Clondalkin men’s first XV hosted Mullingar last Sunday and despite not having reached even the half-way point of the season, it already felt like a do-or-die fixture for the Gordon Park men. After a rocky opening to this year’s campaign, Clon were still in search of their first win as they welcomed the team directly above them in 1B. The home side were able to welcome back Simon King (fresh from his honeymoon), Neil Finlay and Ryan Maher to the squad to soften the blows of the absent Tom McGrath and Thomas Ankers who are both nursing knocks picked up away to Tullow last Sunday.
It was always going to be difficult to replace the injured Chris Jebb’s leadership and goal kicking this season and, unfortunately, as Mullingar opened proceedings with two well-struck penalties to a missed effort from Clondalkin, it looked like that would prove to be the case. However, last season’s captain Niall Nolan completely cancelled out Mullingar’s bright start with a superb effort to intercept and round the full-back with a trade mark finish to dot down.
Clon had found their feet and Nolan’s score had also fired up the pack. Second rows Jamie Davies and captain, Marcus Doyle were laying down a marker – we haven’t seen that many hits from an experienced duo since Simon & Garfunkel. This purple patch for Clon saw the home side smash in a second try through some great feet and power from centre Fionnán Madden. Conor Laughrey added the extras and Clon led narrowly, 12-9, at half time.
Turning with a slight breeze at their backs, Clon looked well-placed to continue their late first half momentum. However, the break had the opposite effect. Mullingar looked a different side, firstly one of their wingers cut back in and raced 40 metres to score a great solo effort. Then only for some heroic scramble Clon defence, they could have had a second try minutes later. They did add another penalty to stretch their lead to 19-12 and from the very next restart, the visitors gathered, threw 2 long passes to get around Clon’s edge defence, and scored a killer blow. All of a sudden Mullingar lead 26-12 and appeared to be out of sight.
It was make-or-break for the home side and Dave Plummer introduced former club captain Neil Finlay at flanker and DarDar Madden at tighthead. Both made an immediate impact with high energy and bone-crunching hits the home side had been lacking. DarDar began levelling out the penalty count too, first winning a turnover at ruck time and then going to work on the Mullingar scrum with Brian Doyle & new dad Kev Dunphy earning three massive scrum penalties to completely turn the tide once again.
A 50:22 from full back Éanna Clynes secured great field position and some patient phase play from Clon led to an overlap wide on the right with slick hands putting Dave Jebb away for a great team score. At 17-26 entering the last 15 minutes, Clon weren’t buried just yet. “Ben 10” Foran pinned Mullingar back once again and though they tried to repeat their double-skip-pass exit to get around the kick chase, Éanna was one step ahead as he picked off the intercept at full speed and there was nobody in Gordon Park stopping the Clon flyer. Conor added the extras once again and Clon had at least secured a try bonus point and were now in the ascendancy once again. The home pressure was relentless and another impressive take from captain, Marcus Doyle at the lineout was mauled 15 yards before hooker Brian Doyle broke off to smash his way into the 22, skittling defenders on his way. Some tight carries by the pack were initially well stopped by Mullingar, until another carry by ‘Bruiser’ found a soft shoulder. A delightful offload led to Conor Laughrey, on an excellent support line, diving under the posts and the game had completely turned on its head again. Laughrey added the simplest of conversions to an earlier penalty and Clon now led 34-26. Mullingar briefly snuck back within losing bonus point range however excellent pressure at the restart was rewarded with a late penalty and Laughrey split the posts once again to complete an impressive 17-point haul from the livewire scrum half.
The full-time whistle was greeted with the loudest roar of the season so far and the coaching ticket of Dave Plummer, Paul Nolan and Mikey Russell had to be impressed with the character shown as well as the combination of brute power and a well-drilled set-piece up front along with four tries from their back line in Niall, Éanna, Conor & Biff. The win lifts Clondalkin ahead of Mullingar into 7th place and hopefully this is the kick start for better things to come.
Next weekend is a free week for our men, with Wicklow to follow the Sunday after. Before then is the Captain’s Dinner, taking place Friday 12th in the Red Cow Hotel. All adult members are welcome. If interested, please contact any of our senior Captains, Shona, Marcus, Eoin or Conor, or a member of the football or executive committee. If it is half as exciting as today’s win, it will be a great night.
(1-15) Kev Dunphy, Brian Doyle, Ken McMahon, Jamie Davies, Marcus Doyle(c), Simon King, David Jebb, Eoghan Farrell, Conor Laughrey, Ben Foran, Niall Nolan, Darren Madden, Fionnán Madden, David Smith, Eanna Clynes. Replacements: DarDar Madden, Stephen McKenna, Neil Finlay, Ryan Maher, Jack Holland.