Midleton made the long trip north to Derry on the anniversary of the Bloody Sunday events which took place 50 years ago this weekend. Midleton will have been smarting from their first home AIL defeat last weekend at the hands of another Ulster team, Omagh Academicals, and were determined to get a result.
It is trips likes these that the random punter may take for granted. But it is for weekends such as this that clubs must fundraise throughout the year with significant costs involved in hiring buses, hotel stays for the group, food, etc. Thankfully the players ensured this was money well spent by coming away from Derry with 4 points in the bag!
The day started dry, but very windy at the Judges Road ground, with Midleton having the advantage in the first half. Changes were made from last weekend with Fionn O’Connell and Charlie Murphy coming into the pack, and Shayne Anderson returning to the no. 13 shirt.
After the first minute fullback Jack Colbert used the wind to launch a huge clearance downfield. From there Midleton got off to a flying start, rushing into a 0 – 12 lead after some great play.
The first try, by Ryan Lehane, came after Midleton had intercepted a pass from a scrum on the Derry 22. Some big carries by Bryan Moore, Charlie Murphy, Denis Broderick and David O’Sullivan was followed by some great interplay between backs and forwards. After 2 barnstorming runs by centre, Shayne Anderson, Midleton moved the ball to the left and were stopped just short of the line. The forwards picked and went on 2 occasions before the ball was passed wide to Lehane. From that distance he we never going to be stopped, crashing over in the corner for a 0 – 5 lead after 5 minutes.
7 minutes later they were on the score sheet again. While Derry had a lot of possession, they were unable to get past their own 10m line due to good offensive defence from Midleton. They attempted to kick clear but the kick was gathered by Ryan Lehane who carried hard, deep into the Derry half. From the resultant ruck, the ball was moved wide to Rory Horgan who offloaded to Willie Casey. As all good wingers should, Julian Power showed up on Casey’s shoulder to take a pass which put him through and under the posts. Stuart Lee made no mistake with the conversion. City of Derry 0 – 12 Midleton.
However, City of Derry are not a team to lie down, especially at home, and they took to game to Midleton from that point onwards.
They took the game to Midleton, winning a number of scrum penalties before kicking to the corner, putting the Midleton defence under severe pressure for the next 6 minutes. After a number of scrum penalties, Midleton’s prop Mark Corby was yellow carded. He was replaced by Alex O’Brien, while David O’Sullivan had to drop to the bench as Derry opted for another scrum. Midleton, somehow, cleared their lines with a kick up to the Derry halfway line. However, the Derry winger gathered the kick, counter attacked and with some elusive running scored in the Midleton right hand corner on 23 minutes.
Midleton tried to pin Derry into their own 22 from the kick off, not allowing them to break out of defence. However, a great break from the other Derry winger brought the play into the Midleton 22, at which time Midleton conceded another penalty for being off side in the defensive line.
With Midleton down to 14 men, a man down in the forwards, and a penalty awarded on the 5m line, it was inevitable that Derry would opt for a scrum. And their forward took total control of the scrum, marching over for another 5 pointer, which was converted. City of Derry 12 – 12 Midleton on 29 minutes.
For the next 10 minutes, the game was played between both 10m lines, with neither side giving or getting an inch in defence or attack. Midleton finished the half strongly attacking deep in the Derry 22, but were unable to turn pressure into scores.
This was a concern for Midleton who had started the first half so positively. They were now facing into a wind that, although had died down since kick off, was very much in the home sides favour.
However, this did not deter the Midleton players. Taking the game to City of Derry, they continued the positive play from the first half. This was rewarded with a try 2 minutes into the 2nd half from full back Jack Colbert, following a deft chip through from Stuart Lee which was kicked on by substitute Josh Deady. The conversion was missed but Midleton lead once again on a scoreline of 12 – 17.
Now it was Midleton’s turn to try to force their way out of their half against a strong breeze. It proved to be no easy task, as Derry went on the attack again and again.
The Midleton scrum came under pressure again and, after numerous offences, skipper Bryan Moore was sent for a 10 minute rest. Midleton again miraculously cleared their lines and, following a huge clearance kick, found themselves attacking the Derry line. However, Derry were able to use the wind to kick clear and relieve the pressure.
From a scrum, just outside the Derry 22, disaster struck. Derry moved the ball wide and after some good interchange play fed the ball to their left winger. He managed to evade some suspect Midleton tackling to race from halfway and score under the posts. The try was converted and the home side lead for the first time in the game after 55 minutes.
It would have been easy for Midleton to lie down following this body blow. They were a long way from home, facing into a stiff breeze, facing a home side who were hitting their straps.
However, as we have seen time and again during the season, the side’s fitness levels often allow them to put pressure on the opposition in the final quarter. And that they did, going in search of a score that would not only win the match, but would keep them in contention for the rest of the season.
Midleton attacked Derry from deep, and kept possession for the next 10 minutes, playing all the rugby. An unbelievable break from Denis Broderick saw him split the Derry defence on the halfway line, carrying hard all the way to the Derry 22m line. Unfortunately the play broke down 2 phases later. But Midleton had an advantage and they were awarded a penalty on the 22m line, in front of the posts. Stuart Lee kicked the penalty to put Midleton in front on the narrowest of margins, 19 – 20.
With 15 minutes to go, this left for a nervy ending. And Derry attacked and attacked for the next 10 minutes, putting the Midleton defence under massive pressure. However, the defence stood strong time and time again, keeping Derry at bay by the finest margins at times. The discipline in defence was remarkable, with no penalties conceded inside their 22 for this period of time. Derry were forced to try long distance penalties and drop goal attempts to win the game, but they were unable to convert.
Midleton actually finished the game pushing Derry back into their own half. In the last play of the game, Danny McCarthy came up with a huge play, getting his hands on the ball in the tackle and winning a penalty for Midleton. Stuart Lee gladly dispatched the ball to touch for Midleton to seal the win 19 – 20!!
The players deserve all the credit they get for this win. Although they allowed Derry back into the game following an early lead, the attitude and composure shown to keep their line intact late in the 2nd half was incredible. Hearing ‘Red is the Jersey’ ringing out before the long bus journey home shortened the road for players and travelling supporters alike!
We take a break for the next few weeks, with our next game away to 2nd place Skerries on 19th February.