Saturday, 16th of September, saw the opening round of the Ulster Bank All Ireland League played out in Towns Park. Many saw this as a must win game for the Midleton men, having stuttered to a third from bottom (7th) finish last season, against a Seapoint team who took all points on offer. The key here is to set the scene. Both teams fielded were much changed from last year’s opening round, with Midleton fielding nine different faces. The preceding matches against Cashel and Old Crescent did not tell a good tale for the home side, having gone down in both of them. However, Midleton were now in AIL mode. The rust was gone. The minds were sharp and the hands were crisp. Midleton opened their campaign with a convincing win.
From the get go the Midleton men were on-top in all areas of open play, with Seapoint struggling to get their hands on the ball, which the home side moved the width of the pitch and back with ease. Strong carries from every member of the forwards pushed the visitors back deep into their own half where the inevitable happened and Midleton found themselves 3 points up. The pack, assisted by a pair of strong running centres, put Stuart Lee in the driving seat again to put the home side 6 points up. This was followed later by a further 3 points to send the home side into the break 9 points clear.
The second half started much as the first finished, with Midleton looking untouchable in defence, not letting anything through without a fight.
Another surge forward from a strong Midleton pack followed by a good carry from Rory Horgan, playing first centre, put Midleton in a commanding position just outside the opposition 22. Stuart Lee gathered lightning pass from skipper, Smyth, to set up Yorkie Cronin who came in hard off his shoulder. Breaking up the middle, thundering towards the try line went Yorkie, before he was taken down. A quick battle for the ball ensued, Midleton winning, before Lee found himself with the ball in hand again. He held on just long enough for the gap to open up out wide, and floated a perfectly weighted pass into the hands of young Rian Hogan who went over in the corner. Lee missed the chance to put the gap at more than 14 points. From here the home side set themselves back up in the opposition half to add a further 6 points, giving a 20-0 lead with ten to go.
The effort began to tell on the home side as tackles began to lose their sting and Seapoint made their way into Midleton’s half. They dotted down twice for 2 unconverted tries to leave the score at 20-10 in favour of Midleton.
A strong display in all from a much improved Midleton side, however t John O’Neill and his men will need to be iron a few creases over the season to secure a place in the top four.