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McBride Strikes Late To Secure Historic #EnergiaAIL Promotion For Ballyclare

McBride Strikes Late To Secure Historic #EnergiaAIL Promotion For Ballyclare

Ballyclare rounded off a season to remember by earning promotion to the Energia All-Ireland League for the first time ©Ballyclare RFC

Joel McBride played the captain’s role to a tee as his last-gasp try guided Ballyclare to a dramatic 33-28 win over Monkstown and promotion to the Energia All-Ireland League for next season.


Saturday, April 13 –

BALLYCLARE 33 MONKSTOWN 28, Navan RFC, Balreask Old
Scorers: Ballyclare: Tries: Alex Darrah, Matthew Coulter, Joel McBride; Cons: Matthew McDowell 3; Pens: Matthew McDowell 4
Monkstown: Tries: John Dever, Matt Stapleton, Conor Hurley, Schalk Jooste; Cons: Matt Stapleton 4
HT: Ballyclare 23 Monkstown 7

Ballyclare came into the game on the crest of a wave, having won both the Energia All-Ireland Men’s Junior Cup and Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1 titles for the first time.

Mike Orchin-McKeever’s side fell behind to an early John Dever try, but converted scores from Alex Darrah and Matthew Coulter, coupled with Matthew McDowell’s accurate goal-kicking, gave them a 23-7 half-time lead.

Monkstown recovered from losing captain Stephen McVeigh to the sin bin, showing their resilience and clinical edge in attack with three second half tries, including back-to-back efforts from forwards Conor Hurley and Schalk Jooste.

A famous comeback victory was on the cards for Paddy Thornton’s men, with Jooste crossing in the 76th minute to give the Dubliners a 28-26 lead. However, there was just enough time for centre McBride to hit back.

The crowd at Navan RFC was on tenterhooks as the Ballyclare skipper broke through for the decisive try right at the death. McDowell converted to finish with 18 points, a crucial haul in such a high-stakes game as a promotion final.

Adding the All-Ireland Provincial League Championship silverware to their expanding trophy cabinet, the Antrim club, who will be exactly 75 years in existence on May 20, will make history by competing in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2C next season for the first time.

They replace Ballina who were relegated at the end of the regular season last week, while Monkstown will have a second shot at regaining their senior status when they visit Bangor in the Division 2C promotion/relegation play-off decider on Saturday, April 27.

In this much-anticipated meeting of the top two teams in Irish junior club rugby, the supporters present at Balreask Old were treated to a great spectacle. Both teams brought their ‘A’ game to the pitch, setting the stage for a gripping contest.

The match kicked off amidst palpable tension, with both sides eager to gain the upper hand early on. Ballyclare were first on the scoreboard, with centre McDowell slotting over a 10th-minute penalty.

Nonetheless, Monkstown, who last competed in the All-Ireland League back in 2003, swiftly countered. They displayed their attacking prowess when second row Dever crashed over the line for the game’s opening try, expertly converted by Matt Stapleton.

Not to be outdone, Ballyclare responded with a moment of individual brilliance from out-half Darrah, who sliced through Monkstown’s defence to score a scintillating 16th-minute try.

McDowell’s conversion, coupled with two well-struck penalty goals, propelled the Ulster champions into a commanding lead at half-time, leaving Monkstown with a 16-point deficit to overcome.

Thornton’s charges did emerge from the break with renewed determination. Their relentless pressure paid dividends as impressive centre Stapleton led a stiring comeback.

He orchestrated two tries, scoring the first one himself, to bring ‘Town back within striking distance of their opponents. Ballycare split those scores with a fourth successful penalty from McDowell, and they remained resolute in defence.

Monkstown’s unwavering belief eventually helped them to edge ahead late on. Prop Jooste proved unstoppable from close range, drawing them level before Stapleton kicked them ahead as he moved his personal tally to 13 points.

With tensions running high and the outcome hanging in the balance, Ballyclare winning one final possession just as the clock ticked into the eighty minute mark launched one final assault on Monkstown’s defence.

In a moment of pure inspiration, captain Joel McBride seized the opportunity, embarking on a scything run that saw him breach Monkstown’s defences and run in behind the posts for a match-winning try.

As the final whistle blew, Ballyclare erupted in jubilant celebration, their victory securing promotion to Division 2C in a result that will live long in club folklore.

Despite the heartbreak of defeat, Monkstown’s valiant effort was not in vain, and they now turn their attention to a promotion/relegation playoff against Bangor.

BALLYCLARE: Mark Jackson; Ross Patterson, Joel McBride (capt), Matthew McDowell, Peter Gillespie; Alex Darrah, Ryan McIlwaine; Dean Jones, Matthew Coulter, Ricky Lutton, David Gillespie, Grant Bartley, Aaron Playfair, Jack Milton, Jack Gamble

Replacements: Adam Barron, Luke McIlwrath, James Wilson, Josh Laney, Rhys Cobain, Owen Kirk, Adam Campbell, James Creighton.

MONKSTOWN: Saul O’Carroll; Cian O’Donoghue, Cormac Brennan, Matt Stapleton, Paul Harte; Fraser Wright, Tristan Brady; Chris Stack, Paul O’Donnell, Schalk Jooste, John Dever, Conor Hurley, Ruadhan McDonnell, Toby Boyd, Stephen McVeigh (capt).

Replacements: Tony McGinnis, Sam Blair, Martin Murphy, Jake Kennedy, John Wallace, Donal Liddy, Charlie McMickan, James Lappin

Referee: Andrew Fogarty (IRFU)