| 2.1°C Dublin

olaf's advance

LUKE Doran's left peg was buttering the scones at Páirc Uí Bhriain last Saturday afternoon.

And spreading the jam too.

He's the most accomplished of centre half-backs. His opposite number, Dave Keogh, could also play.

It was pouring at the ground that honours the memory of Barry O'Brien, who captained the Dublin U21 hurlers.

The modern-day Balally superstar is David Byrne, now in Jim Gavin's orchard.

Coloured umbrellas decorated the sideline. It was a day for the gloves.

Thankfully, the rain stopped in time for tea.

There was a large crowd. The attendance included three dogs.

All were barking at the end. Applause ran around the arena.

The spectators had embraced a cracker.

On one sideline, a woman banged on a bodhrán.

On the other sideline, there was a woman on crutches.

Olaf's played with much heart. John O'Brien is their manager. His father, Bill, was one of the founding fathers. Bill couldn't be at the match, but he would have been delighted with the Saints' commitment.

And he'd be the first to salute the dedication of lads like Conor Cullinane and Joey Brannock-Kerins, who have been with the club since they were aged four.

The Olaf's management crew includes David Burke. He's the Fianna Fail Finance Director.

The party had their Ard Fheis on Saturday, but David still found the time to don the track suit and urge the side on.

And now they are in the semi-final of the Dublin U16A Football Championship.

"It's unbelievable," said John. "The fellas deserve so much credit.


"They are after coming up through the divisions. It wasn't that long ago that we went a season without winning a game.

"But they kept at it. We call it a journey. They have an excellent temperament.

"They don't panic when they go behind. And we saw that again today.

"I felt the crucial moment was when we scored our goal in the first half and Thomas Davis scored a goal almost immediately. Yet we just showed so much character."

The Tallaght side made the brightest of starts. They scored five points inside the first seven minutes.

The hosts didn't hit their first score, a Cian Sullivan point, until the 15th minute.

"We made a great start alright, but we lost our way a bit after that," reflected Cathal Lynch, the Davis mentor.

"Against Lucan we would have been the underdogs, and coming here today we probably were considered the favourites. But that's the way it goes.

"We are disappointed, but the lads gave their best. And we are proud of them all."

The Kiltipper's forward unit was as sharp as a tack in the opening pages. Their opening points came from Mark Nolan (2), Adam Fitzpatrick (2) and Mikey Keady.

Yet it was the home club who led at the interval, 2-5 to 1-5.

It was a goal in the 16th minute that saw Olaf's grow more and more into the socks.

Doran and James Grimes were involved before Oscar Bent flicked in.

Within a minute, Fitzpatrick's low drive had shaken the Olaf's net, but two minutes later, Cian Sullivan replied with a tasty second goal for Olaf's.

And four points in the last ten minutes of the half increased their confidence. The points coming from Grimes (2), a Ronan Waters 45 and David Pollard.

Fifteen minutes into the second period, Bent, again from close range, scored his second goal. That put Olaf's six points clear.

But the visitors were coming on strong. And it took stout defending to repel them.

Even approaching the final bell, the outcome wasn't clear.

Davis struck for three unanswered points, leaving just three between them with four minutes left.

But two points from Conor McInerney saw Olaf's prevail when the excellent Alex Pilkington blew for time.

SCORERS - Naomh Olaf: O Bent 2-0, C Sullivan 1-1, C McInerney 0-3 (2f), J Grimes 0-2, R Waters (45), D Pollard 0-1 each. Thomas Davis: A Fitzpatrick 1-5 (0-3f), M Nolan 0-2, L Sinnott (45), M Keady 0-1 each.

NAOMH OLAF: G Folan; C Tobin, E Cahill, D Sullivan; G Sorohan, L Doran, F McLoughlin; R Waters, A Byrne; C Sullivan, C McInerney, S O'Brien; D Pollard, J Grimes, O Bent. Subs Used: C McDaid, R Geoghegan.

THOMAS DAVIS: D Caffrey; E Lambert, N Farrelly, J McGrath; S Kennedy, D Keogh, J Lambert; E Conroy, K Winder; S Farrelly, A Fitzpatrick, L Sinnott; M Keady, M Nolan, J Lowth. Subs Used: L Delaney, C O'Donovan, S Dalton, R Lynch.

MENTORS - NAOMH OLAF: John O'Brien, Paul Sullivan, David Burke, Shane Pollard. THOMAS DAVIS: Cathal Lynch, Mark Bates, Glen Farrelly, Gar McGrath.

REFEREE: Alex Pilkington (Kilmacud Crokes)

WIDES - Naomh Olaf: 10 (4+6). Thomas Davis: 9 (5+4)

CONDITIONS: A game of two halves. Raining in the first half. Cold too. Made ball handling difficult for the players. Dry for the second half. And the Olaf's central heating kicked in.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Luke Doran (Naomh Olaf)