Ballina’s Big Bang a Christmas Cracker

After a two year hiatus the annual St Stephen’s day Aubrey Bourke Cup President’s XV game in Ballina played out with competition and entertainment aplenty.

The high-profile Heffernan Park fixture drew no shortage of player support and President Marc Loftus’ makeshift mob tended more toward “star-studded” than “barrel-scraping”. Far from wizened or walking wounded, Loftus’ President’s XV included 2010 stars David Mescal and Ronan O’Malley, and Cawley Cup flanker Phillip Rowe at centre. Surrey-based centre Chris O’Neill, Corinthians tighthead Tom Tolan, DLSP’s Francis Cooney, Galwegians’ David Clarke, Connacht and Ireland’s Under20 and Under19 players David Heffernan and Brian Moylette also featured in one of the modern era’s strongest President’s teams.

Prominent up front also was David Rowe and Ross Farrell, but Ballina responded well to their initial onslaught.

The incumbent Junior team began to impose control stringing several phases together in the second quarter and the President’s XV conceded penalties to stave off tries. Ballina out-half Andy Moynihan obliged 22 minutes in to go three-nil up; and the next 18minutes elapsed without further score. Linkmen Michael Murphy (9) and the Laurence Leonard/Orrie Collins/Aidan McNulty back row stood out; while David Heffernan and Phillip Rowe (who moved into the pack from the centre) stood out in the forwards. Mescal, Clarke and fullback Robert Forbes impressed further out.

Ballina asserted more dominance as the second half wore on but defensive tenacity denied several scoring opportunities. Francis Conroy drew first blood latching on to some slick Jerome Harimate and Michael Allen interplay to score wide for an 8-nil lead. Camped deep in their own territory, the President’s XV attempted to run the ball clear of the redzone but paid dearly when Harimate picked up an intercept and made short work of the space. Kevin McCarron added the extras to go 15 points clear.

Simon Wade for the The President’s XV mounted a late comeback and found Isaac O’Grady driving hard for (and over) the line.

Aubrey Bourke’s niece Jenny Bourke presented the cup to Murphy who, in turn, paid tribute to all involved. He said the competitive standard laid solid groundwork for the League’s latter stages and impending Cup competitions. Ballina’s next game is away to Castlebar on Sunday, January 8.

Ballina: Kevin McCarron, Francis Conroy, Jerome Harimate, Michael Allen, Trevor Moore, Andrew Moynihan, Michael Murphy (C), Ciaran Melvin, Rodney O’Donnell, Paul Newell, Connor Forde, Mark Healy, Orrie Collins, Laurence Leonard, Aidan McNulty, Richard Kelly, Liam Lynch, Stephen Dolan, Robert Melody, Cormac Quinn, Donal Gillivary, James O’Connor, Russell O’Brien.

President’s XV: Robert Forbes, Mark Jennings, Chris O’Neill, Phillip Rowe (C), Phillip Thornton, David Clarke, David Mescal, David Rowe, John Keaveny, Tom Tolan, Ross Farrell, David Heffernan, Kenneth Forde, Brian Moylette, Craig Farrell, Connor Dever, Robert Durcan, David Brunker, Cian Mullarkey, Brendan Barrett, Paul McCreanor, Simon Wade, Isaac O’Grady, Robert Durcan, Arthur West, Andrew West, Ronan O’Malley, Alan Jennings, Francis Cooney, Ryan Gregory, Daniel Carrabine. Referee: Alistair Brown.

Ballina 15 beat President’s XV 5. (HT 3-0)

(contributed – Clive Moore)

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