Conor Kilroy scored all of Garryowen’s points as they maintained their challenge for a place in next month’s AIB League Division One semi-finals with a tight win over St. Mary’s College on Tuesday.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE: Tuesday, March 17
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 8 GARRYOWEN 9, Templeville Road
Scorers: St. Mary’s College: Try: Mark Sexton; Pen: Barry Lynn
Garryowen: Pens: Conor Kilroy 3
Garryowen won this refixed AIB League Division One game at Templeville Road despite failing to score in the second half.
Full-back Conor Kilroy fired over three excellent penalty kicks in the opening half to push the Limerick men into a 9-3 half-time lead.
In sunny conditions, St. Mary’s College had the better of the play on the restart, scoring a try through centre Mark Sexton on 44 minutes.
But full-back Barry Lynn, who had a poor day with the boot, missed the conversion and also failed to convert a subsequent penalty as the Dubliners had to settle for a losing bonus point.
The sides’ first attempt to play this game, at the same venue on January 17, saw it abandoned at half-time due to heavy wind and rain.
It was 0-0 at that point and Mary’s were particularly disappointed as they had kept Garryowen scoreless for 40 minutes while playing into those tough elements.
Fired up by memories of that day, Mary’s made a strong start and had a stranglehold on possession for the first quarter.
Lynn missed his first shot at the posts and despite the best efforts of out-half and backs coach Shaun McCarthy, the Garryowen rearguard could not be prized open.
Garryowen, who were captained by Conan Doyle in Paul Neville’s absence, started to come more and more into the game.
They eked out scoring chances for Kilroy who was unerring from distance and wide out.
Scrum half Gerry Hurley was showing plenty of control behind a pack that offered a solid platform at set piece time.
Hooker Mike Sherry and flanker Neville Melbourne were the pick of the Garryowen forwards, both players carried well.
Mary’s were equally strong up front, though, and young prop Ruaidhri Murphy caught the eye with a barnstorming display.
Second row Robin Copeland was another Mary’s player that led from the front, as he impressed on his full AIB League debut.
In a game full of open, running rugby, both sides created try-scoring opportunities but none were taken until Sexton slipped through the cover, after being set up by Irish Colleges star Darragh Fanning, who was a constant threat to the Garryowen defence.
The conversion kick was not too difficult but Lynn failed to catch it right and Garryowen remained 9-8 ahead.
Into the final quarter, Mary’s had the lion’s share of territory but play was increasingly scrappy and Garryowen, after eight successive league wins, seemed content to soak up the pressure.
They were on the back foot in injury-time and it seemed certain that Mary’s would try for a drop goal.
Australian McCarthy stepped back into the pocket, a clear indication that he would attempt a kick, but the ball was kept in the forwards and a knock on eventually ended their push for further points.
The result has moved Garryowen into second place in the table, with their Limerick rivals Shannon losing to leaders Cork Constitution this afternoon.
Mary’s missed out on the chance to get close to the play-off positions but they do still have a game in hand and will be eager to secure their place in next season’s restructured ‘top eight’ division as soon as possible.
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: B Lynn; C Donohoe, P Brophy (capt), M Sexton, D Fanning; S McCarthy, C McPhillips; R Murphy, Richard Sweeney, Robert Sweeney, G Logan, R Copeland, P Nash, H Hogan, K Sheahan.
Replacements used: K Carroll for Robert Sweeney (75 mins).
GARRYOWEN: C Kilroy; L Bourke, K Lewis, C Doyle (capt), D McCarthy; W Staunton, G Hurley; R Brosnan, M Sherry, R Laffan, E Mackey, F McKenna, N Melbourne, C Hartigan, D Sherry.
Replacements used: K Hartigan for Lewis (54 mins), B McNamara for Laffan (78), D Mulcair for Melbourne (80+1).
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ulster)