Dundalk RFC’s U12 Sharks shine at Balbriggan blitz
The Dundalk RFC U12 Sharks headed to Balbriggan on Sunday morning to participate in the O’Daly Leinster Blitz.
Twenty four teams from around the province played three matches each in a very well organised and keenly contested tournament The Sharks’ opponents were Ashbourne, Coolmine and Co Carlow.
Unfortunately, the squad suffered a few late withdrawals through absenteeism and injury but they still had 20 players making the journey.
First up for the lads was a local derby against Ashbourne. The Dundalk boys started poorly and were a couple of early scores down.
However, steady scrummaging from Rory Wallace and Charlie Irwin led to a rock solid set-piece which allowed the backs gain a foothold in the match.
A wonderful rehearsed move between Liam O’Connor and Donal Lavery allowed the rampaging Cian McGuinness to score under the posts.
The match then developed into a real ding dong affair with both sides matching each other score for score.
Dundalk were further hampered when they lost their pack leader, Conor Whyte, with a hand injury but Calum Lambe and Max Valentine assumed the mantle and drove the team on.
The highlight of the match for the Sharks was a superb individual try from the elusive Bobby McCaul which levelled the game with seconds left.
Unluckily, the lads conceded a heartbreaking try in added time to lose the tie by a single score.
Next up for the Sharks were the Dublin kingpins, Coolmine. Whereas other teams might have wallowed in self pity after losing such a tight encounter in the previous match, the lads roared into this match with renewed vigour and determination, epitomised by Oran Rafferty and Ryan Duffy.
Euan McArdle carried the ball heroically and earned the hard yards which allowed Cian Jones and Joe Cassidy foray into enemy territory.
Again, this was another very tight match and with the scores level, Jake Kenny wonderfully anticipated the opposition’s thought process and intercepted a pass to run the length of the pitch to put the Dundalk boys ahead with seconds remaining.
Coolmine piled the pressure on in search of an equalising score but Jack Mullen was having none of that as he produced Herculean strength to single handedly hold a driving maul up and thus ensured Dundalk’s first win of the day.
The last match of the tournament pitted the Sharks against the very formidable Carlow side who had already two facile wins in the bank.
More knocks and bumps left the Sharks’ squad down to the bare bones but they produced a performance of commendable grit and bravery that left coaches and parents alike gleaming with pride.
Ewan Kelly and Enda Dooley led the charge with storming runs that forced the opposition back while DD Reilly brilliantly occupied the Carlow defence with some wonderful variety in his play.
A number of the Carlow players will surely be having nightmares about Ryan Martin as he was constantly thwarting and disrupting their rucks with his fantastic aggression and belligerence.
However, the Dundalk player of the day was Fionn Connolly who gave an exhibition of scrum half play, his speed of service and intuitive decision making were a joy to behold throughout the three matches.
Well done to all the chaps. There’ll be plenty of sore bodies tonight!