‘Into the valley of death they charged, canons to the left of them, canons to the right of them, canons in front of them/Boldly they rode and well’.
The above is a quote from The Charge Of The Light Brigade and, to this writer, nothing could summarise the magnificent achievement by the Trim senior hurlers this past weekend. Yes, they did achieve the most unlikely, travelled to Nowlan Park and put the Cats representatives, Danesfort, out of the Leinster IHC in their own back yard.
Yes, a Danesfort team with Paul Murphy and Richie Hogan aboard. Two modern Galacticos of the small ball game. In a field where luminaries of the game have been beaten by the aura of the place before they even crossed the white line.
But you know what? They’re human. They can only put 15 hurlers on the field at any one time. Two swallows, no matter how chirpy they may be (Murphy and Hogan) don’t make a summer. Or a winter either.
Not that the following needs re-affirmation, but, there are good hurlers in every county in Ireland. Just as there are fine footballers in each of the 32 as well. Something underlined by the victories of Cargin (Antrim), Enniskillen Gaels (Fermanagh) and, returning to hurling, Naas of Kildare most recently.
Toppling the top Cats, though, is something on a different level altogether. But then, for as long as your columnist can recall – and for generations before that – Trim have been to the fore in Meath hurling. Indeed, the heartland of the sliotar in the county spans a radius of a few miles around the home of the red and white.
When I was becoming properly attuned to the hurling scene in Meath, circa 1993/’94, it appeared Trim and Kilmessan were locked in a perennial joust for the Jubilee Cup. Though it must be said that Kiltale and Rathmolyon and Navan O’Mahonys had their own spells around that time too.
There was no disputing who the big two were though. In both ’93 and ’94, Dunboyne had two exceptionally gifted Minor hurling teams. Although defeat was our lot in the Final on both occasions, the matches were the curtain raiser to the SHC Final.
Both of which were meetings between the old firm. At the time, between them, they provided the bulk of the players for the county team. Though it’s the Trim lads I can recall with greater ease.
Frank McCann in goal, the great John ‘Chivers’ Andrews at full back, Corkman Denis O’Keeffe at centre back, I’m sure CJ Murtagh was there somewhere, but I know for sure the Murray brothers, Declan and Benny, were vital cogs in what was one of the best club ensembles the county has seen.
Though Kiltale and Kildalkey have dominated much of the last decade at Senior level, the work being done by members of that aforementioned Trim group with underage teams in the club, the red and white have once again returned to the box seat in Meath hurling.
At least partially powered by sons of the architects of the old glory days. Talented offsprings llke Ryan and James Andrews, James Murray and Joey and Mikey Cole, sons of adopted Trim man, former Rathmolyon star and Cavan manager Neil.
And then sure, Neil Heffernan would be the last man to let you down, his people are undertakers. I’ll get my coat!
Even allowing for the storied tradition within the Trim club, on Saturday last they broke new ground for themselves and Meath hurlung. Scaling Everest and planting green and gold and red and white flags at base camp.
Go back to the point made earlier in this piece regarding the fact that there are good hurlers in every county in the country. Any team can only put 15 of them out at any one time. There is nothing to fear in mano-a-mano combat. Especially when the Meath champions had stickmen of the calibre of Charlie Ennis, James Toher, James Murray, Alan Douglas and Heffernan in their ranks.
For all that, the conclusion that it was essentially going to boil down to a shootout between Murray and Hogan was difficult to divert. However, the fact that both dead ball specialists did indeed score almost impeccably would only tell a fraction of a truly magnificent story.
The biggest chunk of which should be detailing how gargantuan defending from Ger Duane and James Toher managed to significantly defuse the potentially lethal influence of Hogan particularly.
The home side went for the tea and Jaffa Cakes with a two point buffer which Hogan embellished on the restart, sparking fears that the writing might have been on the wall for Meath’s finest. In fact, it wasn’t even at the road gate, never mind on the wall. If anything, dropping three behind ignited them to raise their game.
Which they did to the extent that they recovered from trailing by three points to go up by one – 0-10 to 0-09 – with a dozen minutes remaining. Thereafter, Murray and Power again traded scores before those from the town with Braveheart(s) running through their veins edged a second point clear.
Danesfort did cut the gap to the minimum but with Ennis steadfast between the posts and Dwane, O’Rourke and Toher immovable in defence, Trim held out for the win their bravery, application and resolve thoroughly deserved.
On a broader scale, it represents the latest piece of commendable progress by the club, on many fronts. Saturday, though, was, on a whole different level, monumental. For the Trim club and Meath hurling.