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This month’s match was a thriller to watch, with Ballycastle Bats - the clear underdog in this match - playing some of their best quidditch ever, to make a game which would usually be an almost certain win for Montrose Magpies into a nail-biting neck-on-neck hour and a half. The Magpies have been sitting relatively comfortably in third place on the league table for quite some time now, whilst the Bats have been dipping in and out of the relegation zone - and although Montrose just clinched a win in the 96th minute, Ballycastle really gave it their best shot, and left the match high on morale.
The game started off relatively slow-paced, with both teams of chasers taking a while to find their feet and get into their game mode. The first goal came in the 11th minute from Ballycastle chaser Caitlyn Burke following an impressive Hawkshead Attacking Formation with fellow chasers Lyam Maguire and Darcie O’Connor. With a quite surprised look on her face as the Quaffle passed through the hoops just out of Montrose Keeper Hamish Blackwood’s reach; Burke, Maguire and O’Connor enjoyed a delighted celebration.
Their celebration was cut short however, when they all had to dive out of the way to avoid a perfectly placed bludger sent over by Magpies Beater and Captain Fia McKay. McKay and fellow Beater Niall Sterling had a cracking game, aiming their Bludgers with an accuracy only seen by some of the very best Beaters nationwide. That’s not to say that opposition Beaters Blaine Kavanagh and Torie Reid didn’t give them a run for their money; the pair were whacking bludgers around the court as though their life depended on it and often succeeded in confusing their opponents with the frequent Bludger Backbeat - although that might require a little more practice, as McKay and Sterling were often able to intercept the Bludgers midway.
The two Keepers had an extremely tough game having to defend the hoops from some formidable Chasers, but they both played valiantly; Bats’ Keeper Mairéad Kennedy especially was a standout player on the pitch, as she has been going through a rough period in terms of her performance recently, but she really gave it all in this match and it paid off - her frequent risky manoeuvres that she is so well known for worked successfully, and I think Ballycastle were just glad to have their Keeper back to her old form again.
The Chasers only grew more confident and determined as the game went on - the Montrose Chasers desperate to not lose both the game and their reputation to a lower-table club such as Ballycastle, whilst the Bats’ Chasers were running high on the adrenaline and the belief that maybe, just maybe, they might beat one of the best teams in the league. Both passing and flying sped up rapidly, and the quaffle was whizzing around the pitch so quickly that it was impossible to keep an eye on where it was at every minute. Both teams’ Chasers remained pretty neck-and-neck in terms of goals scored throughout the whole match - everyone in the stadium that evening knew that everything came down to the two Seekers.
And what a game it was for those two Seekers - in a world of their own, they zipped around the pitch, dipping and diving and dodging bludgers and players in an extremely lengthy and challenging pursuit of the snitch. It was first sighted round about the 63rd minute, but the following chase lasted the remaining 33 minutes; no doubt leaving both Seekers completely exhausted at the match’s end! The fight to reach the snitch first was incredibly tense and almost impossible to watch, as the player in the lead kept changing and it really was never clear who would grab it until the very last minute. Ballycastle Seeker Kye Scott was the first to notice the golden ball, but his advantage was lost pretty early on, and opposition Seeker Gregor Wallace was the one to finally end up victorious.
Speaking to us after the game, Ballycastle Captain Lyam Maguire shared his thoughts;
“We might not have one on paper out there, but we definitely won in our hearts tonight. Merlin, that’s probably the cheesiest thing I’ve ever said, but occasions like this merit a little bit of cheesiness, don’t you think? Yeah, I’m elated at how the game went - a little frustrated that we didn’t win, especially as it was so close, but overall I’m overjoyed, and I’m so incredibly proud of our team. Watch out Magpies, we’ll get you next time!”