Club International players Barry Keeshan and Eric Moloney did the scoring as Dolphin hung on for a narrow Ulster Bank League victory over Young Munster at Musgrave Park.
Sunday's Munster derby was a hotly-contested affair
It lived up to expectation and the result hinged on a last-minute penalty attempt by Young Munster’s Alan Kingsley, which moved off course at the last second, struck an upright and was cleared to safety.
Although it was a tense struggle, the team that wanted it most won it, a fact illustrated by disappointed Young Munster coach Mike Prendergast.
“On the overall picture, I don’t know whether we deserved to win, although we would have taken it had that kick gone over,” he said.
“It was a below par performance today. We survived a bit of Dolphin pressure early on and got back into the game but I just felt Dolphin appeared to want it more and that certainly seemed to be the case in the second half.”
The first half was intense and exciting, with Dolphin dominating before Young Munster powered ahead through set-piece dominance and the boot of Kingsley. The home side struck back with a converted try and a series of late assaults that might well have given them a more comfortable lead than the one-point margin they had at the break.
Barry Keeshan struck the first blow for Dolphin and his penalty brought him to a rare individual milestone of 1,000 points in AIL rugby (818 for Dolphin, 164 for UCC and 18 for Cork Constitution).
But Dolphin’s star faded as the visitors took a stranglehold on the match with three consecutive penalties from Kingsley.
No sooner had he kicked a third than Eric Moloney cut through the heart of Young Munster’s defence and raced 45 metres to score at the posts, with Keeshan converting.
Having finished the first half strongly, Dolphin scored first in the second. The visitors conceded a penalty under the posts and Keeshan pushed the lead out to 13-9. However, the visitors pulled it back when Kingsley kicked his fourth penalty to keep the excitement at fever pitch.
The Dolphin pack, with Niall Scannell, Dave Ryan, Christy Condon, Ruairi Geoghegan and Chris Rowe to the fore, kept their side into the driving seat and well in control of territory. Keeshan’s uncharacteristic penalty miss meant Young Munster were still in with a shout, however, and Kingsley was given his opportunity when Dolphin were penalised at a ruck from the very last attack.
Dolphin’s coach Steve Ford could hardly bear to watch.
“It looked as if it was heading for the target. It was a hair-raising finish and somebody up there must have been looking after us,” he said.
“Still, it shouldn’t have come to that, we had enough territory and possession to put the game away but it’s not the first time this season that we have let teams back into matches.”
Barry Keeshan became the 2nd Dolphin player (the other being John O'Mahony) and the 10th in All Ireland League history to reach 1000 league points with his first penalty against Young Munster on Sunday.
Keeshan has averaged 10 points a game with Dolphin since 2005 , a very impressive record, scored 823 league points with Dolphin, 164 with UCC and a further 18 points with Cork Constitution.
He is presently the top points scorer in Division 1A for 2010/11 with 138.
Earlier this month he became the first player to be capped eight times for the Ireland Club Side.
The four points gained gives Dolphin breathing space as they head to Limerick next week to take on bottom side Shannon with a five-point buffer and with a significant points difference advantage (69). They are also five points better off than Garryowen, also with a better points difference (15), who now have to meet Young Munster at Clifford Park and will also be looking for a win to avoid a play-off for survival in the division with the third best team in Division 1B.
Young Munster, can still finish in the top three. They’re a point adrift of St Mary’s, who travel to play second-placed Old Belvedere, the Anglesea Road side needing to win to secure a home semi final.
Referee: John Carvill (IRFU)