thick copy of TN the previous day. As a result, the game would go un-refereed.
UT enforcer Carl Kinsella kicked off, and the away side’s pre-match pep talk and private medical treatment by Lance Armstrong paid dividends. The self-proclaimed Galácticos took an early 2-0 lead, with goals from Jack ‘Heskey’ Danaher and Ross Mullen, the latter of which told interviewers before that game that he planned to channel his Ivory Coast heritage and play like Wilfried Bony’s illegitimate son.
TN quickly hit back. Niall Brehon, aptly named ‘the Irish Xavi’ by foreign sports journalists, played a neat one-two with TN captain Cal Gray, before sliding a clinical pass through to Billy Nash, who proved Eamonn Dunphy correct, as he does indeed have ‘a good touch for a big man’. Nash slotted the ball low and right past UT keeper Leanna Byrne. 2-1.
The score was soon level as Gray, TN’s captain from centre midfield, neatly put the ball through Kinsella’s legs and played a slide rule pass across to Nash, who calmly doubled his tally. 2-2 with only 10 minutes gone.
The first half quickly became a goal fest. Regular writer and TN linchpin (and the man who taught Ronaldo everything he knows) Gus Shaw Stewart came off the bench and quickly exerted his dominance, making many wonder why he didn’t start the match. His constant stepovers and clever flicks ran the UT defence ragged and he scored more goals than O’Donnell could count. Six. Cathal Groome, the away side’s centre half was heard commenting that ‘they must have cloned the b*****d, he’s everywhere!”
When the half time whistle blew TN had taken a narrow lead, 12-11.
The second half came far too soon for UT’s O’Donnell & Bates, who barely had time to finish their naggins or ‘drop their second.’ Whatever that means. Danaher’s physical presence was felt by many, but none more so than plucky TN winger William Foley, who had torn apart the opposition defence in the first half. A tough challenge down the left meant Foley was in need of medical assistance, leading to a long stoppage in play. Thankfully Danaher, who had a surprisingly large number of tiger onesies to hand, mopped up any blood spilt. This stoppage was just what the student doctor ordered, as TN regrouped and came up with a new game-plan, namely “Give the ball to Gus.” It worked.
Between the clinical finishing of Nash & Stewart, the transformation of TN winger Louis Strange (whose quick feet, stepovers and other bamboozling skills showed why he is dubbed ‘the cockney ginger Messi of our generation’,) the efficient passing of the dynamic midfield of Brehon & Gray, and the introduction of no-nonsense defender John Kennedy, the team began to click. Danaher’s aerial threat was neutralised by Kennedy, whose height and Norwegian heritage saw pundits compare him to a young Sami Hyypia. Danaher’s frustration could be easily seen when Nash was through one-on-one with the UT keeper. Danaher launched a more-than-questionable two-footed sliding tackle which missed Nash entirely, but did take out Conor Bates, his own captain. TN gaffer Elaine McCahill was heard screaming for Danaher’s sending off for such an attempted challenge from the sidelines, but she was soon silent when she remembered she was being investigated for the aforementioned and alleged assault of the prearranged referee.
There was little that could be done about Mullen, whose powerful shots were UT’s only real threat on the TN goal. Through him the away side kept the scoreline close, not letting TN’s dominance overwhelm them, until the last ten minutes. Fitness training during the week paid off for TN and the natural and devastating relationship between Nash & Stewart was just too much for the wheezing O’Donnell & Groome, who quickly conceded 4 goals without reply, leaving the scoreline at 19-15 with one minute remaining. Moments before the final whistle, Groome cleared a ball long which unfortunately fell to the feet of Gray, who controlled neatly and blasted a long range shot past Byrne. The TN captain’s sportsmanlike demeanour fell momentarily, as he ran to Byrne in celebration saying “here’s your injury, and here’s your insult.” Byrne was heard muttering what sounded like “Yeah we’ll see you at the Smedias” but this was neither confirmed or denied in post-match interviews.
The final whistle blew, seeing Gray and co. leap into the air in triumph. The same could not be said of UT, many of whom made a swift exit. O’Donnell was heard panting the words “Pav, Pav, Pav” but the meaning of this was lost when he passed out from exhaustion and cigarette deprivation moments later.
Cal Gray lifted the ‘El Journálistico’ trophy to jubilant celebrations, representing TN’s 4th consecutive win in the annual fixture. The TN captain’s speech to the estimated 56,000 spectators present accredited the win to ‘good planning, strong team bonding, and a superior choice of font and layout.’ Byrne was less than impressed.
UT would later claim a moral victory as ‘luck was not on their side’ but as we all know in sport, moral victors win silver, not sweet gold.