Eagles ready for must-win clash
Wexford Eagles 31 Westmeath Minotaurs 12
The Wexford Eagles' first season in I.A.F.L. Division 1 will be coming to a dramatic climax next Sunday, July 9. A win will see the Eagles make the play-offs and ensure a chance for promotion to the I.A.F.L equivalent of the Premiership, the Shamrock Bowl Conference (S.B.C.).
'We need our supporters out, cheering us on, now more than ever,' said Eagles head coach Kevin Klatt. 'For this team to go from its foundation to top-flight status in just two seasons would be unbelievable, but I truly believe they can and will do it.'
A completely dominant display against the Westmeath Minotaurs in Navan has set up what promises to be a very exciting regular season finale for the Wexford side. After giving up the opening score, the Eagles went on to win the contest 31-12, which ended the Minotaurs' hopes of reaching the play-offs.
'That's as good and complete a game as our team has ever played, including last year,' said Eagles defensive coach Craig Morrell. The win was especially satisfying for the Eagles, as they had lost to the Minotaurs in the opening game of the season.
The game did not start well for Wexford. The Minotaurs won the toss and elected to receive. The Westmeath side marched up the field and scored on their first possession, with the touchdown coming on a run straight through the middle of the Eagles defensive line.
Westmeath missed the extra point conversion however, so the score stood at 6-0.
On the Eagles first possession, they returned the favour, running almost at will through the Minotaurs line. Wexford running back Paulie O'Brien converted on a crucial play to keep the Eagles' drive alive.
A short time later, quarterback Sam Doran connected on a perfect pass into the endzone to Wexford wide receiver Trevor Smith. Darren Greene kicked the conversion, and the Eagles led 7-6.
A long Greene field goal just before the interval gave the Eagles a 10-6 lead, which was extended on the first drive of the second-half.
On that occasion, Liam McLaughlin stormed in from seven yards out. The conversion made the score 17-6 for the Eagles.
'The blocking on that play was nothing short of incredible,' Klatt said. Graham Jenkinson, Paddy Bissett and Paddy de Brúin cleared the way, with Greene and Craig Morrell providing a virtual escort for the running back.
The Minotaurs' season was slipping away from them, and to their credit, they made one final push. Quarterback Conor Brennan found his own wide receiver down the left sideline, closing the gap to just 17-12. Westmeath decided to go for a two-point conversion, but Eagles cornerback Alan O'Reilly smothered Brennan before any further damage could be done.
The final nail in the Westmeath coffin came on their next possession. They moved the ball down inside the Eagles ten-yard line and were pushing for the score that would put them ahead.
However, Wexford defenders Thomas O'Reilly and Carl Coates combined to strip the ball out of the Minotaurs' running back's hands; Coates finally emerged with the ball, returning possession to the Eagles.
On their next two drives, the Eagles offence kicked into high gear. Darren Greene exploded for a long touchdown, capping an incredible day for the Wexford running back who tallied 13 points in the game (one touchdown, four conversions and one field goal).
Then, after Davy Doyle intercepted a Brennan pass, the Eagles again marched upfield, with McLaughlin sprinting in from 24 yards. The Greene conversion was the final score of the day.
The Eagles next take on the South Kildare Soldiers at the Naomh Eanna Garden City G.A.A. pitch next Sunday. Kick-off is at 2 p.m., and admission is free.