PARK UNDER 17'S AND 19'S RETAIN MUNSTER TITLES
Last Saturday, on a day of brilliant sunshine in Thomond Park, Waterpark, roared on by partisan supporters, created another bit of history when the Under 17's conquered the mighty Shannon, in their own back yard, and the 19's overcame Crosshaven in two pulsating finals to emerge as Munster Champions for the second year running. To win a Munster title in two age grades in a year is a bit special, but to replicate the same feat the following year says volumes for the guys who are responsible for the preparation of these squads and the dedicated service that they give our club season after season. They have now gotten their just rewards and it's onwards and upwards to take on the rest of Ireland.
UNDER 17 AVONMORE MUNSTER CUP FINAL
WATERPARK 15 – SHANNON 9
Down at the break by 5–9 an absolutely magnificent second half display, during which they had to call on all their skills was instrumental in Park retaining their Under 17 Munster title in this extremely hard fought game against Limerick side Shannon in Thomond Park on Saturday last by 15-9.
To say that these guys would raise the blood pressure is a gross understatement as they again persisted in running the ball from all over the pitch whether in attack or defence. However when they got their noses in front in the second half common sense prevailed and when the pressure was on, leather was put to the ball to quell any Shannon attack.
First to Strike
The Limerick side settled much faster and were first on the scoreboard with a penalty after only two minutes by their out half Ronan McKenna. Ten minutes later and with Shannon virtually in complete control, McKenna stretched his sides lead to 6-0 with a lovely drop goal from just outside the Park twenty two. Up to the twentieth minute Park were unable to get their hands on the ball and were fighting a rearguard action, but when they did it almost resulted in a try after a great catch and drive from a lineout on the Shannon twentytwo they were just held up short of the line. This passage of play seemed to settle the nerves and Park began to find their rhythm to such an extent that it was only some ferocious defence from Shannon that kept them at bay. On the half hour they were back in the game and Shannon rocked to their heels when from a great turnover ball on the halfway line by captain, Jack O'Donoghue, the ball was taken on by Kalani Moore who fed prop, Keith Doherty. The livewire prop put winger, Michael Duggan in the clear and was again up in support to take an inside pass from Duggan when his route to the line was cut off, to break through the Shannon defence and cross for Parks opening score and one point between the sides at 5-6. Shannon quickly regrouped and just on the stroke of half time McKenna slotted another penalty to leave the score at the break 5-9.
Again Early Pressure
After the break Shannon again applied the pressure but to a man the Park defence stood firm and on fortyfive minutes a great steal at a Shannon lineout on the ten metre line by O'Donoghue set up hooker, Darren Coady to drive into the heart of the Shannon defence from where the ball was recycled to out half, Tom O'Hare who glided over for Parks second try to put them in front for the first time in the game at 10-9. From this point on Park began to assert their authority on the game and limited their Limerick opponents to just one shot at goal in the twentieth minute which proved unsuccessful. The introduction of substitute Gareth Molloy also added a different dimension to Parks game with his raking kicks out of defence kept Shannon pegged back and well away from the red zone.
Captain Leads by Example
With ten minutes on the clock the icing was put on the cake after Park were awarded a penalty just inside the Shannon twentytwo. O'Donoghue decided to take a tap penalty and went for the corner and to the delight of his team mates and supporters alike, such was his determination and strength that he blew the Shannon defence aside and crossed for Parks third try to increase the points differential to six at 15-9. Try as they might Shannon were unable to break down this Park side who now had their tails up and repelled any attack that the Limerick side could muster and at the final whistle had no complaints as to the outcome of the game.
Another Step on Life's Ladder
To my mind this was one of those defining days that some these guys will look back on and realise that they have taken another step on their journey of life from boys to men. The attitude and control that they showed when things weren't going their way during the opening period was immense and to gather themselves together as a team and produce a second half display such as they did, shows that they have the wherewithal to now go forward and emulate their predecessors and bring the All Ireland title back to Ballinakill. Congratulations to captain, Jack O'Donoghue, who was voted Man of the Match and to all the lads and their coaches, George Anderson, Brian McCarthy and Willie Walsh and team manager Ro O'Hare.
Squad Members :
Ryan McKenna, Ben O'Keeffe, Aodhagan Hendry, Tom McCarthy, Michael Duggan, Tom O'Hare, Dylan McGagh, Adam Walsh, Darren Coady, Keith Doherty, Niall O'Neill, Darragh Power, Peter Traynor, Jack O'Donoghue (Capt), Kalani Moore, Eoin Collins, Eoghan O'Meara, Conal Dodd, Conor McBride, Conor Queally, Gareth Molloy, Jamie Daly, Brian Jackman, Evan O'Keeffe, Gary O'Brien, Jack Smith
UNDER 19 AVONMORE MUNSTER CUP FINAL
WATERPARK 18 – 15 CROSSHAVEN
This was the classic game of two halves with Waterpark rampant during the first period and opening up a fifteen point gap and Crosshaven taking over matters after the break and levelling the scores at 15-15 with only ten minutes remaining to set up a grandstand finish to this Munster final in Thomond Park last Saturday.
A Positive Start
With the Under 17's having retained their title the pressure was on these guys to do like wise and for the first time this season they decided to start a game in a positive frame of mind and had put three points on the board within the first five minutes through a Tom Kiersey penalty from 30 metres. This was added to four minutes later when with constant pressure being applied on the Crosshaven defence through a series of pick and drives, the ball came back to Kiersey twentyfive metres out and with a chip ahead of pinpoint accuracy across field into the corner, that Ronan O'Gara would have been proud of, allowed winger David Fitzgerald to gather the ball and cross for the opening try of the game and push the deficit out to 8-0.
Such was the dominance of the Park team during this half that it took the Cork side all of twenty minutes to even set foot inside their opponents half. On twentysix minutes Park went further ahead when centre, Ian Kenny, scored to the left of the posts after a jinking run from just inside the Crosshaven half. Kiersey addd the extras to push the score out to 15-0. Park were unlucky not to add to this tally on the half hour when flanker Robbie Cotter was just stopped short of the line virtually under the posts, after a mazy run from twenty metres out.
Change of Tactics
Whatever was said during half time, Crosshaven emerged a different animal and with a different game plan after the break and took the game to Park straight from the off through a series of pick and drives that had the Park defence at full stretch and within three minutes had registered their first points of the game by way of a try through their big centre, Kevin Doran, who went on to cause havoc in the Park ranks as the half wore on.. Out half Conor Lyden missed the conversion and the score stood at 15-5 to Park.
On fortyfive minutes Park powerhouse, Damien O'Dwyer, was just held up over the line and from the ensuing five metre scrum Park were penalised and the danger averted.
Doran in Again
On fifty minutes some poor defence by Park allowed Doran to run diagonally and fend off three tackles before he touched down for his second try of the game. This time Lyden made no mistake with the conversion to leave only three points between the sides at 15-12. On the hour mark he was on the mark again with a penalty from thirty metres to level the game at 15-15 and all to play for. To their credit Park dug deep and began to find their footing again and with Henry Travers winning line out ball they managed to get themselves back into the driving seat coming into the final stages of the game and applied serious pressure on the Crosshaven defence with some great play between the backs and forwards. With five minutes remaining on the clock it was from one of these attacks that Crosshaven were penalised for going over the top and up stepped the magical Kiersey to dissect the uprights with a wonderful kick from thirtyfive metres and the cup on it's way back to Ballinakill.
Tremendous Effort By All
What emerged from this game is that this side is full of character and determination as their second half performance showed. From a situation in the first half where they were coasting along, and in my estimation if Cotter has crossed for his try just before the break, the game would have been over as a contest, after the break they were put under the cosh in no uncertain terms by a fiercely committed Crosshaven side who after a dismal first half performance, rose like a Phoenix from the ashes. They withstood this stern test and after surrendering a fifteen point lead, had the guts to come back and win a Munster Final for the second year running. As with the 17's it's now forward into the All Ireland playoffs and I have no doubt that with the resilience and strength of mind that these guys showed last Saturday they will accomplish what they were prevented in doing last season by the bureaucracy that existed within the IRFU. Again congratulations to all the squad especially Tom Kiersey, who was named Man of the Match, and their mentors, John Molloy, Larry Langton, Alex Casey, Derek Billings and team manager Ken Swift.
Emmet O'Shea, Conal McIntyre, Ben Cunningham, Ian Kenny, David Fitzgerald, Tom Kiersey, Conor Molloy, Shane Power, Greg Staff (Capt.), Stephen Geraghty, Damien O'Dwyer, Andrew Moore, David O'Donoghue, Robbie Cotter, Henry Travers, Jeff Power, Ben Cross, Joe Foley, Kevin Curran, Luke Maher.