In October/November 1942 the allies achieved their first major victory in the second world war when they defeated Rommel’s Africa Corps at El Alemein. Until that point, for pretty much three years, Germany had been in the ascendant across Europe.

A few months earlier Winston Churchill, in despair over the lack of military progress, reached a personal nadir when, on June 21st 1942, in the company of President Roosevelt at a meeting in the White House he was handed a note telling him of the fall of Tobruk; up to that point an allied stronghold. He collapsed into tears at the news prompting the US president in a seminal moment of compassion to offer “What can we do “. The resulting transport of 300 new Sherman tanks to North Africa played a pivotal role in the battle 3 months later.

When news of victory at Alemein came through to London Churchill ordered all Church bells to be rung.

On November 10th in a speech at London’s Mansion House, Churchill was careful to balance the joy of a major victory won with the reality of the ongoing challenges ahead when he said.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”

On Friday night Clontarf achieved an emotional victory over their close rivals Old Belvedere in a match notable for the ferocity on the pitch and the sporting banter off it. It was an outstanding occasion and a credit to both Clubs. To say there was a lot at stake would be an understatement. However the home victory confirms only that Clontarf now have their league destiny in their own hands. We are now level on points with Belvo with a game in hand; three to play to Belvo’s two.

On a fraught night notable for the savagery of both defences Old B. scored the first try after 17 minutes without having made any serious inroads into the Clontarf half. A loose ball was taken into contact by the home side but the loss of possession saw Belvo run the ‘free ball’ left for their winger Philip O’Dwyer to kick, chase and recover for the touchdown. Clontarf responded with a flowing move left to right which found tight head (or winger) Royce Burke Flynn who bounced his opposite man and found Darragh Fitzpatrick on the inside for the equaliser. Belvo came again and got in on the left after some discussion between the linesman and the referee and sure enough, in tit for tat fashion, ‘Tarf responded by taking a kick-able penalty after going to the corner with the previous award.

Half time was 8 – 10 in favour of Old B.

In the second half Clontarf turned the screw up front and as they inched towards the Belvo line the maul option became crucial. After winger O’Dwyer was binned for a deliberate knock on, the home side took the lead after Brian Byrne touched down in the right corner behind a surge from the gorillas. David Joyce added the crucial two with a towering conversion for 15 – 10. With ten to go Ian Hirst humped over on the left for 20 – 10 and some light at the end of the tunnel. Belvo made it 20 – 13 with a penalty and the crowd set itself for a grandstand finish which was duly delivered by the visitors. They camped on the Clontarf line for the last 10 minutes. Clontarf, urged by their now frantic support, held out as wave after wave of black and white jerseys poured on the pressure looking for the equalising score.

For once the gods were with us as a sudden downpour rendered the ball into a bar of soap making the defending job a little easier. The game ended with a knock on 3 yards from the Tarf line.

Breathtaking . . .