Not quite El Clasico, but only because there are more than two teams capable of winning the Senior Sunday. Bluebell United versus Crumlin still remains one the biggest game of the amateur season.
,It’s more of a Manchester United vs Liverpool feel. It doesn’t matter with regard to either’s standing at any given time it’s the fixture everyone wants to see.
The two traditional power houses go head to head at the Red Cow on Sunday and the amateur family will be watching.
It’s not just history, proximity or recent title rivalry-the two played what could have been title deciders on the final day of the last two seasons- that make this a must see. The knowledge it will be full blooded, hard fought and tense adds to that ‘take it in’ desire. You also have some of the amateur games best talents on display not to mention two respected and successful coaches pitting their wits against each other.
No doubt every individual battle will be intriguing on Sunday morning, but we here at the JSP picked out the five we think may be key.
Alan Barrett versus Gary Seery
Considering Bluebell’s wide men switch these two may not be head to head for 90 minutes, but there is no doubt the pair will be in direct competition at various stages of the eagerly anticipated Senior Sunday showdown.
Both have been influential this season and brought something different to their respective sides. Seery, who has been the subject of interest from an SPL club, has given last seasons runners up some natural width, something they lacked at times last term and has really grown into a key performer for Andy Noonan.
The wide man has scored against Cabinteely and Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Senior Cup and has been a creative force for ‘Bell in the league.
Not doubt he will ask questions of Barrett, who played most of the last few seasons as a central midfielder. However, Barrett has not only settled in well at full back for Crumlin, but has been a key contributor early doors for the team that finished third last time out.
The former Tolka Rovers captain scored the winner against Bangor in dramatic fashion and has a couple of assists to his name. No doubt Seery or Dean Ebbe, when he is on the left, will be hoping to keep the right back more focused on defending than attacking, while Barrett may have similar ideas.
Mikey Quinn versus Bluebell Keeper
A number of seasons ago Martin Loughran explained you couldn’t discuss any Bluebell United verus Crumlin United without pointing out that two of the best amateur keepers in the country were between the sticks.
On that day the Crumlin manager was talking about his net minder David Meehan and Bluebell’s custodian Andy McNulty. Come high noon Sunday it looks like neither will be on pitch. McNulty is out injured and Mikey Quinn has made the Crumlin number 1 jersey his own.
It’s not a head to head to battle, but it’s a key area of the park that could prove vital. It seems advantage Crumlin as they have a steady hand at the wheel, a player that has played three Senior Sunday games, kept three league clean sheets and has had the confidence boost that comes from saving three FAI Senior Cup penos.
Bluebell on the other hand will be without there regular number 1. Any team would miss the current LSL Intermediate Player of the Year, but it’s not helpful to do so right before one of the biggest games of the season.
It’s not sure who Andy Noonan will bring in as a replacement, but Rhys Kelly has started a game this season. Indeed the new signing impressed during that clash.
Kieth Fahey versus Craig Walsh
Buzzer Rowe or David Vickery might more influential when it comes to setting a Crumlin tempo and similarly Bluebell have a whole host of players they can drop into the middle of the park to play. However, if Keith Fahey starts how he performs in contrast to Craig Walsh will be an interesting watch.
Walsh never hit the heights of International cap Fahey in the pro ranks, but was a star of the screen in his younger years and had a solid League of Ireland career. He was the main man at Inchicore last season and seems intent on being an inspirational figure in the Blue of Crumlin this season.
You get the feeling the bigger the game the more he wants to perform. He certainly has a spectacular goal in him and while the pair may not be direct rivals in the centre of the park there is a feeling that either could produce that kind of block buster game defining moment that often settles tight games on Sunday.
Fahey needs no introduction nor do his talents need explaining or hyping, but we will say just like Walsh he is capable of the spectacular from midfield thus why we feel this is a key battle.
Shane Stritch versus Noel Murray
This is the battle royal. Possible not one for the purists, but you have two old school mentalities coming head to head in a key era of the pitch.
It’s experience versus experience, worth ethic versus work ethic and although they do it in different ways leader versus leader.
There is no questioning either of these players importance to their side. Murray is a recent Intermediate Player of the Year and easily one of the best defenders in amateur football. He has emerged as a real leader for Crumlin both in the way he plays and from what he demands from those around him. The centre half is also a danger from set pieces- both standing over them and getting on the end of them. The defender can also play a bit and his pinged balls to wide areas can often start Crumlin attacks.
Stritch has always been vital to the way in which Bluebell play. The hardworking front man isn’t to dissimilar to former Crumlin striker Greg Moorehouse. He sets the tone from the front, chases lost causes, hassles defenders and is an all round front man. Stritch is the ideal lone ranger, runs the channels, holds the ball up, links the play and is Red Cow side’s out ball.
This season he has also hit the ground running in terms of goal scoring and seems to have realised being a bit more selfish in and around the box will actually benefit his team.
Murray will always be danger aware in and around the 18 yard box, but it’s battle further up the pitch with Stritch that might be crucial. Can he prevent the striker from winning headers, holding the ball up and basically deny Bluebell one of their routes into opposition territory.
Jake Donnelly versus Dean Lawrence
Like in any game of football a defender striker battle is key. However, this match up is intriguing for the fact Jake Donnelly will ensure it’s not a one on one head to head.
The striker with the potential to be one of the best in amateur football loves to roam and will tempt Lawrence to follow him into positions he is less comfortable in.
Donnelly won’t always play of the shoulder and seems confident in his ability to be lethal from range, as a result he often comes short in a bid to work some magic. As a result this could be a test for Lawrence’s communication and leadership qualities.
Anyone who watches Bluebell even semi regular will know the defender Andy Noonan loves has no issue with his vocal cords and certainly has no issue saying how it is. He is one of the chief organisers for the Red Cow natives and loves a tight back four.
No doubt if both start they will have many one on one confrontations and both will be confident of winning their own mini battles, but how Lawrence passes the player on and designates responsibility when he goes roaming could prove a factor.