by Brian Kelly
In a thrilling final against Loughrea, played in perfect conditions at Cregg’s rugby club on Saturday April 23rd, Carrick U14’s showed their true potential as a team to be respected all across Connacht.
Loughrea started more brightly from the kick-off and within two minutes they had crossed for their opening try thanks to some direct running by their no. 8. They failed to convert the try and so led 5 -0, this was to be the only time they had the lead until the dying minute of the game. This was the catalyst Carrick needed to focus on the task at hand and they dominated scrums and line outs for the next 20 minutes to pin Loughrea inside their own half. Carrick’s opening score came in the 8th minute when fullback Shortt came into the attacking line to power over for a well-worked backline try. Regrettably he got injured in the act and had to be substituted by converted winger Shanley before first centre McLoughlin kicked a difficult conversion. During the remainder of the first half Carrick pressed hard and were adjudged to have been held up twice after crossing the try line. Half time score Carrick 7 – 5 Loughrea.
Carrick’s Captain Matthews and pack leader McAuley rallied their charges at the start of the second half. Growing in confidence, their forwards dominated the breakdown and tackled ferociously providing good quality ball for a backline which had been shaky in the first half. Winger Honeyman dodged and weaved through Loughrea’s defences for 45 meters to cross the try line under the posts only to have the ball held up off the ground by a frantic Galway defence. Honeyman sustained an injury when crossing the line and was replaced on the wing by Kelly. But the die was cast for 10 minutes of total dominance by Carrick. Centre McLoughlin finished off an excellent forwards and backs move to score Carrick’s second try. Loughrea 5 – 14 Carrick. From open play Carrick flanker Coyle broke a tackle and quickly released the ball to the backs lined out on his right hand side. Carrick’s Singleton, coming across from the left wing, was stopped short but passed to replacement winger Kelly who powered over for Carrick’s third try. Loughrea 5 – 19 Carrick with 11 minutes to go.
But Loughrea’s resilience – and some Carrick nerves – set the scene for an anxious final few minutes. Injury to Carrick out half Harte saw Lenehan enter the fray on the left wing with Singleton and all inside backs moving one position inwards. These changes doubtless disrupted a flawless Carrick and Loughrea’s persistence inside the Carrick 22 paid off with two tries and one conversion in quick succession. Loughrea 17 -19 Carrick.
With two minutes remaining in the match Carrick rallied and forced their opponents backwards so that the game was now being played in the middle of the pitch. But an infringement at the ruck gave the Galway men a last minute penalty. They tapped an ran and following some strong running by their back line they released the ball to their number 8 who powered over for a try at the death just left of the posts. Loughrea failed to convert the try but this was enough for them to run out winners Loughrea 22 – 19 Carrick. This was a devastating loss for the team that played the better rugby on the day. Despite this loss the future looks bright for this group of players who will no doubt be in the winners enclosure before too long.