Munster Champions Prevail In Exciting AIB Cup Quarter Final

Sligo 10 :: Crosshaven 19

Current Munster junior league holders, Crosshaven were pushed all the way by understrength Sligo in a very competitive and exciting AIB All-Ireland Junior Cup quarter final at Hamilton Park on Saturday last.

The game was played in cool and blustery conditions, in a typical cup tie atmosphere. It looked ominous for Sligo before the kick-off as they were forced to field without six of the side which defeated Westport on the previous Sunday. Winger, Thomas Darcel, out-half, Gavin Foley and second row, Jamie Bowes were all abroad, full-back, Mark Boland had not recovered from a back injury, wing forward David Greene was on hospital duty, while prop, Martin Feeney was suspended. Despite the loss of such key personnel, the team played exceptionally well, and while Crosshaven were worthy winners, they were given many anxious moments by the depleted home side. It is a measure of the strength in depth in the club, and also testimony to the value of a strong 2nd’s team, that the replacements for this game, Brian Hynes, Nick Reynolds, Roger Burrows, Ross O’Boyle, Simon Coulter and Stephen Woods fitted seamlessly into the side.

Crosshaven had a dream start, and following some excellent play from their pack, they scored a try after nine minutes with their very impressive tight head, Samoan, Jake Grey crashing over. Out-half, Liam Delaney missed the touch-line conversion. Sligo’s response was immediate, and following Kakaber Machiditze’s superb restart, they pinned Crosshaven inside their ’22’. However, in the 12th minute, the ex-Georgian International was the victim of a harsh yellow card call, when he was binned for 10 minutes for a very innocuous tackle. Despite being a man short, Sligo continued to attack, and although some line-outs went astray, their pack were proving to be a match for the well drilled Co. Cork eight. Their continuous pressure was rewarded in the 18th minute, when centre, Julian Ripon converted a penalty from 20 metres, and in front of the posts, to reduce arrears to 5-3.

In first half stoppage time, Crosshaven were camped on the Sligo line, but some heroic defence held them out. Their last attack saw them kick a penalty to the corner, but Peter Mullan’s brilliant line-out steal lifted the siege.

Sligo were back on the attack from the start of the second half, but they could not unlock the well organised Crosshaven defence. To add to their problems, the winners came downfield in the 13th minute, and following some crisp handling, outside centre, Bobby Rodgers scythed through for a try, with Delaney adding the points with an excellent kick to extend the lead to 12-3. Sligo were soon back on the offensive, and they had a fine opportunity to narrow the gap, but Julian Ripon’s 17th minute penalty from 25 metres and in front, drifted wide. In the 26th minute wing forward, Peter Morrissey soothed his team’s supporters rather frayed nerves, when he touched down near the corner after good ‘pick and drive’ work from the pack. Out-half, Liam Delaney landed another fine conversion to put his team 19-3 ahead.

Many teams might have accepted their fate at this stage, but Sligo showed their resilience by camping in the Crosshaven ’22’ for the remainder of the game. They were over in the corner, but the unsighted referee from Bangor did not allow Ronan Gillespie’s touchdown, which certainly would have led to a grandstand finish. Justice was eventually done in the closing minute, when following a series of phases by the pack, team captain, Jamie Livingstone touched down at the posts, and Julian Ripon converted.

It was a very spirited performance from Sligo, and they will rue the concession of the second try, as they were on the attack inside the Crosshaven ’22’ when the ball was turned over, and the winners counter-attacked. Indeed it is possible that they could have gone on to fashion an unlikely victory if they had not conceded 7 points at that critical juncture. The pack were all outstanding, and the front row of Gillespie, Ross O’Boyle and Adrian McHale rarely took a step backwards all afternoon. Peter Mullan and Jamie Livingstone would both be strong contenders for ‘man of the match’, while Cathal Culhane had another great game at blind side. Simon Coulter in the second row and Stephen Woods at open side also hade big contributions to their team’s efforts.

Behind the scrum, the re-arranged back-line did not lack in effort against the accomplished Crosshaven strike force, which included inside centre, Ronan O’Donovan, who played last season with Cork Constitution in Division 1 of the AIL. Brian Hynes at full-back used his footballing skills to good effect, while at inside centre, the returning Roger Burrows brought leadership and experience to this sector. Both wingers, Nick Reynolds and Ted Mulvanney, tackled exceptionally well, and made the most of their few attacking opportunities. Centre, Julian Ripon also defended well but had few chances to attack.

Billy Leahy had a fine game and did some tremendous work around the breakdown areas. Out-half, Kakaber Machiditze’s line kicking and restarts were exceptional, although his decision taking on occasions was questionable, but like his colleagues, his defence was top class.

Sligo: Brian Hynes, Nick Reynolds, Julian Ripon, Roger Burrows, Ted Mulvanney, Kakaber Machiditze, Billy Leahy, Adrian McHale, Ross O’Boyle, Ronan Gillespie, Peter Mullan, Simon Coulter, Cathal Culhane, Jamie Livingstone [c.], tephen Woods. Subs: Dermot Kiely for S.Coulter, [Not Used]: James Coulter, David Kilcoyne, Simon Coyle. Declan Kiely.

Crosshaven: Ross O’Connell, Pierce O’Brien, Bobby Rodgers, Ronan O’Donovan, Alan Barry, Liam Delaney, Paul Cogan, Eoin Deane, Rory Roffler ,Jake Grey, Arthur Melorowicz, Mickey Buckley, Donal Murphy, Eamonn Ring, Peter Morrissey. Subs: Andrew Mcmahon for M.Buckley, Joao Delintro for B.Rodgers, Eddie Buckley for J.Grey [Not Used] Dave Hanley, Richard Daly.