Clontarf are top of the Christmas tree in Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A, having impressively seen off Garryowen 17-0 at Dooradoyle.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, December 11
GARRYOWEN 0 CLONTARF 17, Dooradoyle
Scorers: Garryowen: –
Clontarf: Tries: Cormac Daly, Tadhg Bird, Max Kearney; Con: Conor Kearns
HT: Garryowen 0 Clontarf 12
Andy Wood’s men did most of the damage in the first half with a try after just 90 seconds from Cormac Daly, which was followed up by a Tadhg Bird effort.
Busy flanker Max Kearney claimed the third try of the game to give Clontarf their second win of the season on Limerick soil.
Worryingly for Garryowen supporters, Mike Sherry’s side have now slipped to five successive defeats after starting the campaign with four victories from four.
Clontarf signalled their intent right from the off when captain Matt D’Arcy freed his arms in a tackle on halfway before offloading to JP Phelan.
The tighthead prop quickly fed the ball to in-form lock Daly, who showed magnificent pace and a fine step off his right foot, which floored Colm Quilligan, to score a sensational try in the left corner.
Much of the rest of the opening half was played between the 22s as both teams struggled with the wet conditions.
Little was going right for Garryowen, Roy Whelan rising highest for a lineout steal before Dylan Murphy was guilty of a knock-on. A scrum penalty was won, but quickly followed by a lost lineout.
The slippery ball and two well-organised defensive lines made for a high error count, with plenty of fumbles and misplaced passes on an increasingly heavy surface.
Tommy O’Hora’s well-timed tackle on Michael Courtney led to a turnover penalty won by Bryan Fitzgerald, but they could not take advantage of the possession and territory.
Eventually, Clontarf found their way back into Garryowen’s half after winger Quilligan was whistled up for holding on, before Kearney successfully poached the ball.
Conor Kearns fired the penalty kick into the corner and after good maul defence from the hosts, Angus Lloyd sniped around the corner and linked with D’Arcy but he was held up just on the line.
Lloyd was quickly onto the ball at the base of the ruck and fired a flat pass that saw Bird go in under the posts. Kearns nailed the straightforward conversion to make it 12-0 at the break.
Garryowen offered plenty in attack in the second period – centre Jack Delaney led the way with a powerful break through the middle – but mistakes again let them down in Clontarf territory.
Tony Ryan’s man-and-ball tackle on Fitzgerald forced another knock-on, only for ‘Tarf’s usually reliable maul to misfire a few minutes later as Garryowen stood firm.
Wood’s charges found their way into the opposition 22 on 57 minutes once more, with D’Arcy’s delayed pass putting Cian O’Donoghue through the slightest of gaps.
The Light Blues managed to hold off that attack but were unable to stem the next wave with openside Kearney eventually dotting down.
Good carries from Daly, Martin Moloney, Ryan and Kearns had brought the north Dubliners right up close to the line, and Ed Kelly was on the latch to help Kearney to force his way over the whitewash.
Kearns’ conversion attempt bounced back off the near left hand post, leaving 17 points between the sides. When Garryowen marched on with a promising maul, Clontarf managed to get them to ground for a turnover.
The home side gained a scrum penalty soon after, but a knock-on at the maul let Clontarf off the hook. They exerted further pressure from lineout drives, leading to a yellow card for ‘Tarf replacement Adrian D’Arcy.
Frustratingly, some loose passing let Garryowen down as they looked to make their numerical advantage count. Lively centre Fitzgerald led them back downfield but that killer final pass was missing.
O’Donoghue thought he had bagged the visitors’ bonus point score late on, yet the try was chalked off by referee Kieran Barry and ‘Tarf had to settle for a well-earned four points.
GARRYOWEN: Jamie Shanahan; Colm Quilligan, Bryan Fitzgerald, Jack Delaney, Tommy O’Hora; Jamie Heuston (capt), Evan Maher; Niall Horan, Dylan Murphy, Jack Mullany, Tim Ferguson, Roy Whelan, Johnny Keane, Nicky Greene, Sean Rennison.
Replacements: Larry Kelly, Darragh McCarthy, Scott Leahy, Alan Fitzgerald, Ed Barry, Daniel Feasey.
CLONTARF: Tadhg Bird; Michael Brown, Michael Courtney, Matt D’Arcy (capt), Cian O’Donoghue; Conor Kearns, Angus Lloyd; Ivan Soroka, Dylan Donnellan, JP Phelan, Cormac Daly, Ed Kelly, Martin Moloney, Max Kearney, Tony Ryan.
Replacements: Cathal O’Flynn, Darragh Bolger, Adrian D’Arcy, Peter Hoy, Seni Reilly Ashiru, Fionn Gilbert.