Huge congratulations to Skerries who are the newly-crowned All-Ireland Under-17 champions following their 31-12 final win over Galwegians in Naas.
The Skerries Under-17s steamrolled their way to a memorable All-Ireland title triumph in front of a large crowd of supporters from both clubs at Naas RFC last Saturday.
Inspired by the ‘twin towers’ of Tom Mulvaney and Cill O’Leary, the Dubliners were unstoppable in the second half even though Galwegians had control of proceedings for much of the opening period.
Skerries started strongly, fired up by a ‘white hot’ team talk by coaches Mark Harrington and Terry Woods, and within minutes the pressure paid off.
Stephen Smith put in a huge tackle to force a scrum, Lorcan Jones made ground deep into Galway territory, Ciaran Frawley blocked an attempted clearance and Jake Deering was first to the bouncing ball to touch down.
Frawley, who is a member of the Ireland Under-18 Clubs squad for the upcoming Three Nations tournament in Paris, converted for a 7-0 lead.
Skerries were pinged for offside soon after the restart and Galwegians out-half Morgan Codyre put the penalty over.
The next 15 minutes was spent largely in the Skerries half, Codyre kicking cleverly with the wind to keep the Dublin side pinned back. Galwegians full-back William Finnerty also impressed with his running throughout.
But Ben Jenkinson, Frawley, Deering, Callan Boyle, Daniel Downing, Mulvaney and Ben ‘Beef’ O’Keeffe were all big in defence for the eventual winners.
Darragh Martin took one against the head in the scrum and Frawley launched a huge kick to ease the pressure. Still, Galwegians came back and Codyre slotted over a neat drop goal after 18 minutes to make it 7-6.
The youngsters from the west continued to press and with Skerries giving away a lot of penalties, a 24th minute place-kick edged ‘Wegians into the lead.
Skerries soon took back the initiative and from deep in their half had a great series of phases all the way up the pitch, Boyle feeding Jones who freed up Daniel Downing to go over the try-line.
However, an off-the-ball incident involving O’Leary led to the match officials disallowing the try and play was brought back for a Galwegians penalty just before half-time.
Going into the second half, Skerries had the advantage of a freshening wind and they quickly moved again again.
Mulvaney made a great catch and O’Leary burst into action, driving 40 metres downfield and Martin, with a great supporting run, got over for an unconverted try.
As the tempo increased, Jones was yellow carded for dissent. But the Galway siege was lifted by a back row move off a Skerries scrum, number 8 O’Keeffe picking and driving to gain good yardage and Jenkinson and Deering were right on hand to reach the Galwegians half.
There were few enough wide moves by the Skerries back-line throughout the game, and perhaps the back-three of Robert McKey, Downing and Smith should have seen more ball.
But on one such occasion, the ball went wide and although the last pass to McKey did not go to hand, O’Leary came to the rescue and showed speed and some nimble footwork to break clear of the defence and score. Kicking from the touchline, Frawley’s conversion attempt hit the post a second time.
Skerries conceded a penalty from the restart, and Galwegians closed the gap immediately to 17-12.
It was Frawley’s turn to use the wind to kick for position and he duly took advantage. From a lineout on the five-metre line, he almost made it over but was stopped. George Harrington blasted in to clear out, and Ruairi Woods spotted a gap to score under the posts. Smith stepped up to kick the conversion and make it 24-12.
Skerries by now were on top, Jenkinson carrying well and gaining ground with several runs. Harrington got in a huge tackle, leading to a penalty which Frawley put down in the left hand corner.
Deering threw in for Martin to gather and the forwards mauled through with influential number 8 Jenkinson crashing over for try number five. Skerries were now out of sight at 31-12.
Galwegians bravely battled on and forced the issue in the closing stages with Skerries losing Harrington to the sin-bin.
However, the Connacht club could not add to their scoring tally and it fell to Sam Toft to have the final kick to touch and seal the win. Captain Jake Deering had the honour of lifting the trophy afterwards for the victorious Skerries side.
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