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Naas Crowned U18 Champions

Naas Crowned U18 Champions

Naas overcame a gutsy Corinthians side in the All Ireland Under 18 Championships at the weekend.

The game was played before a very large crowd at Forenaughts as the main event on the day.  Earlier a very gutsy performance by Galwegians was not enough as a tough determined side from Wicklow ran out deserved winners by 17 points to 15.

Naas opened with the wind in their face. Some early tactical kicking by both out halves established that they were going to punish loose balls coming from the other side..  On 8 minutes Naas were penalised for hands in the ruck.  Eric Flynn kicked accurately from 35 meters to open the scoring.  On 15 minutes Naas showed that their smaller, lighter pack was not going to be pushed around.  A tight rolling maul took the ball into the Corinthians’ 22 where the maul became a ruck. Corinthians were penalised for diving in.  Shane Bergin’s kick appeared to hang in the wind before dropping inches over the bar to make the score 3 points each.

The next fifteen minutes was played out between two very equal packs with neither giving any ground.  On 34 minutes Neil Casey broke from a ruck making fifteen yards before he was brought down.  Austin Doyle using his power as a prop picked up and drove on before releasing his three-quarters – Bergin, Conran, Mulhall, Domican and Dooley.  Dooley got the ball to Cathal Geogheghan who was coming in on the right wing from his position on the opposite wing.  A neat left-footed chip over the advancing defender allowed him to use his pace to pick-up and sprint to score close to the posts. Bergin again converted.  This score, into the teeth of a very strong wind, provided the impetus for what was to come in the second half.  Naas 10 points Corinthians 3 at half time.

Naas playing with the hill and the wind saw their opportunity.  To quote from a prominent member of the Naas panel “After the 1st half we knew there was going to be a 2nd half”. Indeed if Corinthians were to be repeat their first half display, Naas would need to keep to their game-plan and exert early pressure on them.  The Naas three quarters had been rewarded for their bravery in the first half in conceding only three points.  In addition the pack were holding their own and even taking the odd line-out against the throw. 

The opening minutes saw the three-quarters again cut through the Connacht Champions defence.  Accurate high kicks from Shane Bergin encouraged his wingers to get up on their opposite numbers, while incisive advances by the jinking Eoghan Conran, supported by Kailyn Domican and Gavin Dooley, were providing opportunities for further scores.  On 12 minutes with the ball in the air the forwards advanced in support of Eoin Mulhall.  The ball was released quickly across the back-line to Gavin Dooley driving towards the line.  At the breakdown, Bryan “Candyman” Gallagher picked up and drove again for the line.  Quick thinking Cathal Geogheghan picked up at the breakdown and dived over for another try. 

On 17 minutes the forwards had an opportunity to show that all the hard nights were not wasted.  Matthew Ibbotsen, Ronan Kelly, Daragh Kiely and Ger James, who had put in a powerful display in the many rucks and mauls up to now, took the ball forward in a neat rolling maul pressing well into the Corinthians 22.  At the breakdown Austin Doyle and Conal Owens stripped the ball lose providing another opportunity for the well drilled pack to tear into their opposite numbers.  Picking and driving they forced Corinthians back again and again eventually getting close to the opposition line.  Daniel O’Byrne was rewarded for his energetic input into the earlier part of the move when he dived over to score.  Shane Bergin converted making the score 22 points to 3.  Again on 20 minutes, a break by “Candyman” cut deep into the Corinthians defence.  Laying the ball off quickly to Cathal Geogheghan who was speeding in from the wing.  Geogheghan cut through the defence to score under the posts for another converted try to make the score 29 points to 3 for Naas.

On 25 minutes, Naas won a scrum following a knock-on just outside the Corinthians 22.   Niall Casey took the ball breaking right.  Releasing Shane Bergin and Eoghan Conran who passed long towards Kailyn Domican.  Up popped prop Daniel O’Byrne, to take the ball on the burst.  His surprise arrival in the line caught the defence flat-footed as he cut through from outside the 22 to score with an extravagant dive close to the posts which enable Shane Bergin to make the score 36 points to 3.  Naas used this opportunity to release their bench with all seven replacements coming into the fray. 

With rain now teeming down, Naas showed that they could play equally well in wet conditions. On 30 minutes, and following some desperate defence from the Corinthians defence a clearance under pressure resulted in the ball reaching Cathal Geogheghan outside the 22 meter line.  A cheeky, indeed confident, chip and catch enabled him to beat the advancing defenders and to sprint in to score his 4th try of the day close to the posts.  Shane Bergin stepped up to complete the scoring, bringing his personal tally to one penalty, and five conversions (13 points).

This first success at this level allowed four of the panel to show off two All Ireland Under Age Medals having won at Under 16 three years ago.  The team-work and commitment of the team on Sunday was reflected in their the speeches after the game.  With Officers of the Club, and parents present the Captain Ger James thanked the coaching team of Michael Moran, Tom Walsh, Joe Campbell and team Manager John Dooley for their commitment and dedication over the last three years.  “This result reflects on all who have played on the panel and particularly of the five players not included in today’s lineout.  The team must now focus on the challenge of the Culliton Cup – a trophy which has evaded the Naas club to date.”  

 Thanking the parents he said that without their commitment to providing transport to get them to matches throughout Leinster, the team would not have had the opportunity provided today.

Match Report and Image supplied by Kevin Greene