Gorey U-17s take Culliton Cup

Gorey 26 Mullingar 5

Seán Wafer breaking through to score a try for Gorey
Seán Wafer breaking through to score a try for Gorey

The Gorey Under-17s made the long journey to Shay Murtagh Park in Mullingar for their Leinster Culliton Cup final against the home side.

Gorey were travelling after a disappointing defeat the previous week in their South East semi-final against Enniscorthy, where they didn't perform to their usual standard.

Sunday's game came one week ahead of another important fixture, when they will face Wicklow in the replay of the Leinster Premier league final.

So, it was an important opportunity to put the previous week's disappointment behind them and bring home some silverware after an auspicious season to date.

However, standing in their way was a very strong Mullingar team, who had an impressive route to the final, with some notable victories against well-fancied opposition. They also had the benefit of a home fixture, as Shay Murtagh Park had already been selected at the beginning of the season as the venue for the Under-17s and Under-18s Leinster Plate and Cup finals Festival.

Conditions were perfect, with bright sunshine and very little wind. And the 4G surface of Mullingar's new pitch offered the perfect setting for quick open rugby, which would suit both teams.

Mullingar started the game the stronger, and Gorey were forced to play on the back-foot for the opening phases as they defended against strong runs from Mullingar's powerful backs.

But Gorey managed to defend well and Mullingar failed to capitalise on opportunities when they had men over out wide on a number of occasions.

However on the 15-minute mark, Mullingar were penalised for being offside and Gorey centre Mark Boyle chose to kick for touch, giving Gorey the first line-out just ten metres from the Mullingar try line.

The ball was passed out to Alex Rothwell from the back of the ensuing maul and he made good ground before passing out to his captain, Robert Murphy, who in turn passed to Seán Wafer who barged over the line for the opening try, after Gorey's first foray into opposition territory.

Full-back Oisín Fortune struck the ball beautifully to convert the score (7-0).

Mullingar were a little shell-shocked by this score against the run of play, but they kept their heads and continued to press Gorey. The game was now more evenly balanced and both sides demonstrated some skilful play.

After much end-to-end play, Gorey eventually found themselves defending on their own line ten minutes later, repelling wave after wave of Mullingar attacks, but it was only a matter of time before Mullingar inevitably got over for a try (7-5).

Both teams put in some crunching tackles, with Frank Kavanagh, Tadhg O'Neill and Mark Boyle in particular making some important hits at crucial stages for Gorey.

Gorey lost their trusty full-back, Oisín Fortune, after sustaining an injury on the half-hour mark.

With the clock counting down to half-time, Mullingar tried to clear their lines and kick for safety, but the ball was blocked down by Seán Wafer who chased it and narrowly missed out on grounding his second try.

He forced the Mullingar defender to concede a five-metre scrum when he carried the ball back.

Gorey's scrum had been performing well thus far and the front row of Dylan Sawyer, Toby Falconer and Jack Ryan were solid as a rock. The ball was held well in this scrum before being picked off the back and fed quickly to the charging Mark Boyle who proved unstoppable as he scored Gorey's second try and gave them a wider margin going into the half-time break (12-5).

The half-time interval gave both teams' coaches a chance to re-focus their charges and encourage them to raise their game. Both teams came out of the blocks re-energised, and Gorey's newly introduced Greg Bolger on the wing, and Ryan Kinsella who had moved to full-back, made potential try-saving tackles to maintain the narrow lead.

The playing surface seemed to be suiting Gorey's speedy backs better now and they put Mullingar under pressure whenever they managed to spread the ball out wide.

Scrum-half Cillian Tomkins was distributing the ball well and Henry Kennedy was directing everything from his out-half position.

Hooker Toby Falconer turned over several balls and made some great tackles throughout the half, and his line-out throwing was exemplary.

And front row replacement Niall Kenny put his hand up for a first team start with a storming introduction to the fray.

Halfway through the second-half Gorey were again pressing Mullingar and won a line-out just outside their '22. From here the ball was spread across the width of the pitch, stretching Mullingar's defence, before being sent back from whence it came from hands to hands, finally reaching second row Tadhg O'Neill who dived over for Gorey's third try (19-5).

To Mullingar's credit they never gave up the fight and they continued to cause problems for Gorey, but Gorey's defence was unstinting and every man tackled like his life depended on it.

As the final minutes ticked away, Gorey once again found themselves with a line-out just inside the Mullingar '22 which they mauled toward the try line, which collapsed just before Ryan Gibney dived over to nab the closing try (26-5).

This was a super team performance by Gorey against a very strong Mullingar team and rounds off a great cup campaign.

One final date awaits this team, as they face Wicklow in the Premier league final which takes place in Athy next Saturday, April 29, at 12 noon.

Gorey: Jack Ryan, Toby Falconer, Dylan Sawyer, Cian Kenny, Tadhg O'Neill, Frank Kavanagh, Alex Rothwell, Robert Murphy (capt.), Cillian Tomkins, Henry Kennedy, Ryan Kinsella, Mark Boyle, Seán Wafer, Flynn Donnelly, Oisín Fortune. Subs. - Martin O'Loughlin, Niall Kenny, Ryan Gibney, Adam Byrne, Cormac Walsh, Mark Doyle, Greg Bolger, Eoin Canavan.

Wexford People