Having enjoyed an excellent victory over Clondalkin away in the preliminary round of the cup, Birr’s U17 squad were faced with a very tough assignment when they took on Tullamore in Ballyeighan on Sunday…

Birr played with the hill and the wind in their favour in the first half and pressed hard for the first 20-25 minutes. They came very close to scoring tries on two separate attacks but were denied by some last-ditch defending by a very strong Tullamore defence. Both teams put some very good moves together during a tense and close fought 1st half with Dougie Daly, Chris Maloney and Jack Ryan in particular to the fore. The teams were level 0-0 at half time, with Birr unlucky not to have at least one try on the board by that stage.

With Tullamore enjoying the benefit of wind and hill for the 2nd half and given their premiership status, one could have been forgiven for expecting the Tullamore lads to pull away easily in the 2nd half. A combination of the elements, good pressure from Tullamore and some uncharacteristic Birr errors led to three tries and a penalty for Tullamore, leaving the score at 22-0 to Tullamore, midway through the 2nd half.

Time for Birr to finally throw in the towel? No, these bunches of players don’t give in easily and their pride and superior fitness drove them on to score two converted tries, leaving the final score at 22-14 in favour of Tullamore. Tullamore deservedly move on to the next round but Birr’s resilience, skill and teamwork showed that they can look forward with confidence to the remainder of the season. They now focus on their upcoming league semi-final meeting with Longford, a game that anyone present on Sunday won’t want to miss.

The front row of Kenny Cahill, Dáire Stapleton and Ethan Brown were very effective all through with Dylan Murphy and Conor Hogan impressive in the 2nd row. At 6 and 7, Birr had two real warriors in Gordan Shannon and Ciarán Carroll (c) and at no. 8 Jack Regan was once again imperious, giving another excellent display. Darragh Nolan played well at scrum half as did Thomas McCarthy in the second half. Jack Clancy directed operations very well at out- half and was influential all through the game.

The wings were well patrolled by Dylan Watkins and Tony Needham, and in the centre Dougie Daly scored an excellent try and was unlucky not to score another while J.P. Cleary provided a strong ball-carrying presence throughout the game. Chris Maloney carried a lot of ball from full back and was unlucky not to score on the day. Subs on the day were Donnacha Purcell, Seán Kinsella, Conor Sampson, Thomas McCarthy, Simon Moylan, David Mullins, Like Fox and Darragh O’Brien. Missing through injury were Aaron Brown and Michael O’Dwyer.
Overall, a very good performance from Birr and we look forward with a fair degree of confidence to their remaining games.