BANK OF IRELAND LEINSTER YOUTHS PREMIER FINALS DAY
May 5, 2015 12:00 am client
There was unbridled joy for Mullingar RFC on the Bank of Ireland Leinster Youths Premier Finals Day at Donnybrook on Bank Holiday Monday, as they recorded victories in the U13 McGowan Cup and U15 McAuley Cup showpieces.
The Westmeath outfit had kick-started the day’s action in the former against their Midland rivals, Tullamore, and despite conceding possession to their Offaly counterparts during the early exchanges, a series of impressive breaks by inside centre Rory O’Sullivan-Sexton eventually provided Mullingar with a foothold in enemy territory.
The deadlock remained unbroken moving into first-half stoppage-time, but the Tullamore rearguard was finally breached by their opponents, as O’Sullivan-Sexton’s midfield partner, Ben McGauran, drove over the whitewash via a neat off-load by scrum-half Shane Williams.
The Cullion number nine was marginally off-target from the subsequent conversion, but Mullingar had reason to be satisfied with their 5-0 interval advantage. Indeed, a 31st-minute penalty from the influential Fionn O’Hara increased the Mullingar cushion, and they continued to attack in numbers after the restart.
Yet, the Spollanstown side were not prepared to go down without a fight, and following a terrific run from deep, the pacey Dylan McDermott crossed over just nine minutes into the half. Fly-half Luke Egan also added the bonuses in routine fashion, and with the bare minimum separating the teams, Tullamore were back in contention.
Mullingar kept their nerves during this difficult juncture, though, and after kicking a loose ball into the Tullamore ‘22’, flanker Conor Gibney touched down in clinical style. A superb two-pointer followed from the excellent McGauran, and although Liam Farrell and James McGriver both went close for Tullamore in the latter stages, Mullingar ultimately secured a 15-7 success.
This was the perfect tonic for the Lake County brigade ahead of their meeting with Naas in the U15 McAuley Cup decider, a competition they had won at the expense of Tullow 12 months earlier. Out-half Conán O’Hara was hoping to replicate the earlier achievement of his brother Fionn, but it was his opposite number – Alex Reilly – who opened the scoring from a third-minute place-kick.
This looked like being a confidence-building score for the Kildare boys, but after the defending champions held firm under pressure, they swung the pendulum in their favour courtesy of an outstanding individual try by full-back Paul Smith just shy of the first-quarter mark.
O’Hara’s touchline conversion was agonisingly wide of the mark, but he made no mistake from a 30-metre opportunity 18 minutes in. As the half wore on, Mullingar were threatening to add another try to their overall tally, but they had to be content with a second penalty from the ice-cool O’Hara.
This offered Mullingar an 11-3 platform at the start of the second period, but a determined Naas forced them on the back-foot when the action resumed. Mullingar managed to halt Cian Lehane’s charge for the line, before a powerful 35th-minute maul was finished off by Naas’ Jake Rochford for a converted score.
In a similar vein to the day’s curtain-raiser, it had suddenly turned into a one-point game (11-10), and Mullingar realised that it would take a huge effort if they were to retain their crown.
To their credit, they managed to gain control of possession again following Rochford’s five-pointer, and Naas’ attacks were sporadic in the final-quarter of play. O’Hara had a chance to stretch Mullingar’s lead four minutes from time, and even though his strike drifted past the posts, Mullingar left south Dublin with two trophies to their name.
Finally, in Monday’s main event, a stunning second-half performance helped County Carlow towards a 31-11 victory over Tullamore in an engrossing U17 Culliton Cup showdown.
Tullamore were hoping to hit the ground running as they aimed to give their supporters some solace following the McGowan Cup reversal, and thanks to a brace of excellent Conor Dunne penalties in the 4th and 6th minutes respectively, they had developed an early six-point cushion.
The concession of these scores were set-backs to the County Carlow cause, but they managed to weather the storm when captain Mark McDermott converted a three-pointer of his own from the subsequent attack.
This encounter was played at a blistering pace, and thanks to strong work from lock Sam Dunne and centre Ross Dunphy, the Barrowsiders were beginning to exert their influence on the play. However, they suffered a hammer blow on the 20-minute mark, when right-wing Tommy Bric was dispossessed by the alert Dunne.
The lively outside centre proceeded to broke through for a try in the left-corner, and despite being off-target with his own conversion attempt, Tullamore had created further daylight between them and Carlow. Their opponents were presented with an ideal opportunity from close-range three minutes prior to the interval, but after McDermott struck the woodwork from a left-angle, Tullamore were eight points in front (11-3) at the break.
The odds seemed to be against Carlow upon the resumption, but they managed to keep Tullamore on the retreat for the vast majority of the third-quarter. Back-to-back penalties from McDermott in the 42nd and 45th minutes forced Carlow back into the reckoning, before Tullamore forced a 22-metre kicking opportunity 20 minutes from the end.
Dunne couldn’t take advantage on this occasion, however, and McDermott gave Carlow the lead for the very first time with a monstrous strike from the half-way line. Tullamore were struggling to cope with the intensity of Carlow, and Dunne was once again short from a 58th minute penalty.
A converted try by the aforementioned Dunphy left the Offaly men with a mountain climb late on, and thanks to further well-worked touchdowns from Jody Murphy and Conor Crowley, County Carlow sealed the silverware on offer.
U13 MCGOWAN CUP FINAL
MULLINGAR: Darragh Seery; Mark Flynn, Ben McGauran, Rory O’Sullivan-Sexton, Adam Treanor; Fionn O’Hara, Shane Williams; Conor Mooney, Evan Molloy, Jason Malone; Eric Bates, Hugh O’Neill; Conor Gibney, Gerry Duffy-McAndrew, Michael Conlon.
Replacements: Liam Shaw, Patrick Kane, Sean Power, Gary Cleary, Sean Cronin, Niall Manning, Ciaran Looby.
TULLAMORE: Ronan Cleary; Luke Wyer, Liam Farrell, Dylan McDermott, James Nolan; Luke Egan, Eoghan Hickey; Conor Kelly, Adam Larkin, Mickey Gaffey; Conor Neary, Sean Broidy; Mark Kelly, James McGriver, Scott Milne.
Replacements: Jonah O’Keeffe, Diarmuid J Brady, Killian Brennan, Darragh Drea, James Coughlan, Tadhg Donoghue, Casey Buckley, Ryan Strong, Joey Fogarty, Adam Strong.
U15 MCAULEY CUP FINAL
MULLINGAR: Paul Smith; Jenson Nagle, Harry O’Reilly, Aaron Glennan, Stephen Derham; Conán O’Hara, Adam Duggan; Joseph Cronin, Luca Mulcahy, Brian Reidy; Conor Lynam, Luke Carton; Dylan Murphy, James Mahedy, Niall Derham.
Replacements: Aaron Dowling, Aaron Kennedy, Eric Fitzpatrick, Matthew Doyle, Sean Timmins, Evan Donagher, Oisin Hogan, Thomas Daugavietis.
NAAS: Ben Reddan; Killian Nugent, Andrew Whitaker, Jack Sargent, Cian Lehane; Alex Reilly, Derry Lenehan; David Whitaker, Michael Curran, Richard Ashby, Joe O’Sullivan, Harry Smith; Jake Rochford, Lorcan Mooney.
Replacements: Connor Madden, Adam McLoughlin, Darragh Kavanagh, Michael Clancy, Ryan Carter, Aaron Burke, Adam Costello.
U17 CULLITON CUP FINAL
COUNTY CARLOW: Conor Crowley; Tommy Bric, Ross Dunphy, Caomhan Brennan, Jody Murphy; Mark McDermott, Daniel Crotty; John Murphy, Caolan Fitzhenry, Quinlan Kelly; Sam Dunne, Sean O’Brien; Daniel Carpenter-Keogh, Aiden Rapley, Conor Kelly.
Replacements: Damien Jordan, Sean Branagan, Martin Mullins, Conor Moore, Ruairi Dunbar.
TULLAMORE: Sean McCabe; Jamie Lynam, Conor Dunne, Colm Heffernan, Cian Fogarty; Sam Burns, Aaron Leavy; Alan O’Donovan, Barry Bracken, Shayne Fleming; Darragh Neary, Cathal Behan; Steven Pyke, Dermot Hickey, Robert Milner.
Replacements: Philip Keegan, Keith Corcoran, David Keyes, Michael Brennan, Tarnan Quinn, Darren Brady, Colin Keogh.