Dolphin are now unbeaten in three Ulster Bank League games and have the opportunity to overhaul St. Mary’s College in next Saturday’s Division 1A basement clash at Irish Independent Park.
The Corkmen may have gone three rounds unbeaten, but they enter round 8 of the league still chasing their first win of the campaign.
Although injuries have blighted Dolphin’s start to the season as they slumped to four opening defeats, they have since embarked on a run of draws against Old Belvedere, local rivals Cork Constitution and most recently Ballynahinch.
They finished level (7-7) with ‘Hinch at Ballymacarn Park last Saturday, making it three straight draws for the bottom-placed club which must surely be a record. Indeed, before that, Dolphin had only drawn ten of their previous 333 All-Ireland League and Cup games.
A converted Ryan Murphy try had them leading at the Co. Down venue, as they looked to preserve their six-year unbeaten run in Ulster, before ‘Hinch hit back with a penalty try before half-time and a scoreless second half included a couple of late drop goal misses.
Head coach Ford said afterwards: “To be honest I never experienced anything quite like this, three draws on the trot! It was a tight game all the way, the penalty try off the scrum, our try off the driving maul, we kind of cancelled each other out quite a bit.
“‘Hinch did fight really hard. It was a great battle and a great game to watch, it is just those small margins, I think, with the ball in hand…both teams, but especially us need to be a bit more accurate to get the scores on the board.
“It was a good old ding-dong. I enjoyed the game, but I’m a bit disappointed, to be honest with you, not to come away with the ‘W’.”
Despite losing key back rower John Quill to international duty with the USA this month – he scored his first Test try in their defeat to Tonga last Saturday – Dolphin have, at least, benefited from having Munster forwards Niall Scannell and Dave O’Callaghan back from injury.
Scannell’s younger brother Rory, a recent Munster debutant at inside centre against Cardiff Blues, has also featured prominently in the Dolphin back-line.
Ford remains confident that the wins will come as we head towards the halfway stage of this season’s league, and he has seen some noticeable improvements of late.
“Our scrum was under pressure in the first half but we fixed it at half-time, we changed one or two things on the way we were hitting, we corrected it. That is the biggest progression in this group from the last block of games. We are fixing problems quicker.
“We have a lot of players to come back, but these boys are now finding their way in this league, and are coming back into it and doing really well.
“As we all know not everyone is going to be fit all the time, especially in the front row, we had real problems from the start but we’re getting back into it.
“I can’t fault the effort. I can’t fault the performance. It’s just perhaps some of the execution could be at a different level in defence, where we could have won that game.”
Dolphin have a very important encounter next up as they host the team just above them in the Division 1A standings, St. Mary’s. They are hoping for a big turnout at ‘Muzzer’ next Saturday, especially as they are holding a former players reunion lunch beforehand.
“We had a regal welcome from Ballynahinch, it’s a great place and we’ve enjoyed coming up here. We’ve had a good over-nighter, so if you ask me if I am happy to come away with the two points I would say yes, to be honest with you. But look, it is two points and now we have St. Mary’s at home this coming week,” added Ford.