November 1, 2015
Ports and Leesiders Battle for League Title
After 6 weeks of league play, the Ports faced off against the Leesiders to decide who would be crowned champions. The Leesiders earned a chance to challenge the league-leading Ports when they narrowly defeated the Blue Notes in week 6. The Ports, who suffered two defeats in week 6, would look to break the Leesiders’ newfound momentum in hopes of hoisting the Harper Iron Hurley at the day’s end.
Pace and Skill Mark the Opening Minutes
To say that the atmosphere was tense with anticipation would be an understatement. The captains, Brendan Rauer for the Ports and Corbett Ouellette for the Leesiders, rallied their sides, and the teams took to the pitch. From the opening whistle, the play was fast and furious. Johnny Watson was the first to find the target when his long shot, which looked to be headed for a point, slipped just under the bar for a Ports’ goal. Watson was quick to follow with a point, giving the Ports a confidence building early lead of 1-1 to no score. The Leesiders, finding motivation under the zealous cheering of Captain Ouellette, tightened their defense and played smart balls into their forward line. Ouellette, along the quick and agile Grant Gill found the target for the Leesiders, leveling the score.
Keeper Barry Stands Strong
The Ports tried to respond, but despite some great balls into the forward line, the confident goalkeeping of Liam Barry denied the Ports time after time. The boy from Cork, Barry, would bring the crowd to their feet as he blocked a shot from the Ports’ powerful mid-fielder, Nick Chamberlain, and made a spectacular second save when Chamberlain attempted to strike Barry’s ricochet into the net. Barry would certainly be a nominee for man-of-the-match honors for his first-half performance, which along with the spectacular defense from Coby Baker and Chris Davis shut down the Ports for the remainder of the half, and a late-half goal gave the Leesiders the lead going into the break. Ports 1-2 (5) to Leesiders 2-2 (8).
Ports Fight Back
The second half saw the Leesiders open the scoring when Officer David “Hightower” Smith, relieved for the day from his patrol duties, found the back of the Ports’ net. Although Johnny Watson and Nick Chamberlain found a couple of points to keep the Ports in it, the match looked to be the Leesiders’ for the taking. A shift in the match came when Ports’ Captain, Brendan Rauer, moved Sam D’Amico onto the forward line and slid Katie Sampuda up into the midfield. D’Amico, on his first touch at Corner Forward, skirted a ball past the Leesider Keeper for a goal. He was quick to follow with a second, which brought the sides level.
As the tough play continued up front for the Ports, their defense came into form. Torrey Stroud shut down “Hightower” Smith, while the rookie, Emily Rodriguez did well to put up some strong defensive pressure, winning balls and playing them into the Ports’ midfield. The Ports gained confidence as the half wore on, playing excellent team hurling—defending, passing, and setting each other up for scoring opportunities. Grant Gill and Corbett Ouellette did well to win balls in the midfield for the Leesiders, but their hard work rarely resulted in points. Johnny Watson sent a screamer from near the 20-meter line into the upper corner of the keeper’s net, while D’Amico continued his goal scoring ways. Chamberlain and Caleb Harper added to the Ports’ tally with fine points from range.
Leesiders Fight Hard in Closing Minutes
As the match moved into the closing minutes, both sides dug deep into their reserves. The Ports hoped to hold onto their lead, as the Leesiders fought hard to get back into the game. But as time wore down, it looked to be the Ports’ day. A late goal from the Leesiders, while spectacular to watch, would be not be enough to secure the win for the red and white side. With one last look at his watch, the referee blew the final whistle, and players from both sides fell to their knees, having given it all in the closing minutes. Cheers erupted from the sidelines as much for the fantastic match as for the Ports’ victory. Ports 6-6 (24) to Leesiders 4-3 (15).
Ports Hoist the Iron Hurley
After a thrilling match, and a competitive and exhilarating season, the “Harper Iron Hurley” was presented to Ports’ captain, Brendan Rauer. Rauer, who was sporting in victory, paid tribute to his fellow captains, Ashley Tabolinsky – Blue Notes and Corbett Ouellette – Leesiders, thanking them for their hard work all season in leading their teams. Club Chairman, Johnny Watson, thanked the captains and players stating that, “this was the Nashville Gaelic Athletic Club’s most competitive season to date.” Excellent matches all season culminated in a superb championship match and a season that will be remembered for its passion, sportsmanship, and excellent hurling.
Baile Ceol Abú