Baltimore's Premier Division promotion bid didn't go according to plan, as midfielder/goalkeeper Jack McCarron explains.
Junior league soccer wrapped in West Cork on Sunday and it’s fair to say the promotion playoff between Riverside and Baltimore in the championship was a classic of the genre.
With the 12pm kick-off time approaching and temperatures rising, the eight Crabs on the scene (myself included) began looking enviously at the panel of 20-plus that had travelled from Ballineen.
Attempts to delay kick off, as we stalled hoping Ilen Rovers training would soon finish, fell on deaf ears.
Words were exchanged, sportsmanship was cited but alas, the referee blew the whistle and insisted we get on with it.
Our biggest game of the season kicking off under the midday sun with the teams lining out at a pristinely manicured Canon Crowley Park in Drinagh, eight v eleven.
What was it Van Morrison sang about days like this?
With our goalkeeper also delayed the gloves were thrown my way in a scene not dissimilar to John O’Shea’s cameo between the sticks for Man United back in 2007.
‘Brilliant’ I thought to myself. What better way to make my debut in goal then with seven outfield players in front of me? What could possibly go wrong?
‘Let’s make it to the first water break’ was about as optimistic as it got in the pre-match chat.
And we very nearly did.
What we lacked in numbers we made up for in heart
The level of effort shown by all involved would make you proud to wear the blue of Baltimore.
I even managed to make a decent save. It was to be my only highlight.
Eventually our goalkeeper arrived.
Then the GAA contingent.
Just as the number of players evened out to the more traditional eleven v eleven - Riverside struck the first blow.
1-0 down, and with only minutes left before we reached the promised land of water break uimhir a haon.
A classy finish from Aaron O’Driscoll had the favourites in front and we needed something special.
It nearly came in the form of a Didier Drogba-esque swivel and volley from Jason Minihane but unfortunately the crossbar got in the way.
Considering we were playing a new form of the game where the number of players lining out was unimportant, I thought the referee could have awarded a goal. Or even a half goal.
Soccer is often accused of becoming stale - why not experiment?
Maybe a system could be trialled where under strength sides are awarded points for performing admirably in tough conditions
I’d write to Gianni Infantino at FIFA but I think he has enough on his plate just now.
As the game wore on Riverside unsurprisingly began to dominate possession. At 1-0 down we were always ‘in it’ but never really threatened.
The ability to make five substitutions as the thermometer hit 22 was also a bonus for the Ballineen men.
We pushed an extra man up front and were punished. Might as well lose 3-0 as 1-0 eh?
Riverside were deserving winners and deserve to be promoted. They beat us every time we met this season so it’s hard to argue against that.
But at least we have our excuses. That’s some comfort.
See you in a few weeks. Up the Crabs.