After suffering the heartbreak of defeat in Leinster League Finals in the past two
seasons Carlow’s Under 18 rugby squad scored a glorious triumph in this year’s
Leinster Premier Final at Donnybrook on Sunday.
They achieved a 50 point to 17 victory with scintillating rugby in which their 2016
conquerors Skerries were simply blown off the park for much of the game.
The Carlow lads displayed handling skills and running lines reminiscent of last years
Connacht side when they won the Pro 12 trophy.
Within 12 minutes in Sunday’s Final in Donnybrook Carlow had run in three tries, all finished by their brilliant playmaker outhalf Mark McDermott. The 1 st try followed a
50 metre burst by number 8 Conor Moore. The second came with speedy passes back
and forth between backs and forwards. For the third try McDermott ran through from
half way evading several would be tacklers on the way. McDermott himself converted
two of the tries to put his side 19 nil up after the whirlwind 1 st 12 minutes.
Skerries then steadied the ship a little making visits to the Carlow 22. Now it was the time for Carlow’s defensive qualities to show and fullback Conor Crowley was
especially effective. Also Carlow were prepared to run the ball out from their own
line with a series of intricate passes which nearly always culminated in having
overlaps out wide.
During the rest of this first half the Oakpark lads ran in two more tries. The fourth
was a forwards mauled try after a penalty was kicked to the corner. The next was
scored by scrumhalf Dan Crotty who dummied through some weak tackling to
touchdown beside the posts.
With five tries and three conversions Carlow led 31 – nil at the interval.
Almost inevitably last year’s winners had to come out of their shell shock at some
stage and Skerries raised their tempo for the second half. It almost looked as if the
referee too wanted to level things out as he awarded Skerries a series of penalties near
the Carlow line. The Oakpark lads continued to keep the North Dublin opposition out. Ruarie Dunbar saved a try in the corner by tackling his opposite winger into touch.
But 12 minutes into the half Carlow lock Sean O Brien was yellow carded. He was a
big loss to the defence for during his 7 minute absence Skerries got in for two mauled tries to make the score 31 – 12.
Carlow came back up the field with two tries of their own. Rob Browne got a long cut out pass from McDermott and ran in at the right corner. Prop Caolan Fitzhenry burst
through the middle after his centres had made ground.
Next Skerries bounced back with a well worked 7 pointer and while Carlow were still leading 43 – 17, at the 70 th minute, Skerries were shading the second half scoring by 17 points to 12. However Carlow had the last say in the game when outhalf
McDermott chipped ahead for his winger to collect. But the ball hops oddly on this
artificial Donnybrook pitch and it angled back into the grateful arms of prop Caolan
Fitzhenry who showed a remarkable turn of speed to run 30 metres and dive in beside
While Crowley and McDermott were the outstanding players, every back and forward on this under 18 side showed remarkable handing skills. The front three dominated in
the scrum and the Carlow lineout was assured.
After the disappointment of losing two finals in 2015 and 2016 justice was done to
this fine group of players and management on Sunday when the cup was brought back
Conor Crowley, Ruarie Dunbar, Cuan Burke, Ross Dunphy, Robert Browne, Mark
McDermott capt, Daniel Crotty, John Murphy, Liam Slator, Caolan Fitzhenry, Sean O Brien, Shea Somers, Dominic Rice, Aidan Raply, Conor Moore.
Subs all used, Michael Sheeran, Brian O Neill, Aaron Jones, Adam Cavanagh, Jody
Murphy, Alan Daly. Josh Moore