U16 Pan Munster League v Ballincollig 21st October 2017   22/10/2017

Storm "Ophelia" has moved on. On Saturday we had Storm "Brian". However this was still not enough to put off the brave U16 teams from Clonakilty and Ballincollig in going head to head in the 2nd game of the Pan Munster League on Saturday.

Clonakilty kicked off the game aided by the strong breeze and were on top in the early stages. The lads in red and green were going through the phases, putting the Ballincollig defence under pressure and this was eventually rewarded after 12 minutes when a loose clearance from Ballincollig fell nicely for Clon tighthead Aaron O' Donovan who charged over the line to put Clon 5-0 in front.

There could be no argument at this stage but that Clonakilty looked the better side. However Ballincollig had not made the journey down from the outskirts of the city just to make up the numbers. They eventually got a foothold in the game, retaining possession well and stretching the Clon defence. Their dominance and strong set piece eventually created space for their excellent number 10 who sprinted through a gap to touch down under the posts, a successful conversion leaving the score 7-5 in Ballincollig's favour at half time.  

The Clonakilty huddle was calm but focused at half time. The high penalty count against them was an obvious concern (some commentators expressing the view that the referee had clearly not forgotten his roots). However everybody knew that this was not the case as the problems lay within the squad and were not due to external factors. The only people who could resolve these problems were themselves.

Playing into the strong wind Clon were on the back foot for the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half, most of the game being played inside their "22". However it has to be said that to a man they protected their line with honesty and bravery. The saying goes that "Bravery brings it's own rewards" and this was certainly the case as Clon broke down field and following an excellent passage of play, involving great hands from both backs and forwards, James O' Donovan powered over the Ballincollig line to put Clon 10-7 ahead.

It was developing into a cracking game, Ballincollig throwing everything at Clon in an effort to re-gain the lead. Clon defended their line with great courage on a number of occasion's but the pressure eventually told when Ballincollig deservedly scored again to go 14-10 in front.

Put simply this was now a test of character for this young Clon team! With 8 minutes to go they worked their way into the Ballincollig 22" and a quick tapped penalty brought them to within 5 yards of the Ballincollig line. Big, strong number 8 James O' Donovan stepped forward to take the responsibility, charging for the opposition line as if his life depended on it. Great defence by Ballincollig stopped him just short but James managed to off load a beautiful pass to the supporting Charlie O' Shea, who took the ball at his shoe laces before diving over to touch down in the corner. The Clon crowd went wild with excitement, Jackie O' Leary's shouts being clearly heard well beyond Macroom!

However their was still time for Ballincollig. Credit to the boys in black and white they tried everything to snatch the game at the death but time was their enemy. Clon showed good composure to close out the game but were highly relieved to hear the referees whistle for full time, the final score line reading Clonakilty 15 Ballincollig 14.

In truth it was a pity that someone had to loose this game. The entertainment value was of the highest quality considering the conditions and credit to the referee who handled the game using lots of common sense.

Stephen O' Hea, Cameron Coone and Cristeoir Hayes had fabulous games for Clon, O' Hea getting stronger and stronger with every run out. Mike Maguire, Liam Barry and Aaron O' Donovan were hugely effective in the tight exchanges, especially on the counter rucks, while Rohan Ager, James O' Donovan and Shane Crowley carried to huge effect, regularly blowing holes in the 'colling defensive lines. Charlie O' Shea will be delighted with his match winning try while Alex Hourihane, Eoghan Murphy and Eoghan Ferguson brought a great tempo and energy when introduced from the bench.

Eoin Downey was busy and hard working as usual at number 9 while centre's Chris Walton and Ben Lovell are forming a very nice combination, Walton the direct, strong one, Lovell the fox in the long grass, waiting to strike a severe blow at the opposition when the opportunity presents itself. Cillian McDonald, Ryan Jennings and Cian Downey were like the great Denis Irwin of old, making everything look easy despite the challenging conditions they were operating in. These three lads are very brave and opponents know that they will have to work hard to get around them. Craig Bateman and Kyle Buttimer made great contributions when brought in while it was great to see Tim McCarthy back playing the game that really suit his undoubted skills.

Undoubtedly Clon have areas that they need to work on. The "rest periods" taken at certain stages of the game have to be eliminated while the stepping up and intensity in defence needs to improve.

However they should also be very proud of the team spirit and character displayed when their backs were to the wall. This is the type of character that will stand to them for their entire rugby career's as well as for the rest of their lives. Today, in the 2nd half, it came through in each and every one of them. Well done lads .. see ye all at training on Wednesday at 7pm.


Donal Mac Sweeney Club Captain 2018/19

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