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Tullamore Create History As Two-Time Junior Cup Champions

Tullamore Create History As Two-Time Junior Cup Champions

Tullamore became the first team to win the Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup on two occasions as they overcame Monivea in a well-contested final in Athlone.

Three second half drop goals from three different players – winger Colin Draper, out-half and captain Aaron Deverell and centre David Clavin – saw the Offaly club repeat their 2009 success in this competition.

Tullamore were left kicking themselves as they failed to turn pressure into points during an absorbing but scoreless opening half.

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However, that clutch of drop goals proved crucial in deciding a defence-dominated game which was full of ferocious tackling and lung-bursting phases of play.

A penalty in the closing stages from Monivea’s Ger O’Connor reduced the arrears to six points, but Tullamore held on with Ulster Bank man-of-the-match Brian Geraghty in brilliant form.

In cold conditions, Tullamore received the kick-off and made good early headway with the experienced Adrian Hanley and his forward colleagues carrying well.

A knock on prevented Rory Deverell from grabbing a try in the right corner, but Monivea held firm and their number 8 Eoin Rooney produced a thunderous tackle in midfield.

Aaron Deverell opted to kick three penalties to touch during a bright opening spell for Tullamore, two of them from close range.

Monivea had to dig deep defensively in the left corner, holding up a lineout drive and then forcing a knock on as Tullamore scrum half Richie Hughes tried to create space out wide.

Tullamore’s scrum had the Connacht Junior League champions under constant pressure. They won turnover ball and Deverell was brought down in front of the posts as Monivea scrambled well. O’Connor then produced a relieving kick to claw back some territory for the Galway side.

A cross-field wind did little to deter Tullamore and they were quickly back on the attack with Hanley, Tomas Bennett and Eddie Brady carrying well.

Monivea built some attacking momentum themselves before the break as their skipper Darren Blade and Seamus Fahy probed in and around the 22.

Coleman Maher had to cover the danger as Geraghty and Draper spearheaded a terrific counter from Tullamore, who spent the final minutes of the half camped close to the Monivea line.

The Galwaymen lost Rooney to a late yellow card. He was sin-binned for illegally bringing down a maul, but once again some stout defending kept Tullamore out.

The second half opened with Tullamore resuming on the offensive and after just two minutes, winger Draper left-footed a smartly-taken drop goal.

Monivea out-half O’Connor missed a penalty chance but as the game continued to open up, Tullamore added to their lead in the 48th minute with a neat kick from number 10 Deverell.

A long mazy run from Geraghty got Tullamore into scoring range again, and lock David Milne was involved in a superb phase of short passing.

Their eventual reward was a third drop goal, this time centre Clavin split the posts from a central position.

Monivea, now 9-0 behind, tried gamely to get back in touch. Full-back Fahy took a brilliant pass from Blade to launch a kick chase which was well defended by his opposite number Geraghty.

The excellent Kevin Higgins also enjoyed the additional space afforded to him as tired legs became a factor, but the Tullamore defence was unyielding until O’Connor converted a 73rd minute penalty.

That raised Monivea’s hopes of mounting a comeback as it followed a yellow card for Tullamore replacement Kevin Browne who was pinged for hands in the ruck.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Offaly outfit were able to pin Monivea back in their own half as the westerners suffered final heartbreak for the second year running.

Referee: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)