24 May 2018
Tullamore Under 20’s Rugby team traveled to Ashbourne Rugby Club, a neutral venue, to take on the mighty Skerries in the Leinster League final earlier this month. A beautiful, hot sunny day with a strong wind blowing down the pitch awaited them.
Tullamore Under 20’s Rugby team traveled to Ashbourne Rugby Club, a neutral venue, to take on the mighty Skerries in the Leinster League final earlier this month. A beautiful, hot sunny day with a strong wind blowing down the pitch awaited them. Tullamore planned ahead and lined up all their ducks in a row in an effort to secure the double, having beaten a very good Bective Rangers side the previous Sunday and Winning The Harry Gale Cup Final. They secured the services of the ever reliable Buggy Coaches Tullamore with their favourite driver Matty Mills and arrived in plenty of time for the warm up. However somebody forgot to tell the very well coached and fit Skerries Team about the plan and from the first whistle, playing with the wind, they gave a demonstration of how to run at the opposition with speed and accuracy.
Skerries scored their first converted try on 3 minutes, with a maul over from 3 metres out, 7-0 to Skerries. An under pressure Tullamore got out of their own half for the first time on the five minute mark, thanks to a great break down the middle of the pitch, from inside his own 22, by Stephen Pyke earning a penalty twenty metres out for his effort. Diarmuid Egan duly slotted over the penalty to make it 7-3 to Skerries. However Skerries continued as they started and attacked in wave after wave down both sides of the pitch and were rewarded with a converted try on fifteen minutes, 14-3 to Skerries. Tullamore had to defend well after that score with particularly notable efforts from the forwards, Cathal Behan, Barry Bracken, Ciaran Ennis, Geoff Scully, Darrragh Neary, Stephen Pyke, Shane Flemming and Sean Rigney, but it took until the twenty minute mark for Tullamore to get to grips with the rampant Skerries team. A great break down the left hand side by Cian Dully, jinking past two Skerries defenders saw Tullamore five metres inside the Skerries half. A hoard of angry, marauding Tullamore forwards then arrived at the break down and it was plain for all to see from the sideline, that the tide was about to turn. With ferocity and determination they set about pounding down the park.
The backs Eoin Farrell, Sam Burns, Diarmuid Egan, Bryan Ryan, Cian Dully, Jamie Lynam and Sean McCabe not only defended well but were spectacular in carrying the ball. In an ode to the sport, forwards and backs combined in perhaps some of their best phases of rugby, to attack the excellent Skerries defensive line. On the thirty eight minute mark, having attacked down both sides, the Tullamore pack pummeled into the Skerries defenders again before releasing the ball out to the backs just outside the Skerries twenty two. Eoin Farrell, taking the ball at speed, broke the first tackle, before dancing through the Skerries back line and scoring a very tasty try out wide on the left.
The first half finished up with Tullamore showing their true class but trailing 14-10 to an excellent Skerries side. Skerries started the second half well and it looked like there was a bit of resurgence on as they made their way down to inside Tullamore’s twenty two. Sean Rigney, the Geashill warrior, decided he was having none of it and after intercepting a Skerries pass ran nearly the full length of the pitch to set up a maul just short of the line, from which he himself scored under the posts. Egan split the posts to add the two extra points with only six minutes of the second half gone. Tullamore were now leading for the first time in the match 17-14.
Tullamore however weren’t finished and upped the intensity and pace of the game. Skerries had no answer to the shock wave that hit them as Tullamore took complete control of the game. Thanks in part to great decision making by Burns and line kicking by Egan, Tullamore continued piling the pressure on Skerries. On the nine minute mark Skerries had a line out five metres from their own line and kicked for touch. Great pressure from Ennis and Scully put the Skerries kicker off and his clearance was caught on the line by Dully, outside the twenty two. Dully immediately counter attacked and off loaded to McCabe who had taken a sweet line on his right. McCabe’s electric pace and strength saw him slicing the defence and burst through the last defender to score at the left hand side of the posts. Egan split the posts again with Tullamore now leading 24-14. T
ullamore’s dominance continued and on nineteen minutes Tullamore had worked a ball up from their own ten metre line to the half way line. Like the bright flame from the after burner of a lunar rocket, hooker Pyke (not for the first time) showed remarkable speed, power and skill, bursting through the middle of the Skerries defence and was unstoppable as he scored under the posts. Egan adding the extra two points with his trusty boot, Tullamore ahead 31-14. Four minutes later, having rucked ball after ball, Tullamore got the ball out wide with ‘Zebo’ McCabe chipping over the heads of the on rushing Skerries defence, collecting his own kick and streaking into the left corner for a superb try. Egan was very unlucky with the conversion hitting the upright from a difficult angle out on the left wing leaving Tullamore leading 36-14.
Normally, it is true to say, at this level the introduction of replacements tends to disrupt the flow of the game to a degree but as is always the case with the Tullamore replacements, they added to the effectiveness of the team, with huge efforts put in by David Keyes, Dermott Hickey, Colm McGuinness, Phil Keegan, Andrew Fitzgearld, Sean Flynn and Adam Flannagan.
With ten minutes left on the clock Skerries again showed how dangerous with ball in hand they were with a very well worked converted try down the left hand side of the pitch, 36-21. Two minutes to go and Tullamore had a lineout inside the Skerries twenty two. All of a sudden, like an exeocet missile that nobody was expecting, a shock of red flame suddenly scorched down the touchline unopposed, Pyke touching down in the corner : sublime. The ref blew the final whistle moments later to signal the start of the after- party. The deserving Tullamore team celebrating in style being the first to win the coveted double, Leinster League and Harry Gale Cups.
While a lot of players are mentioned in this report it cannot be understated the work and effort put in by this team in defence and line breaks in winning this final, particularly the contributions of the panel, Robbie Kennedy, Cathal Farrell, Ben Doyle, Stephen Fox, Alex Halpin, Eoin Martin and Aaron Leavy to maintain the Tullamore momentum throughout their campaign. The final finished up Tullamore 41 – Skerries 21. If Carlsberg did Under 20’s teams...........