Cashel into final of junior rugby’s most prestigious cup competition

Cashel 34 Galbally 10

Cashel 34 Galbally 10

Cashel after a hard fought victory won through to the final of the junior cup for the first time since 1977. This is the most prestigious cup in junior rugby and has been played since 1909. Cashel have been beaten 3 times in the final going back to their first final in 1954. You could see what it meant to the players on Sunday as thirty men did everything to take their team into the final. Unfortunately like any team sport there has to be a loser and while Cashel celebrated the continuation of their remarkable season, Galbally looked gutted as their Cup dreams ended.

For the first twenty minutes not much happened in the game bar both teams running into each other. Neither team was establishing a foothold and the error count was high for both sides. In the 22nd minute Cashel settled their nerves as Daragh O’Brien struck over a good penalty to go 3-nil ahead. However from the kick-off poor handling allowed Galbally into Cashel’s 22 were they secured a penalty to level the score at 3 all.

Cashel upped the tempo and for the next five minutes they battered at the Galbally defence, first they went wide down the right before been stopped just short of the line, quick ball saw the Cashel backs flash the ball wide where full back Daragh O’Brien scored unopposed in the corner. Daragh narrowly missed the conversion to put Cashel 8 – 3 ahead.

Cashel should have really pushed in from here but instead it was Galbally who lifted their game. From the kick-off again Cashel failed to clear their lines. Galbally gained a foot hold in Cashel’s 22 which this time they took full advantage of. Their forwards picked and drove their pack over the line for Galbally’s first try. Galbally slotted over the conversion to go 10 – 8 ahead.

Galbally had the wind behind them as from the kick—off they again drove deep into Cashel territory. Great defending kept the Galbally men out, however Cashel did concede the penalty 10 meters from the line. While a Galbally man received attention for an injury everyone assumed Galbally would take the three points. However when Galbally’s injured player got to his feet their scrum half took a quick tap penalty and raced for the corner. Only a last gasp tackle by Ailbe Davett who saw the danger and held Galbaly out for their second try. Great rucking by John Ed O Connor saw Cashel clear their lines and relieve the pressure. Just before half time Cashel got another penalty just inside Galbally’s half. Up stepped O’Brien with a superb kick against the wind to put Cashel 11 – 10 ahead at half time.

Cashel now had the wind which they needed to use to their full advantage. While no team really dominated in the first half this changed in the second. Cashel significantly reduced their error count and gave away little or no penalties. For the opening 20 minutes of the second half Cashel dominated possession and territory. For their rewards O’Brien put over another penalty to go 14 – 10 ahead. From the resulting kick –off Cashel raced into Galbally’s territory where they won the penalty. A quick tap saw the move continue and the ball spread wide to O’Brien with 30 meters to the line and three defenders in front of him. With great speed and skill he burst through the first two defenders before neatly side stepping the full back to score the try of the game. He finished off the try by converting it for Cashel to take a 21 – 10 lead after 55 minutes.

More pressure by Cashel over the next ten minutes saw O’Brien put over two more tough penalties to stretch the lead to 27 -10. For the remaining ten minutes the game died as Cashel looked comfortable and Galbally tried in vain to get a second half score on the board. With the last play of the game Cashel got a line out in Galbally’s 22, scrum half Ollie McGlinchy received the ball from the line out spotted a gap and raced for the line. Ollie was tackled by two men just as he made the line but his momentum carried him over for the try. O’Brien rounded off a fine performance with the boot with the conversion as he secured 7 kicks from 8 in the match. A statistic which any kicker at any level would be happy with.

Overall Cashel on their second half performance deserved to win. However they uncharacteristically did look very shaky and nervous in the first half. They had more knock-ons in the first 40 minutes than they did in the previous 5 games put together. If Cashel are to win this Cup they will need a performance much like they did against Richmond which was 80 minutes of rugby. On the plus side the Cashel defence was again very strong. While Cashel did creak going forward in the first half their defence always stood strong. Galbally had some big men in the pack which they used to great effect. It was only the fantastic defensive work by Cashel that kept them to one try.

Cashel now face AIL Division 1 leaders Cork Con’s junior team in the final. This will an massive test for Cashel as Cork Con will probably be the finest side Cashel will play this year. If Cashel can put in a total performance of 80 minutes of rugby there is no reason why the Cashel men can’t lift the Cup for the first team since the formation of the club in 1919!

Cashel V Cork Con – Venue to be picked in Cork City, date to be confirmed for April 17 or 24.

Cashel Seconds play Garryowen on Wednesday 6th April in the Web Cup final. The Web Cup is the equivalent of the Junior Cup for second’s teams. With a bit of luck by the time most people are reading this Cashel will have secured a 2 Web Cup in three years!