October 18, 2015
Week five saw all three teams enter the weekend with championship implications on the line. The stakes were high. The Leesiders, who forfeited both of their matches the week prior, could stay in the championship hunt if they found a win, while wins by the Blue Notes and Ports could clinch their spots in the championship match to be held in two weeks’ time. The captains for each squad hoped that their tactical maneuvers would be spot on, but even the best laid plans would be put to the test on the pitch. Where would things stand at the end of the day? We head to Heartland Fields to find out!
The Leesiders look to narrow the gap
As the Leesiders warmed up, the Blue Notes found themselves wondering if they’d have enough players to field a team. With just minutes to go before the match, a late arrival filled the requisite number and the match was on. The Leesiders did not delay in their attack, demonstrating in the opening minutes that they came to win. It was Grant Gill for the Leesiders who controlled in midfield. Using speed and skill, he was able to break off of his mark, Joey Whalen, several times to find space and put the sliotar over the bar. And when Whalen would win the ball, Gill switched quickly into defensive mode, putting on a blocking clinic at Whalen’s expense.
While Gill proved reliable, so to did Chris Davis and last week’s “player of the week,” Matt Baxter, who exploited weaknesses in the Blue Notes’ defense and found points of their own. Baxter, demonstrating a newfound confidence in his game, struck the game’s opening goal when he found the back of star keeper Ryan Buckley’s net. Baxter would’ve had another, had it not been for Ryan Buckley’s better half, Molly Buckley, who covered the goal when R. Buckley moved out into space to clear the ball. M. Buckley saved a piercing strike in what was likely the best play of the day.
The absence of key Blue Notes was obvious on both ends of the pitch as the Leesiders attack seemed unstoppable and the Notes found themselves unable to score. A late first half goal gave the Notes some hope, but a flurry of points in the second half would secure the win and pull the Leesiders to within a game of the Blue Notes in the League standings. Leesiders 2-10 (16) to Blue Notes 1-2 (5).
Leesiders look to make it a double
A second win of the day would put the Leesiders level with the Blue Notes in the league standings, while a Ports win would secure a spot in the championship for the navy blue side and place the Leesiders’ fate in the hands of the Blue Notes. The rallying cry from the Leesiders’ pre-match huddle was illustrative of what was on the line in the day’s sandwich match.
The Ports liked their odds as this week’s match saw a first-of-the-season appearance by the powerful and reliable Jamie Norris. The Leesiders had a weapon of their own in Liam Barry who, just released to play after a summer ligament injury, demonstrated his skill in the Leesiders earlier match against the Blue Notes.
The Ports struck first when Nick Chamberlain broke free and put a solid shot over the bar. Norris, playing at corner forward, would add to Chamberlain’s efforts striking over a couple of points of his own, while Katie Sampuda did well to win balls at midfield and play them into the veteran scorers. Grant Gill, coming off his spectacular performance in the first match, remained the go to man for the Leesiders but found himself unable to replicate his earlier performance. In a massive team effort, the Leesiders’ front line closed the gap before the half when Brendan Rauer, in goal for the Ports, failed to effectively clear the ball and opened the door for a Leesider goal. It was the boy from Cork, Liam Barry, who pulled on the loose ball and sent a zinger past the keeper and into the Ports’ goal. Separated by 5 points at the half, both sides held tight to victory hopes.
The second half saw fantastic defensive work from Rayne Leonard and Chris Davis, who were able to slow the Ports’ pointing efforts, while at the other end of the pitch, the Leesiders managed strike in a goal and 4 points. With the game tightening up, the Ports drove hard at the Leesiders’ goal, with Jamie Norris managing to squeeze two more past the Leesiders’ keeper. The addition of Norris proved to be an excellent asset as the seasoned vet fit well into his new squad and helped secure the win and a certain spot in the league championship. Ports 3-8 (17) to Leesiders 2-4 (10).
Blue Notes hope to crush Leesiders’ dreams
Game 3, under crisp blue afternoon sky, had massive implications for the Blue Notes, who, with a win, would guarantee their spot in the championship match against the Ports. The Leesiders could only watch as the Blue Notes held the fate of the red side in their powder blue hands. Would the Ports crumble and open the door for the Notes? Might this be a preview of the championship? Would the Leesiders celebrate a Ports’ victory as if it were their own?
Answers to these questions came, and they came fast. Right from the start, the Ports attacked, with Norris and Chamberlain once again finding early points. Their attack was well supported by Caleb Harper and Torey Stroud, who were able to stop every Blue Note counterattack. The Notes once again found that the absence of some key players impacted their ability to take control of the game, and while Molly Buckley and Renee Anzivino did well to slow the attacking Ports, the Ports targeted the area often and accurately enough to build solid lead. A half-time score of 3-7 to 2 points, in favor of the Ports, kept the Leesiders’ hopes alive.
The second half reflected the first as the Ports continued their domination. The Notes were able to manage a goal and a couple of points as Bill Little and Joey Whalen worked hard at midfield, but Jamie Norris, in a challenge to his long-time friend, Ryan Buckley, decided to test the Blue Notes’ keeper with strike after strike on goal. The Blue Notes dug deep, and played hard for the whole match, but it was not to be their day. Final score: Blue Notes 1-4 (7) to Ports 9-14 (32).
With the table tightened, the league moves into its final week. The Ports clinched a spot in the championship match, and the Blue Notes hold a slim, single game advantage over the Leesiders. There’s a lot on the line. Will Leesider Captain Corbett Ouellette see his team play on November 1, or will Ashley Tabolinsky lead her Notes over the finish line? Come on out to Heartland field on Sunday, October 25th to find out.
After the matches, the club recognized Molly Buckley’s excellent play during the day, awarding her “Player of the Week” honors. Well done, Molly.
Ports 24 points
Blue Notes 12 points
Leesiders 9 points