Bernice salutes soldiers of War

Niall Scully

THEY are still dancing at the crossroads at Man O' War. A famous victory has brought them into the Tesco Junior Football Championship semi-final.

"It all came down to true grit," declared Bernice Jones-Moore, the co-manager with Craig Mulligan. "It was a great match. It went down to the wire.

"We got a bit of a lead. Castleknock came back. We were behind by a point, but, in the end, we pulled through by a point. It could have gone either way. Football at it's best."

There was a cracking atmosphere. That has always been the way in this rural hamlet. The club was formed in 1946. Bernice's Dad was a founder member.

"They called him 'the boss'. They'd all meet at the Man O War corner and set off to their match on their bikes, led by my father. From day one, the club had a huge following," stresses Bernice.

"Other clubs in Dublin would say they must have turned out all the lights in Man O' War. We always get a packed sideline, guaranteed."

The ladies football section will be celebrating its 20th birthday on October 16. Reaching the semi-final has lit a few more candles.

"It's great for us because we are just a small club from North County Dublin.

"But I'm so proud of all the girls for their performance the other night. It's their dedication and love of the sport that has got us to where we are.

"And it has added to the buzz that surrounds the club at the minute. We are getting a new building and new pitches, and that's going to be brilliant for us and the generations to come.

"The people in the community have really put their back into the project. Their fund-raising efforts have been amazing. We organised a Strictly Come Dancing event and there were 1,200 people at it. It was phenomenal.

"I know there has been a down-turn in the economy, but we are lucky here with our sponsors. The people have been so kind to us."

The other crucial feature is that the juvenile section is booming.

"We have so many players coming up through the ranks, and that's so pleasing to see.

"We now have girls' teams at under-9, 11, 13, 14 and under-16. We also have a minor side, who are merged with Clann Mhuire.

"In 20 years, we have come a long way.

"All the players are like daughters to me. It was true Man O' War spirit against Castleknock. We have mothers with three children and they still make training.

"We have players who began on our very first minor team all those years ago and they are still playing. They are just wonderful."

The squad has also been helped by a cluster of under-16s and minors, but the remarkable contribution of a celebrated trio continues to turn the pages -- Caroline Hughes, Deirdre Sheridan and Siobhan O'Connor.

Their commitment inspires all. The young players don't have far to look for role models.

And as the big semi-final approaches, the occasion will resemble the Strictly Come Dancing spectacular.

It will be standing room only. Same as it ever was.