Jameson Hurley Reporting
July 12, 2015
Does it get any better than this? What began back in March, with the captains gathered drafting their teams, culminated in the Nashville city spring league championship on Sunday. The Ports, who looked unbeatable most of the season, were set to face the Blue Notes, another solid side who found the yellow and blue side’s Achilles heel just two weeks prior, upsetting the Ports and robbing them of an undefeated season. Coming into the day, it was anyone’s guess who would walk away with the Harper Iron Hurley when all was said and done.
One thing was for sure: Mother Nature would test the men and women as much as they would test each other. Hot and humid air hung over the pitch, with game time temperatures nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit with a heat index of 110. As the sun beat down, captains Brendan Rauer (Ports) and Mike Conway (Blue Notes) readied their sides. There would be no time for opening ceremonies or speeches as the referee called the captains in for the start of the match. The teams took to the pitch, the whistle blew, and the match was on.
Three quick passages of play resulted in wides for both sides, but the play was crisp and skillful. It was the Blue Notes who found the first point of the day, capitalizing on a great opportunity that started on their defensive end when Caleb Harper beat Johnny Watson to the ball and cleared it long into his half forward line. The Ports, however, did not delay in striking back when the always-reliable Jamie Norris sent a point in from midfield. Points would be the story for the majority of the half as both team’s goalies, recognized as strong men in their position, were rarely put to the test.
Both teams relied on nearly the whole cavalry for scoring responsibilities. Players moved around the pitch, skillfully executing well-placed passes and on-target shots. Mike Conway, Chris Davis, Aaron Joley, Grant Schlisner, and Caleb Harper all got in on the scoring action for the Blue Notes while Jamie Norris, Johnny Watson, Grant Gill, Britti Himmelfarb, and Niamh Cunnane all found the target for the Ports. Halftime score: Ports 3-9 (18) to Blue Notes 1-7 (10).
Coming into the second half with the comfort of an 8-point lead, the Ports wasted no time in trying to pull further away from their opponents. A quick point off the throw in, followed closely by a second, put the Ports up by 10 within the first minute. However, captain Mike Conway, in a bold decision, pulled his brick-wall keeper, Ryan Buckley, out of goal and put him at full forward. The decision proved tactically sound as Buckley was able to use his size and strength to win balls and put powerful shots on the mark. A point and a goal for Buckley put the Ports on their heels and gave the Blue Notes the confidence they needed to fight hard and go for a win. Near the middle of the half, an aggressive foul in the Blue Notes’ keeper’s area resulted in a penalty that went for another goal, and when the teams paused for a heat-mandated water break, the Notes had pulled within 3 points of the Ports.
Play resumed and, with 15 minutes to go and the teams nearly level, both sides could see that victory was within their reach. Another goal from the Blue Notes evened the score, and a point shortly after gave them the lead. The Notes seemed to have found a secret weapon in Grant Schlisner who used his height to win high balls, turn, and score at will. Chris Davis and Mike Conway worked hard in the midfield, sending balls in deep to set up scoring opportunities, while Caleb Harper and Molly Buckley held the line defensively. It looked like it would be a repeat of the match two weeks prior, when the Blue Notes were able to hold a slight lead over the Ports to claim the match. But the Ports had ideas of their own. Captain Brendan Rauer and Ashley Tabolinsky did well in their defensive roles to win balls and send them into the midfielders Grant Gill and Jamie Norris who found points or teammates often enough to keep the match close.
The heat was certainly taking its toll as the match wore on, but the players dug deep, contesting 50/50 balls, and fighting hard to get shots off. Back and forth it went, and the players dug deeper still. With minutes to go, the Ports, who had not once found the back of the keeper’s net in the second half, scored a stunner of a goal, giving them a slight advantage. Both sides managed to find just a bit more in the tanks and muscle over another point each, but at the referee’s final whistle, it was that late goal that decided the match. Final score: Ports 4-20 (32) to Blue Notes 4-17 (29).
Club Chairman, Johnny Watson, lauded the efforts of both teams and commended them on a great display of hurling. And while it could have been either team’s day at the start, in the end was the Ports who hoisted the coveted Harper Iron Hurley. In the spirit of “One Club” and camaraderie, the entire club retired to Dan McGuinness to tell tall tales o’ hurling achievements and to celebrate the true victors, all of the men and women who work hard, play hard, and keep the sports of hurling and camogie alive and well in Middle Tennessee.