Last season’s beaten finalists Tullamore make the long journey to Belfast worthwhile as a strong start to the second half helped them hold out for a 16-10 AIB Junior Cup first round victory over Cooke on Saturday afternoon.
AIB JUNIOR CUP – FIRST ROUND: Saturday, January 3
COOKE 10 TULLAMORE 16, Shaw’s Bridge
Scorers: Cooke: Tries: Reuben Aiono, Niall McCordick
Tullamore: Try: Polonga Pedro; Con: Gearoid O’Grady; Pens: Gearoid O’Grady 3
Under the gaze of the floodlights at Shaw’s Bridge, Tullamore made a sluggish start, conceding an early try with Cooke out-half Reuben Aiono crashing over the try-line.
A determined Tullamore bounced back 10 minutes later with their number 10 Gearoid O’Grady splitting the posts with the first of his three successful penalty kicks.
The midlanders continued to dominate possession as O’Grady helped them break into a 6-5 lead.
Tullamore remained in front by a point at the interval, but only after withstanding strong pressure from an eager Cooke side who showed great determination in the closing stages of the half.
An excellent run by Richard Bunn was halted by Tullamore’s Adam Hughes, as the Offaly outfit battled to keep hold of their slim lead.
Another O’Grady penalty, within 12 minutes of the restart, got Tullamore off to the perfect start in the second half.
Cooke were not without their chances, but camped on the five-metre line they found it hard to penetrate a solid Tullamore pack.
And it was Tullamore who got the clinching five-pointer in the 74th minute when Ronan Glennon got his pass away for flanker Polonga Pedro to touch down.
O’Grady added an excellent conversion from wide out to open up a 16-5 lead.
Cooke battled bravely and although victory was now out of sight, a late Niall McCordick try in the fifth minute of injury-time closed the gap to six points.