If the man who coaches at the National Aquatic Centre had seen his subjects dive as Adam Mullan did in the dying seconds of Wednesday’s Leinster TY Division II Final, he would have been very happy with his day’s work. He also would have had ample opportunity to critique it.
When Mullan crossed the whitewash for the third time, a collective sigh of relief could be heard from the dugout where David Kirk, David Croke and Tim McGrath had been watching Clongowes threaten to fall off the diving board entirely.
Although not quite as one sided as McGregor and Aldo, Newbridge dictated the early exchanges on what was a balmy winter’s evening in Donnybrook. Owing to the weather, the ball travelled lucidly from foot and hand about the green carpet providing us with a great spectacle. Newbridge were especially adept at keeping the ball alive and their fine offloading game had Clongowes on the back foot at several stages. All they lacked was a killer punch.
Despite fleeting moments of purple possession, bouts of ill discipline saw our Kildare neighbours establish an early lead (6-0). On the back of some disappointing days in Dublin 4 for this Clongowes side, it would have been easy for them to bow out like Sam Burgess to the sustained pressure from both the referee and their opponents – but that would be to belittle their character.
Jack Reilly finally got Clongowes on the scoreboard with a penalty (20mins, 3-6) with Max Dowling adding another as Newbridge resorted to their inner McCaw in bringing Daragh Slattery to a halt (24mins, 6-6). Unfortunately, Reilly was left in agony in his own half having helped to render that particular situation.
The introduction of Mullan saw a reshuffling of the Clongowes backline and Sean Donovan assumed the role of quarterback. With Donovan in tandem with Dowling, the game began to open up and Clongowes probed with purpose. As proceedings ticked into inury-time a quick penalty almost had Slattery and Anthony Ryan crash over from close range before Torvill and Dean saw the bigger picture and spread the ball wide where Mullan lay in wait (35mins, 11-6).
Ever the pessimist, one feared that half-time came at precisely the wrong moment for Clongowes, but fortunately the purple tide kept flowing when the action recommenced. Indeed their intensity began to force their opponents into mistakes especially when the likes of Ben Matuschka began to confuse his surrounds for Croke Park as he foraged like a corner back. A lineout that was a by-product of the winger’s hard work presented an opportunity to turn the screw. Dowling obliged with both try and conversion, feeding off some fine work from his hungry pack (41mins, 18-11).
In getting to this stage Clongowes had capably dispatched of Pres. Bray, St. Gerard’s and Belvedere. Interestingly, Newbridge were the one side they had failed to subdue in the earlier rounds – and it was easy to see why. The Dominican College asked as many questions as Paul Kimmage as the inevitable onslaught ensued. A fine try for Mullan created by Donovan’s delicate chip and gather was punctuated by two tries that had the game delicately poised (61mins, 25-18).
Still firmly in the hunt, Newbridge camped out in the Clongowes ’22 and would remain there for the majority of the fixture’s final moments. Some parents opted to look away, bite their nails, admire the Clongowes chanting – anything other than watch a Newbridge side flick the kamikaze switch. But as we entered ‘Fergie-time,’ the white-booted Mullan hacked and harried after a loose ball from within his own half and – though lacking the footballing finesse of Cristiano Ronaldo – dove over the line in a manner that the Real Madrid star would have been proud. Captain Dowling added the extras to round-off a momentous afternoon for a group that might finally be realising its potential.
Clongowes: Charles Gallen, Jack Nash, Sean Donovan, David Hanly (Michael Culhane, 49), Jack Reilly (Adam Mullan, 24), Max Dowling (capt.), Rossa O’Kane (Tommy Inglis, 33), James Bourke (Olly McDermott, 40), Iarla Carroll (Charlie O’Meara, 40), Oscar Wilson, Luke Clohessy, Daragh Slattery, Anthony Ryan, Tom Farrington.
Dowling 1T 3C 1P
Mr Richard McElwee