- Result: Galwegians U15 15 - Monivea 12
- Venue: Sportsground on Sun Apr 30th 2017
- Competition: Connacht U15 Cup
Galwegians are the 2016-17 Connacht U15 Cup champions after a memorable victory over Monivea in what was a nail-biting finish at the Sportsground on Sunday.
Played in glorious sunshine, Wegians had the advantage of a first-half breeze blowing towards the Bohermore end. The city side took advantage of the elements and they got off to a perfect start with the first score on eight minutes. It followed a well-executed rolling maul off a lineout, and the impressive lock forward Edward Shekete and Man of the Match contender, peeled off to give himself a free run to the line and dive over near the right corner for the game’s first try. Out-half Jack Beatty landed an excellent conversion to give his side a 7-0 lead early doors.
The East Galway side soon settled however and they began to work their way back into the game. They served early notice of the threat posed by their dangerous backline on 15 minutes when right-wing Thomas Feeney showed lightning speed to break clear up the right flank, before Wegians full-back MacDara O’Griofa made one of a number of excellent tackles to put a halt to his gallop with the try-line beckoning.
Throughout this half Galwegians worked hard especially at ruck time where they dominated all day with rugged and steely determined play from Garvin Surlis at 7 and Ben Kelly at 6. This pair made some excellent tackles and have been uncompromising at ruck time all year. Hugh Duffy made some strong runs to gain valuable yards while the front row was exceptional in the scrum – Liam Griffin was uncompromising all day as were his front row colleagues of Gary Lally and hooker Conor Joyce.
Despite having this stronger scrum, Wegians were struggling to make use of the elements and their pattern seemed disrupted after a lengthy stoppage which saw winger Cian Clancy, who never got to show his excellent pace, vision and strength due to this injury, stretchered off. He was replaced by Ciaran O’Fleaheartha who slotted in seamlessly to the role as he always does.
Their opponents kept knocking on the door, and just before half-time, their hugely impressive centre Shea Hennessy cut a swathe through the Wegians defense, only for another last-ditch tackle which forced a knock-on to ensure the Blues held onto a 7-0 lead at the interval. In the centre Luke Kelly and Zak Rather did a very good job containing the Monivea centres in the first half – a tricky assignment on the day.
They were ably assisted in the defensive tackling by 10 Jack Beatty and an uncompromising Patrick Keane on the wing. Keane frustrated Monivea’s wingers and centres all day with brilliant tackling. Darragh Creighton at 9 for Wegians oversaw some excellent set moves of scrums and rucks.
Monivea now had the advantage of the elements, however they underestimated the strength of the breeze when the restart went out on the full. This gave the Blues an attacking platform from halfway, and the hugely impressive Shekete broke from the base of the scrum and bulldozed his way route one through the middle to puncture the defense.
This set up an attacking scrum 5, and a well-worked blind-side move saw no. 8 George Hill combine with scrum-half Daragh Creighton to send Man of the Match contender and winger Patrick Keane clear, who dived over in the right-corner for a sucker punch score. Although this conversion was missed, the Blues suddenly had a 12-0 buffer.
However, Monivea responded very well and remained undaunted by this setback. They immediately took the play to their opponents and set up camp inside the 22. When awarded two quick penalties, a quick tap and go caught the Blues defense off guard which led to an opportunist score from left-wing Killian Berthoz. Evan Connolly was unlucky to see his conversion rebound off the post, but it was now very much game on.
This time it was the turn of the Blues to respond well in adversity. More good work by the pack led to another strong break by Shekete, and with the Blues punching holes inside the 22, Monivea were penalised for a high tackle. Beatty made light of the tricky breeze to send his kick between the posts and extend his side’s lead to 15-5.
Not to be outdone, Monivea came back almost immediately with the game now into the final quarter. When the ball was spun wide, centre Hennessy broke down the right wing and in a powerful display of running, evaded several attempted tackles to dive over and score his side’s second try. An excellent conversion from Connolly meant that the game was now delicately balanced at 15-12.
Oliver Kelly was introduced for Hugh Duffy in the second row and Joe Agbo replaced the injured Liam Griffin in the front row. The fresh legs helped Wegians defend what was an onslaught of Red and Black. Also introduced was Gabriel Herescu to bring more strength and pace to the Wegians game.
Cue a dramatic finale. Wegians defended for their lives as Monivea sought to run the ball at every opportunity. The Blues seemed to have withstood the onslaught as they worked their way into the opposition half with the clock ticking. However, the East Galway side launched one final salvo.
Again, it was that man Hennessy who went on a similar sortie down the right wing. It seemed like déjà vu for Wegians as he powered past several tackles and was heading for the corner for what seemed the winning score, only for a magnificent try-saving cover tackle from no. 8 Hill who smashed him into touch near the corner-flag.
Wegians survived one final scare when they lost the resulting lineout, but play soon went dead resulting in the final whistle amidst jubilant scenes for the boys in Blue. It was very tough on a gallant and determined Monivea who gave their absolute all, however Wegians showed tremendous heart and determination to dig deep and eke out a result. It was a fitting reward for a squad who had to conduct a major re-building project in the last two years, and captain Gary Lally was presented the trophy afterwards by Branch ex-President Adrian Leddy to seal a memorable day. A number of subs that did not get a run on the day but were part of the 23 are:
Conor Jackson who has been a valuable replacement in various positions – centre, wing and 10 and has been immense in tight corners all year
Ben Hornibrook, replacement hooker, whose throwing and hands in general made decision time for that position, an unenviable task all year.
Henri Bartolozzi, was out through injury in recent weeks but has also made selection decisions difficult in the second row,
Tom Kelly has played at 9 for this squad and has been a constant with this squad all season.
Unable to use more than 23 players, guys that one would love to play and at least be able to play were not able to do so on this day – Morgan O’Loughlin was invaluable in the lineout during the year; Matas Sadauskas, a newcomer to the squad shows great promise; Marcin Drozdz, again new to the game but is coming strongly into the pack; Alan Whyte is the team favourite and has a natural flair for the game in close; Shane Devlin, again a new addition in recent years, Shane has played a huge role in the campaign all year; Tristan Kirby joined during the season and has adapted very well to the game with great enthusiasm; Shane McComiskey showed real promise early in the season only to lose out with a nasty back injury; Cian Mulrooney also missed out in recent weeks but was part of this squad all year; Robbie Olatokunbo a brand new member of the squad and hopefully we will see more of Robbie in the years to come and finally Colm Finnerty missed out in recent weeks due to injury but has been with this squad as winger and full back