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Non Sibi Cunctus.
Match : 2nd XI v Omagh
Date : 2001-10-06
Venue : H
Score : 2-1
Scorers : Riddell, Young
By 2nd XI Captain
Well, "Don't it make you feel good". To be involved in a match that is more like a battle. A battle that is fair, tough, hard, sometimes tortuous. And it made me feel good when the young side of EAHC 2nd eleven matched Omagh every step of the way, every 50-50, tackling just as hard, fighting just as much, occasionally more. And doesn't it make it all worthwhile when you come out on top.
Omagh arrived at Ballysillan with a very experienced side with some younger players placed in midfield to do the running, whilst we had a mostly young, skillful, vibrant group of players who at the end of this match would be a team. A team who work for each other, a team who defend each other, a team that can win matches, a team that expects to win matches.
The match started late after Omagh's delayed arrival. Omagh were quickly on the attack and had the first chance of the first half. Omagh had a few short corners all brilliantly defended by Paul Leitch and co. Then it was our turn to attack. One hours constant practice, and enough combinations to confuse Carol Voderman should have made the short corner routine more effective than in previous weeks. Alas it was not to be. The technique was there, but we were just missing that bit of luck that all teams need.
We continued to press down the right and I realised we were actually camped in their half when Tom Watson, (right back) was dribbling around defenders in their 25 and shelling balls in from the right.
Paul Fraser and Paul Leitch continued to make the necessary interceptions in defence to ensure sustained pressure.
Phil Irwin, who had arrived late after taking joyriding lessons, was let loose on Omagh midway through the first half, slotting into right midield and with Geoff Riddell moving to his more accustomed right wing they tore Omagh apart with telepathic passing and Olympic standard sprinting. From one great move down the right Aaron Young had one good chance which he took well but their keeper somehow kept his goalbound shot out.
On the left side Neil Johnson was having a field day, ably assisted by Mark McDoanld, Paul Grant and Paul Reid. Playing like a man with a point to prove Neil Johnson continued to press down the left, torturing Omagh defence and slipping the ball into the dangerous areas.
By the end of the first half we were well on top and won a short corner on the stroke of half time. All players on the attack and the balance was well in our favour. Ball played to Jeff Riddell on the top of the circle and swiftly played back into the circle where NINE EAHC players wee waiting for it. The ball bounced like a pinball and eventually fell to Tom Watson five yards out but with a sea of players and a keeper between him and superstardom the ball was struck cleanly and firmly but bounced off the keepers pads and out to end the first half.
At half time Johnson fell victim of Soupy's well despised rotation system and instantly found another use for a hockey stick.
With the substitution made and Soupy coming onto left wing we started slow. Allowing Omagh loads of possession in dangerous areas and giving away short corners like Christmas cards. It was from one of these that Omagh got their just rewards after 15 minutes of pressure with EAHC only relieving briefly on the break. A ball to the top of the circle a shot, a rebound off Cookie's pads and their forward reacted first to give Omagh the lead.
Was this the end of our challenge, were the floodgates about to open, were heads about to drop. You bet your ass they weren't. After their goal we played with more passion, more pride and a greater sense of urgency and almost immediately Phil Irwin displayed exactly why he will be so vital to the success of this team. Dancing around players like they were training cones and sliiping the ball to Jeff Rddell in the circle who faked a shot to the left then slipped the ball into the right corner of the goal to level the scores. Were we happy with a draw. Would we defend a point. Not a chance. Like a pack of wolves chasing their pray we chased for the victory that would be rightfully ours. But then disaster, star midfielder Paul Grant received a vicious blow to the leg and was unable to continue. Who could fill his shoes. Soupy can't run 20 feet without collapsing and Jeff Riddell was having a party on the right wing. Then came on Neil Johnson. Instructed to play a more defensive role he wisely ignored this and sprinted forward at every opportunity.
Working the ball from defence from Mark McDonald to Soupy to Paul Reid to Neil Johnson who had somehow made it from our own circle to the oppositions 25 in 2.75 seconds he sucked in their sweeper to pass to Aaron Young in the circle who struck a brilliant reverse stick shot and GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. The crowd went mad, the players estatic. Victory was so near.
Omagh did not give up and good work down the right almost gave them a goal. A combination of crisp passing and running off the ball left their right back at the top of the circle completely unmarked he struck a superb reverse stick shot destined for the top corner but Cookie had different ideas, leaping to his right to somehow turn the shot round the post. Saves like that win matches and make you feel it must be your day.
The questions need to be asked. Is Cookies Mum feeding him Kite-Kat to make him leap like that? Are Cookie's trainers spring loaded for just such an eventuality? Why exactly was Soupy 50 yards away from the player he was supposed to be marking?
The answer to the last is straight forward but the other two may remain unanswered.
EAHC continued to frustrate Omagh and looked the much better side towards the end. The game ended fittingly with Geoff Riddell, Phil Irwin and Paul Reid retaining possession in the right hand corner as they had done for most of the afternoon.
Thanks to Skelty and Rambo for umpiring fair and true when we didn't make all the decisions easy.
A brilliant result which will be a springboard for a successful season.
Next week we travel to Raphoe a confident side expecting and more than capable of getting the desired result.