Job done at Judge's Road. Clonmel RFC were greatly relieved at the final whistle against City of Derry last Saturday. Although they were beaten on the day their 41-34 aggregate score was enough.
All Ireland League Division 2C Relegation Playoff second leg
City of Derry 17 (34) Clonmel 8 (41)
Clonmel Rugby Club came out on top over the two legs of their relegation battle with City of Derry and can now look forward to continuing their rugby journey in Division 2C of the All Ireland League in 2022/23.
A solid 16-point winning margin at home on April 23 made all the difference going into the second leg away to City of Derry last Saturday. Derry won that encounter 17-8 ,but the aggregate score of 41-34 to Clonmel over the two legs means Clonmel remain in Division 2C next season while City of Derry are relegated.
It was a just reward for the Clonmel side, who have battled hard throughout the Covid-interrupted season and can now take a well-earned breather over the summer.
Conditions were bleak at a rain-soaked Judge’s Road ground outside Derry last Saturday. After the long drive up by the team and the travelling supporters, everyone in the Clonmel camp was hoping that the 16-point cushion going into the tie would be sufficient to keep the side’s AIL and senior club status intact.
As expected, Derry started the game with intensity and determination and piled on the pressure from the off. Clonmel withstood the early assault and managed to contain City of Derry in the centre of the park for much of the opening period.
On ten minutes, however, City of Derry gained a foothold in the Clonmel 22. A penalty kick into the corner gave the home side a strong attacking platform. A rolling maul looked certain to go over, but thankfully from a Clonmel perspective the ball popped out and Clonmel winger Henry Buttimer made a superb try-saving tackle.
Twenty-five minutes in and City of Derry continued to throw everything at Clonmel. Wave after wave pummelled Clonmel inside the Clonmel 22, and despite their best efforts, a number of Clonmel infringements on their line resulted in the ref awarding the home side a penalty try to register the opening score of 7-0 (24-33)to the hosts.
Approaching half-time, Clonmel were down to 14 men when the referee issued a red card, based on an adjudged high tackle. The resultant penalty was converted, and City of Derry went 10-0 up (27-33). That 16-point cushion at the start of the game was now down to just six points going into half-time and matters were decidedly more nervous for the Tipperary side.
At the resumption of the second half, Clonmel came under the same strong pressure as in the first half, and then the tide turned in Clonmel’s favour. Henry Buttimer was once again on hand and charged down a City of Derry clearing kick. Buttimer gathered well and crossed the line to register Clonmel’s opening score, narrowing the margin to 10-5 on the day, 27-38 on aggregate. The try was a huge boost for Clonmel, both players and supporters alike.
On 55 minutes, City of Derry were penalised for a hand in the ruck offence and Clonmel’s Dylan Cadogan converted the penalty to add a further three points to the Clonmel tally. It was now 10-8 (27-41).
City of Derry kept up the pressure throughout the half, with Clonmel holding firm against multiple attacking plays. However, the Clonmel defence was eventually breached as the clock ticked towards the red. A converted City of Derry try in the 80th minute wrapped up the day’s proceedings, with the home side taking the win 17-8 on the day.
However, the excellent work done by Clonmel the previous weekend did the damage and made the difference over the two ties. It finished 34-41 on aggregate and Clonmel survived the playoffs and maintained their senior club status and All- Ireland League position in Division 2C. It was a huge result for the side and all involved.
Warming up to stay up. Clonmel RFC players go through their pre-match preparations for their vital clash with City of Derry at Judge's Road, Derry on Saturday last.
As previously reported on these pages, the Clonmel side is a young one, with many of the squad new to the ranks of AIL rugby. Navigating the season against a backdrop of Covid interruptions and 32- county travel has been a huge learning opportunity for all involved. To come through the season, albeit going down to the wire, is a hugely positive outcome for the team, their coaches and management and all involved in this terrific squad. They can now take a well-earned break, which will afford all involved the chance to take stock and regroup.
For the club and its supporters and sponsors, including John M Joy & Co Solicitors, our City of Derry game matchday sponsors, to whom we are extremely appreciative, we can look forward to next season in the AIL and doing it all again, in hopefully less stressful circumstances!
Forwards; Niall Campion, Brandon Delicato, Billy O’Kelly, Jack Lonergan, James Corbett, Rob Wynne, John Gallagher, Diarmuid Devaney.
Backs; Dylan Cadogan, Luke Noonan, Henry Buttimer, Andrew Daly, Luke Hogan, Greg Carroll, Darren Cass.
Replacements; Mattie O’Toole, Mikey Lonergan, Eddie Phelan, Tony Cantwell, James Kehoe, Gavin Whelan, Aiden Hickey, Dean Slattery.
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