Team: Sat 13th March 2019 v Derry
1. Dan Geoghegan
2. Eoin Parkinson
3. Jayden Friel
4. Odhrán Finn
5. Eoin Harris
6. Mathew Duffy
7. Daithi Doherty
8. Jynaid Rayes
9. Ben Hopkins
10. Kaymin Shortt
11. Finn McGonagle
12. Jack Speer - Captain
13. Orrin Burgess
14. Tiernan McFadden
15. David Henry
Subs:, Dylan Coyle, Cuan Brophy, Jack Gibbons, Conal Boyle
With a chance of making the final on the cards Letterkenny took to the field at 10:30am, they ran through their drills and each seemed to be spurring on the man to his left and right to get all the lads fired up. They were ready but word came in that KO was to be postponed for 30 minutes due to the Ulster Branch Ref getting the home team mixed up and travelling to the grounds in Derry. This gave the lads some more time to prepare for the battle ahead and they headed for the changing rooms for some further bolstering from the coaches.
They re-emerged at 11:25am with a fire in their eyes and a longing in their bellies to put Derry to the test.
Letterkenny win the toss and opt to play into the very strong and cold wind choosing to play from left to right in the first half.
From the kick of Derry show their intent and win back possession but Dan Geoghegan drops the shoulder and levels his man driving him back a meter or 2, next up is Eoin Parkinson who puts in the first of many big tackles on the day, Derry keep on the pressure but Jayden Friel this time puts in a crunching tackle to stop Derry in their tracks. Orrin Gets into the action early and steals the ball from a ruck and makes 5 meters before being chopped down by 2 Derry players.
Both teams look well up for the match and both start well, Derry again win possession and come running at Letterkenny and Daithi Doherty this time goes in low and makes a superb tackle causing a knock on and giving Letterkenny back the ball, which they feed into the scrum but Derry are alert to the back move and mange to turn over possession once more and this time run through the phases and make it up close to the Letterkenny 22 where they are awarded a Penalty. With the stiff wind at their backs Derry opt for the posts and their kicker duly slots home for the first points of the game after 8 mins of play. [0 – 3].
From the KO Letterkenny apply the pressure and force Derry to go for touch, Derry jump high in the lineout but the refs whistle goes again for offside against Letterkenny. They again go for touch and find themselves back on the Letterkenny 22, they win the lineout again and are awarded another penalty on the 22 but this time they opt to tap and go but the Letterkenny defence is set and they give no ground and win a penalty of their own which Orrin taps and goes himself and he offloads to his center partner on the day Jack Speer who makes another few meters but somehow Derry turn it over again and come right back at them. Again another penalty for Derry on the 22 and they opt for the left corner this time and have a lineout 10 meters out. Letterkenny manage to steal the lineout with a fine jump from Jynaid but somehow Derry turnover again and with some tight passing amongst their forwards their big number 6 is on the charge for the line but Kaymin puts in a fine tackle and brings him down short, Derry set and come again only 5 meters short through their number 2 but again some fine defensive work from forwards and backs alike keeps them out. The ball changes hands several times 5 meters from the Letterkenny line with both teams giving it their all and Letterkenny manage to drive back the attack to the 22.
Derry have a scrum on the 22 which they convert and break to their left but Tiernan McFadden halts their winger gets back to his feet and drives over the ball to win back possession. But Letterkenny struggle to get out of their own half and Derry soon win back possession and run through the phases taking them back to the 5 meter line. Derry maintains the pressure and get the reward when they cross the line to the left of the posts. The conversion is good and they now lead [0-10] after 18 mins.
Letterkenny however dust themselves off and KO low and hard and the chase is good pinning Derry on their 10 meter line where Letterkenny manage to turn over the ball and Ben whips out his pass which is too low and at the boot laces of Kaymin but with a flick of the foot Kaymin manages to flick the ball into his hands and he goes on one of his dazzling runs beating several players he offloads to a charging Mathew Duffy who is having a superb game so far and he makes another couple of meters, the ball makes its way out to the wing and into the hands of Finn McGonagle who has also had a great half thus far but he is taken down but he sets up the ruck and Letterkenny hold the possession, Letterkenny win a scrum on the 22 and Ben Feeds Kaymin who looks up and spots a gap behind the Derry defence and he places a beautiful kick over the top for Tiernan to chase and the ball bounces kindly into his hands and Tiernan shows a clean pair of heels to the Derry defence and crosses in the right corner. Orrin puts in a huge kick which looks like it’s there but it just drifted wide leaving the score with 6 mins left at [ 5-10].
From the kick-off Kaymin catches the ball deep in his own 22 and goes on another of his fine runs and makes it to the halfway line, the ball is quickly fed inside and Jack Speer with a beautiful pass to Orrin sets him on his way and he won’t be stopped, he scores under the posts turning the game on its head all within 2 mins. This time conversion is good and score with 5 mins left [12-10].
The final 5 mins of the first half see some fine snipping runs from Ben, another fine lineout steal by Jynaid and some good plays from Odhrán Finn, Daithi Doherty and Eoin Harris to name but a few, the ref blows the whistle for the end of an enthralling first half with nonstop action and some wonder rugby from both sides.
HT score: [12 – 10]
Letterkenny kick-off the second half and the ref awards a dubious knock on and Letterkenny have an early scrum on the 22. Ben feeds the scrum and gets quick ball out to Kaymin who feeds Jack Speer taking up his new partnership inside Orrin and he goes on a superb run and breaks several tackles to cross the line in the corner but manages to make a further 10 meters towards the posts before touching down to make his conversion somewhat easier. Score after 1 min [19-10].
Derry KO and mange to win back possession on the Letterkenny 10 meter line, their big number 8 breaks free and is one on one with David Henry and yes you guessed it David chops down Goliath again on this occasion with a mighty tackle. Letterkenny turn it over and Odhrán Finn adds to his huge tally of carries on the day and makes another 5 meters.
Derry are award a penalty on their 10 meter line which they opt to tap and go but Eoin Parkinson is alert to the quick move and adds to his huge tally of tackles on the day.
Odhrán Finn is again in the action when he changes the Derry attack and manages to pull the ball from their hands and boots it on in front of himself and Letterkenny win a penalty for his efforts. Orrin taps and goes and he is unstoppable and scores in the left corner. Conversion this time is missed and the score after 10 mins is [24-10].
Derry keep applying the pressure and come at them again but this time Mathew Duffy turns over the ball on the half way line, Derry however mange to turn it over again as the game continues to flip flop possession wise. The big number 8 for Derry goes on a surging run and looked sure to score but Daithi Doherty dives at his ankle and manages to bring him down with a superb slap tackle. Derry keep up the pressure and edge ever closer to the try line, and find themselves only a few meters short, they again are awarded another penalty 10 meters from the line, they tap and go and the big number 6 goes for the corner but Kaymin holds is ground and forces him back. Derry continue to probe around the fringes and get another penalty for their efforts, they opt for the scrum in the right corner and they peel from the back and Letterkenny look to have done enough to keep them out but the ref sees it differently and raise his hand for the try. Conversion is missed and score after 20 mins of play [24-15].
Letterkenny again apply the pressure from the restart and with some interchange rugby and hands from forwards and backs alike they charge down the field They set the ruck on the 22 and Ben feeds Kaymin who breaks right and spots David Henry outside and Kaymin completes a lovely skip pass out and puts David into open ground and he scores in the right corner halfway between the posts and the touchline leaving a difficult kick but he slots it none the same. 7 mins left [31-15].
With 5 mins left on the clock the coaches decide to empty the bench and give all the lads a run. Derry keep on the pressure and get another well-deserved try in the dying mins of the game but the conversion is missed. [31-20].
A big thanks to the Derry Team, Coaches and supporters for a great Semi Final, they showed great guts and determination to keep fighting to the end.
Also a big thanks to all the new lads who stepped up today for Letterkenny with the many other lads out injured, they had big shoes to fill and fill them they did. Fantastic performance from a great squad.
Specials thanks to the coaches, parents and all the ladies that provided the food afterwards.