Midleton 14 – 21 Omagh
On Saturday we welcomed 2 clubs to Townspark for our AIL Div. 2C Round 11 match.
Omagh Academicals made the long journey down, while players and committee members from the successful Midleton GAA hurling team were invited to the pre-match meal in recognition of their recent success in the county hurling championship.
If ever the phrase ‘Smash and Grab’ could be used to describe a game, the match between Midleton and Omagh Academicals was it. 3 forays into the Midleton green zone by Omagh yielded 3 tries, while Midleton, it could be argued, dominated the remainder of the game.
The review on Monday won’t make for easy viewing and when the statistics are examined we will wonder how Midleton lost the game after controlling territory and having the majority of possession. It will be difficult to stomach having played all the rugby, but failing to dominate the most important statistic of all – the scoreline.
Preparation for the match was not ideal, with Midleton losing centre Shayne Anderson late on in the warm up. Difficulties continued in the first 2 minutes of the match when Omagh managed to intercept a pass inside the Midleton 22 to score under the posts, leaving the score 0 – 7 after 2 minutes.
Midleton went about their business to reduce the deficit and after 10 minutes, a big tackle from Rob Carey forced a knock-on on the halfway line. In the ensuing scrum, the front row of Danny McCarthy, Bryan Moore and Mark Corby won a scrum penalty which lead to a period of prolonged pressure on the Omagh line. Unfortunately the ball was knocked on in attack, allowing Omagh to counter attack from their own line. A great tracking tackle, again from Carey, snuffed out the danger on the halfway line.
Up to the 20 minute waterbreak, Midleton played with plenty of willingness to move the ball around and attack. However, on numerous occasions they were guilty of forcing passes while trying to unlock the Omagh defence, leading to knock-ons and turnovers.
In the 23rd minute of the match Midleton had a great attacking opportunity. An excellently drilled kick through from fullback Jack Colbert was chased up and kicked through by Stuart Lee, resulting in another Midleton line-out inside the Omagh 22. After some time in on the attack, Midleton were eventually rewarded a penalty. Stuart Lee opted to kick for the posts. The kick, from distance, was good leaving the score Midleton 3 – 7 Omagh on 27 minutes.
Midleton continued to attack with intent but couldn’t breach the defence. Some good work on the ground from Flor McCarthy and Fionn Bailey, who replaced the injured Shayne Anderson just before kick off, resulted in a turnover penalty. However, the attack was unsuccessful.
On 37 minutes Omagh made a rare incursion into the Midleton 22. With the defence breached and our fullback and winger facing a 4 on 2 defensive situation, fullback Jack Colbert made a great defensive read to stop the attack, saving a certain try.
In the remaining 3 minutes, 2nd Row Ryan Lehane was busy putting himself about, carrying some good ball and doing some good work on the deck. Midleton eventually won another kickable penalty which Stuart Lee converted. This left the score Midleton 6 – 7 Omagh at halftime. Midleton were having to work much harder for their scores than an Omagh team who seemed happy to soak up pressure and counterattack if the opportunity arose.
In the 2nd half the Midleton errors continued to put pressure on themselves, with a number of simple errors making it difficult for them to get out of their own half in the early minutes. The cause wasn’t helped on 45 minutes when scrumhalf Willie Casey was yellow carded by the referee. Omagh attacked the Midleton line but couldn’t break the defence. However, after another penalty was awarded on the Midleton 5m line, Omagh opted for a scrum. After a couple of phases they managed to move the ball to space with their outhalf stepping his way under the posts. Midleton 6 – 14 Omagh after 50 minutes.
One thing that cannot be questioned was the Midleton players’ continuous effort to gain a foothold in the game. The brought the game to Omagh again and again, playing all the rugby. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t make the final pass stick, or make the right decisions, letting Omagh off the hook on multiple occasions.
On 68 minutes, one such example allowed Omagh to break from their own 22 all the way down to the Midleton 22. After some scrappy play inside the 22, a Midleton player was stripped in the tackle and the Omagh 2nd Row took full advantage to score under the posts in another ‘smash and grab’ move. Midleton 6 – 21 Omagh.
Some stern words were spoken under the posts, and Midleton went in search for a score. On 70 minutes Midleton kicked for the corner and from the resulting phases, including a big carry and offload from Bryan Moore, they eventually crossed the line. After some good forward play, the ball was spread wide to substitute winger, Alex O’Brien, to cross in the corner. Midleton 11 – 21 Omagh.
With time running out, Midleton needed another score to at least claim a losing bonus point. While attacking well in the Omagh 22, an Omagh defender was deemed to have tackled illegally resulting in a Midleton penalty in front of the posts. The kick, from Stuart Lee, left the score 14 – 21, meaning Midleton, at least, had secured the losing bonus point.
There was still time to play and Midleton, once again went on the attack. However, in the last play of the game another turnover by Omagh, deep in the own 22, meant that they could kick to touch to end the match.
As mentioned above, Midleton will wonder how they let this game slip. They dominated possession and territory, but were guilty of trying to force off loads, knocking on balls and getting isolated in attack. This, compared to the ease with which Omagh snatched their scores, was hard to take as Midleton did all the hard work, but just couldn’t get the rewards. On a positive note, the players kept fighting until the death in search of scores and should be commended for this. However, there is work to be done to improve on the performance.
Another positive from the day was to see people returning to some form of normality. It was great seeing people in and around the club, having a few drinks and enjoying themselves like the good old days (including a good old sing song in the clubhouse, lead by president Con Walsh later on in the evening!!). Hopefully it is a sign of better days ahead for everyone.
Our next fixture is away to City of Derry next Saturday, 29th January 2022. Wishing the lads the best of luck on the road! If they can tidy up on some of the small errors of the Omagh match, they are more than capable of taking the win in Derry!