St Benildus have one foot in next year’s O’Hanlon after a magnificent 3½-1½ win over closest rivals Rathmines A tonight.
We went into the game in second place, 2 points ahead of Rathmines. Having started off walking the league (12 wins from the first 12 games), we’d stuttered a little bit in recent weeks, and although we’d never dropped out of the top two, there was the danger that our respective recent form (just one match win since Christmas for us compared to two dropped points in the same period for Rathmines) would see us lose the psychological battle even before a pawn was pushed. With us facing Rathmines B in the last round, while Rathmines A faced lowly Ballinasloe B, it didn’t look like there was going to be any second chance if we messed up here.
However, in fairness, when the chips have been down this season, we’ve always delivered. And Eddie Gahan provided the perfect captain’s example when spectacularly winning inside 4 minutes and 11 moves. It set the tone for things to come, and by 10pm – with a potential hour at least left in the games – the result was in. Brendan got his board prize campaign back on track with a win to take him to 8/10 for the season, while Harry also won. Ray drew on 5, while Nicky lost, although from Rathmines’ previous line-ups, it appears the player she lost to was most likely Shahram Nikrow (I don’t have the teamsheet), who would then have moved to 9½/10. Overall, though, an excellent result which moves us 4 points clear of Rathmines A with one match to go – one point will ensure they can’t catch us. Bray (7 points behind with strugglers Dublin and Elm Mount to play) are now our main promotion rivals; 3 points against Rathmines B – a worse result than that just secured against their As – will ensure Bray can’t catch us even with two 5-0 wins. Inchicore are the only other team with a mathematical chance of catching us – again, they play two of the weaker teams in their last two rounds, but they’re 8 points adrift (once you factor in that they’ll pip us in the event of a tie)
So the league table now looks like this –
Blanchardstown’s points deduction is due to playing players not registered with the ICU. They did play their round 10 game after conceding two successive walkovers, so it appears that there’ll be no issue over them withdrawing from the league (which would affect us as we’re the only team to have beaten them 5-0 over the board).
After four games in four days, the club has a day off on Friday before attention turns to the Bodley Bs’ promotion attempt. Cavan tonight completed a 3½-1½ win over Rathmines Juniors, leaving the table as follows –
Cavan play Bray B next, so second place looks a bit out of reach at this stage unfortunately; we’d probably need seven points from the last two games to have a hope of going up. But we’ve not lost with a full team since the opening day of the season (since when our As haven’t won!), so anything’s possible!