Putting Down A Marker

Putting down a marker

31 December 2004

Drumree achieved two victories against Dunderry in their first year in the Senior Hurling Championship - the first was historic, the second possibly life-saving.

Their main goal after a memorable Intermediate Championship triumph in 2003 was unquestionably to maintain their senior status and not to slip straight back down to that grade. And they secured their survival with a crucial play-off victory over Dunderry at Kilmessan in mid-August, a result that sent the losers into a do-or-die relegation shoot-out against Boardsmill who had finished bottom of the other qualifying group.

Drumree and Dunderry had ended tied at the foot of Group B after achieving one victory each, so that was certainly a very pressurised situation when they met for a second time, with the massive prize of guaranteed safety going to the winners. To the relief and delight of all associated with the Drumree club, they edged through by 0-11 to 1-6 and were safe.

It was always going to be tough for Drumree in their first season in the premier grade and they couldn't have asked for a more searching opening test than a match against reigning champions Kilmessan in the first round of the group campaign.

That game took place at Kiltale in late May and resulted in a 1-18 to 1-6 victory for the Jubilee Cup holders who took command in the second period after holding a 0-8 to 0-4 advantage at the interval.

Drumree suffered a big double blow soon after the change of ends when centre half-back David Troy, the man who went on to captain Meath to their All-Ireland JHC triumph with a final victory over Down, was sent off and, as the play continued, Paul Donnelly netted for Kilmessan to increase their lead to 1-8 to 0-4.

However, George Troy gave Drumree hope when he found the net six minutes later to cut the gap to 1-5 to 1-10, but Kilmessan outscored them from there to the finish, despite the late dismissal of Martin Horan.

With Dunderry next up in round two at Kilmessan, Drumree were anxious for a win to give their hopes of survival a significant boost, while at the same time bringing them into the qualification picture.

It was a big game for both teams and Drumree responded to the occasion by recording an historic first Senior Championship victory by a surprisingly clear cut margin. They were without a number of players, including David Troy, but with the new-look midfield of Sean White and David Wallace showing up to good effect they triumphed by all of nine points on a 4-9 to 1-9 score line.
Paul Gaughan and Seamus Wallace scored the goals in the opening half which helped Drumree to a 2-3 to 0-4 interval lead and that advantage had stretched to 2-7 to 0-5 by the three-quarter stage. Further goals from George Troy and a brilliant score by Gaughan copper-fastened their position of supremacy.
With that win under their belt Drumree must have gone into the third round meeting with Longwood at Boardsmill full of hope and when they led by 1-6 to 0-6 at half-time they must have fancied their chances of making it back-to-back victories.

David Crimmins scored the goal after only four minutes which proved so vital to that promising interval position, but Drumree could manage only a solitary point in the second-half and that just wasn't sufficient as Longwood added seven themselves to run out winners by 0-13 to 1-7.
Drumree paid a big price for some very poor shooting which resulted in a costly 13 wides and they also fouled too much, as evidenced by the fact that Longwood's ace marksman Ray Dorran contributed eight points of his side's tally from frees.

Navan O'Mahonys were struggling in their group campaign, but they moved out of the relegation zone when they easily defeated Drumree by 4-12 to 1-9 in a fourth round match at Kilmessan. The town side enjoyed a highly significant purple patch midway through the opening period which yielded an impressive 2-5 and that left Drumree facing a real uphill battle as they trailed by 10 points (0-4 to 2-8) at the break.

George Troy scored a second-half goal, but too much damage had already been inflicted and Drumree went into their last group game against Dunboyne at Ratoath with just two points in the bag and needing something to avoid a likely second meeting with Dunderry to decide who occupied the basement position in the section.

And when they notched three goals in the first-half they appeared to have a chance of beating one of the more fancied teams in the competition. David Crimmins, Paul Gaughan and Ronan Gilsenan found the net in that opening period, but Drumree still found themselves slightly adrift at the interval as Dunboyne led by 1-10 to 3-2.

However, the second-half was a big disappointment for Drumree as they managed to add just one point to their tally - from a David Troy '65' - and with Dunboyne adding 1-11 they ran out very comfortable winners by 2-21 to 3-3 on a day when Neville Reilly again demonstrated his value to the team by contributing 1-9.

That left Drumree with one last chance to avoid a dreaded relegation shootout against Boardsmill, but the fact that it was against a team which they had already beaten by nine points in the second round of the qualifiers must have given them real hope that they could steer clear of that unwanted showdown.

The second meeting of the sides was a much closer affair, but a fiercely determined and committed performance from Drumree, which was highlighted by a magnificent display at full-back by Ger Troy, saw them through by two points.

David Troy, who had enjoyed the honour of captaining Meath to that All-Ireland junior triumph just two days earlier, Ruairi Bowe and Sean White were others to shine on that evening of immense pressure in Kilmessan, but eight first half wides appeared to be in danger of proving Drumree's downfall as they trailed by 0-6 to 1-4 at the break.

But Drumree had done enough to grasp the initiative by the three-quarter stage and it was significant that they held Dunderry to just two points in the second period while hitting the target five times themselves.

With that first taste of senior hurling under their belt, and happy in the knowledge that they managed to hold onto their status at the end of their inaugural sojourn in the premier ranks, Drumree will now hope that they can settle into the grade and, hopefully, challenge for a qualifying place in 2005.
"Basically, our aim was to survive in our first season in the Senior Championship and it was a huge relief to do so," said club chairman Martin Wall. "If we had slipped straight back down to intermediate level I believe it would have been very difficult to rally the troops to step up again.
"Playing at senior level is a big step-up, but we have great people looking after the team - John Davis, Mick Wallace, Paddy Doyle and Peter Mooney. John really knows his stuff and you couldn't but learn from him.

"Playing Kilmessan in the first round was a huge challenge straight away. They are the yardstick for Meath hurling. But we played well enough. John Crimmins was injured for that game and others picked up injuries later on, including Ronan Curley. The win against Dunderry in the second round was historic and important. We weren't really expected to win and it was a huge relief. We played well and were on song."
Drumree would undoubtedly have hoped to win another group match after that morale-booster.

"The Longwood match was the big one," Wall added. "It was a game we were disappointed to lose. A victory would have left us safe."
It eventually came down to that second meeting with Dunderry and the relief that victory brought.

"The second game against Dunderry was the real crunch match," Wall said. "The lads must have felt the pressure, but they rose to the challenge. We were the better team and were really up for it. The lads were motivated; they didn't want to go back down. That would have been a disaster.

"The experience gained in our first Senior Championship should be a big help. We had players on a variety of Meath panels at adult and under-age levels and there's a fair amount of talent coming through. It's a good sign and I feel the panel is definitely capable of staying up. The 2004 championship was a learning curve.

"We also saw it as a great honour to have David Troy captaining the Meath junior team to All-Ireland success, with Kit Doyle and Ronan Curley also there."

Football survival

The Drumree intermediate footballers also had survival on their minds as the campaign progressed and left it until the last round of group matches to secure their place in the grade. That came courtesy of a 1-8 to 0-7 victory over Curraha at Dunshaughlin.

A second-half goal from substitute John Brennan proved decisive for Shane Mahon's side as they gained their first points of the Intermediate Championship to guarantee their own survival and send Curraha into a relegation play-off for the second successive year.
Seven Drumree players managed to get their names on the score sheet and they looked to be in a good position at the break when leading by 0-6 to 0-1, before that Brennan goal made such a difference in the second period.

It was a big relief for Drumree after a difficult campaign in Group A which started with a 0-9 to 2-9 loss to the previous year's SFC relegated side Ballivor at Summerhill. John Cullinane was superb, but two second-half goals did the damage.
When Drumree lost to Na Fianna by 2-6 to 2-12 in the second round, also at Summerhill, the pressure was on and it intensified when they went under to 2003 runners-up Carnaross on a 2-3 to 2-13 score line at Bective.

A victory was badly needed in the fourth round, but it didn't come as Drumconrath inflicted a 1-6 to 1-10 defeat at Walterstown on a day when Drumree were without the suspended Cullinane, who missed a number of further matches. The previous year's junior champions Wolfe Tones won a fifth round meeting by 3-16 to 0-7 at Skryne and when Nobber beat Drumree by 2-8 to 0-6 at Bective they were staring at a pressure showdown against Curraha.
Thankfully, they got the victory when it was needed and survived.

"We didn't get off to a good start," the chairman said. "I guess we need to work harder and be more focused. John Cullinane missed the games against Drumconrath, Wolfe Tones, Nobber and Curraha and was a big loss.

"But I'm optimistic that things will improve and we can chase a play-off place in the future."

St. Martins's
The hurling year started in April for St. Martins with a visit from Kilkenny hurling star Eddie Brennan. Over ninety children were in Drumree to receive some useful tips from the Kilkenny maestro before they got the opportunity to get his autograph and grill him in a question and answer session.
The Under 11 hurlers performed extremely well to get to Division 1 semi-final before being narrowly beaten by Trim. This is the first time in many years that a St. Martins team has qualified for Division 1 at this age group.
Feile na nGael 2004 took place in Meath, Westmeath and Kildare in June. St Martins hosted Castleblayney from Monaghan and Kildangan from Tipperary with the team members and mentors being put up by host families for the week-end. On the field of play our team reached the semi-final of division 5 before losing to Coill Dubh of Kildare. This festival of hurling culminated in a Grand Parade held in Navan.
An inaugral under ten Hurling Blitz was hosted by St. Martin's in August in Drumree. It was a beautiful afternoon and the young participants served up excellent hurling for the large vocal crowd in attendance. The emphasis of the competition was fun and enjoyment for all who took part. At the end of the day St. Martins emerged victorious in the competition.
The minors also had a good year and reached the county semi-final they were unlucky on the day to lose to our near neighbours Kilmessan.
Overall it has been a busy and successful year for hurling in St. Martins.