We’re half-way through the league season (or as half-way as you can get in a 11-game season…) – time to see how we’re faring across the various divisions.
Our top team, as per usual, is the Armstrong. We’re a bit weakened from the team that nearly won the Armstrong in 2009/10, but we’re holding our own in seventh, despite having won only one match. Result of the season has to be the 4-4 draw against Elm Mount A, who pipped us to the title two years ago. A superb result given we were 4-0 down at one stage! 4½-3½ defeats to Trinity and Phibsboro were highly respectable given how much stronger our opponents were. The subs have been in flying form – only one defeat in ten games. Thomas Bittner is on 3½/4 – his only dropped half-point was against Phibsboro’s Juri Firstov in a QvN position with literally seconds left on either clock; Juri has won all his other five leagues games this season.
In 2009/10, the Ennis broke the 50-point barrier in cruising to the league title; we’ve lost half that team since then (mainly to the Armstrong) and after coming straight back down, we were only really expecting a solid fourth or fifth place. Instead, we’re in second, with five match wins out of six and seemingly getting stronger with each game! Round 5 saw us 3-0 down to league leaders and fellow Heidenfeld relegatees Drogheda only to claw back to 3-3, while in round 6, we cruised past Elm Mount 4½-1½ despite missing Michael Hanley off board 1 – he had been robbed by the Armstrong for the night. We’ve played all the current top four; Drogheda meet Kilkenny in round 10. After a shaky start, Ciarán Ruane is the second top scorer in the entire division with 5/6, while our subs are doing excellently with just two defeats in 9 games.
The BA at one stage looked set for a record breaking start to the season. 5-0 winners in both rounds 1 and 2, they faced bottom of the table Elm Mount in round 3, with just one player above 800. Nicky played a week early and won. Harry was first of the main pack to finish – a win. Played 12, won 12! It was left to Ed Tobin to deliver the bad news – while a rook, knight and six pawns up, he gave his opponent a stalemate, and our 100% run was over. Ray and Brendan dropped another 1½ points, but since then, two more 4-1 wins have seen us build up a decent 3½ point lead at the top of the table. Brendan Cuffe is the top scorer in the whole division with 4½/5; Nicky Benson is on 4/4, Eddie Gahan is on 3/3. We last won the BA in 2004/05 (with a team of Ger Reilly, Damien McCormick, Jack Duff, Ciarán Ruane, Richard Tighe and Paddy Power plus subs) – can we do it again this year?
We’ve two teams in the Bodley this year; they started off facing each other, as A and B teams always do. It was pretty much a new B team versus a relatively experienced A team, and a 3-2 win for the As was surprisingly close! As the season’s gone on, though, the B team have shown that wasn’t a fluke – in fact, they’re currently 1½ points ahead of the A team! A draw against Bray A was the highlight for the Bs – in fact, in six Bodley games between Bray and St Benildus, we’ve never lost, winning three and drawing three – while the A’s position does reflect that they’ve already played runaway league favourites Balbriggan (and lost 4-1…). Both are lurking just below the promotion spots, and we’ll be aware too that third is often good enough for promotion in the Bodley, with a team always liable to withdraw from a higher league.
The Bs do claim the most impressive league win this season – Odhrán McDonnell’s fine King’s Gambit win over veteran Vincent Denard (360 points higher rated). Odhrán’s cousin Finn has the honour of best draw, against Andrew Kyne-Delaney of…St Benildus A. The Armstrong’s fine results show in two of the best five wins and four of the best five draws – Dave Willow beating Bernard Boyle, John Healy drawing with Éamon Keogh and John Gibson drawing with Darko Polimac just some of this season’s highlights.
The leagues continue in the second week of January – all five of our teams are in action between the 7th and the 14th. A lot more should be known about our promotion prospects then.