inpho 00790750St. Gerald’s 36-22 CBS Roscommon

St. Gerald’s of Castlebar prevailed in the Elverys Junior Cup final, in one of the most entertaining matches in the history of the Connacht Schools Cup. This game had everything, with strong running from both teams, eight tries in total and an almighty comeback from CBS Roscommon to tie it up with a few minutes left.

St. Gerald’s started into the wind, and from the off they tried to run everything from their half. CBS Roscommon were putting huge pressure on to keep them pinned in their 22. It seemed to be paying off, as they dominated the opening minutes, forcing the first scoring opportunity for full back Michael Farrell. Farrell was desperately unlucky to hit the post with his attempt in very tricky wind conditions. 

Roscommon were gaining ascendancy in the scrum, which was giving a great platform for them to launch their strike runners in inside centre Conor Shanagher, openside James Brandon and no. 8 and captain Brian Diffley. It only Barry Walsh from St. Gerald’s giving them any sort of relief, and Farrell eventually turned pressure into points with a well taken penalty to give CBS a 3-0 lead.

From the restart, a chargedown on Shane Purcell from his opposite number Walsh finally gave St. Gerald’s some territory. This gave the Castlebar school the platform to set Mark Benson who gave a beautiful pass to Thierry Baba into space on the wing. From 30 metres out, the talented soccer player speed past the cover and stepped inside the covering winger to power over the line. Barry Walsh made the difficult kick look easy with a beautiful kick from the side to give the Castlebar school an unlikely 7-3. That was to be winger Cian Gately’s last action, as he seemed to be the worse for wear after colliding with Baba in the build up. Theo McGuinness taking his place.

After twenty minutes, a pullback from Conor Shanagher on Tomas Prendagast denied St.Gerald’s a certain try, but from the resulting tap prop Sean Tonra barged over to give the Mayo school a commanding lead. Walsh was unsuccessful with the conversion and St. Gerald’s had a 12-3 lead. It got worse moments later for the Roscommon school, as full back Mark Balaski drifted through a number of soft tackles up the left hand touchline to run in a great try from his own half. Walsh made amends for his earlier kicks to slot the conversion. St. Gerald’s led 19-3 after 25 minutes of the first half.

Credit to CBS, they kept pushing, and were able to disrupt the St. Gerald’s lineout all game. Their scrum was giving them a solid platform and they way they were playing it didn’t deserve a deficit of sixteen points at this stage. But they kept going, with inspirational captain Brian Diffley leading from the front with some fantastic carries. They eventually got some joy and territory in the St. Gerald’s 22, and after a series of pick and goes, it was Diffley himself who crashed over to breathe some life into the competition. Farrell’s conversion made the game 19-10 at halftime.

Their resuscitation continued after the halftime break, and they started extremely well, immediately gaining a foothold in the St. Gerald’s 22. Shanagher was causing chaos from the crash ball for the Gerald’s midfield and Diffley in support was ekeing out plenty of metres. They were able to force a scrum from a chargedown, and scrumhalf Eoghan Coyle nearly put McGuinness in in the corner, before Brandon followed up to bash his way over the line. Farrell’s conversion was excellent and CBS Roscommon were within two points of their Castlebar rivals.

St. Gerald’s responded well, and almost from the restart forced a kickable penalty, which Barry Walsh converted for a little breathing space. St. Gerald’s were now leading 22 points to 17, with 40 minutes gone. This did not stop the CBS fightback, and captain Diffley, who was having a fantastic game, crashed over for his second try to tie the scores up at 22 apiece. It was unfortunate that the wind knocked the ball off the tee as Farrell struck it, with the resulting kick bobbling off the ground. The scene was set at a tie of 22 points each with only 15 minutes to go.

It was an absorbing contest, with some great defense on both sides, adding to injuries and stoppages. St. Gerald’s were the first to pounce, with Cormac Walsh finding some space down the wing before James Brandon got across to just put him into touch before it looked like he would score. Brandon came up with another huge play a few moments later with a great steal at the breakdown in his own 22, before CBS were able to clear.

A potentially deciding outcome of the game came moments later with just over five minutes to play. Gerald’s worked an overlap brilliantly, making significant gains into Roscommon territory before a no arms tackle from Conor Shanagher led to a yellow card, and Roscommon were down to 14.

Gerald’s through everything at the Roscommon defense, but some resolute defending first foiled Dara King, before forcing a knock on relieving pressure on the CBS line. This wasn’t to last long though, as a chargedown from Geralds centre Ray Loughrane kept the ball in the Roscommon 22. When Purcell did eventually clear Roscommon’s line, Gerald’s full back Balaski counter attacked beautifully, and Gerald’s were able to make use of their extra man and put Baba over in the corner for his second and what seemed to be the winning try.

The final minute brought the icing on the cake for St. Gerald’s, and the try of the day for outhalf Barry Walsh. Stepping inside the defense on halfway, Walsh had enough pace to burst through and round the fullback giving the scoreline some gloss that perhaps didn’t reflect how much CBS had added to the spectacle.

There is no doubt that St. Gerald’s are worthy winners, but no fan can go home wanting their money back after seeing a spectacle of rugby like that on show. Full credit to both sides, who not too long ago where both playing in the development cups. It’s a credit to the coaches Chris Davies in St. Gerald’s and Aidan Farrell and Dave Purcell in CBS Roscommon on how far these teams have come. We will be seeing more of some of these players in years to come. 

For now, St. Gerald’s take the spoils and have their name on the list of winners for the first time.

St. Gerald’s:

Mark Balaski, Cathal Brohan, Mark Benson, Ray Loughran, Thierry Baba, Barry Walsh, Ryan Padden; Sean Tonra, Ronan Curran, Sean O’Connell, Tomas Prendagast, Cormac Walsh, Saran O’Callaghan, Dara King, Jack Heavey.

Reps: Richard Newcombe, Mark Durvan, James Hughes, Keelan Finnan, Niall Quinn, Joe Leddy, James Ronra, Ultan McDyre.

CBS Roscommon:

Michael Farrell, Niall Cunniffe, Jason Hoare, Conor Shanagher, Cian Gately, Shane Purcell, Eoghan Coyle; Dan Butt, Sean Doorly, John Murray, James Fetherstone, Michael Feeley, Daire Byrne, James Brandon, Brian Diffley;

Reps:

Melvin Conteh, Liam Lapina, James McNally, Aaron Langan, Theo McGuinness, Conor McNeill, Reece Gilligan, Ian Conlon, Edward Clinton.

680 GerCBS

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