Ardee/Dundalk faced Mullingar in a Leinster League semi-final in Ashbourne rugby club and secured their place in the final with a last gasp win.
Ardee/Dundalk chose to play into a strong wind in the first half with the idea to contain Mullingar before taking advantage of the elements in the second half. Andy Kerr and Ryan McAuley dominated their opposite pairing in the scrums throughout the game which denied Mullingar the platform to construct a decisive attack. With carries from Neil Reilly and Ciaran Callaghan and defensive kicking by Conor Lenehan and Eoin O’Malley, Ardee/Dundalk survived the first half without conceding any points.
By taking advantage of the strong wind behind them Ardee/Dundalk soon had Mullingar defending their own line. They applied pressure by building up phases with their forwards before Tiernan Gonnelly released the ball out to Conor Reilly who scored in the corner. This try depicted the unity of the squad as all players from 1-15 were involved.
They then suffered a lapse in concentration allowing Mullingar to score two tries in quick succession to go 12-5 in front.
This seemed to focus Ardee/Dundalk and they increased the physicality and tempo of the game before working their way back into the Mullingar 22 where they built up a number of phases to create enough space for Jo Hanna to cross the line.
Daniel McSherry converted the try to make it 12-12. With the game tied in the closing moments Mullingar opted to keep the game going even when the choice to kick the ball out which would have resulted in a replay.
This proved to be fatal for Mullingar as Ardee/Dundalk turned the ball over and immediately attacked the Mullingar defense. Due to the ongoing pressure Mullingar conceded a penalty in front of the posts giving Ardee/Dundalk the chance of a game winning kick as McSherry slotted it over the bar to win the game 15-12.
The final against Navan on Sunday, 9th of March will take place in St.Mary’s RFC, Templeville Road, Dublin.
Ardee/Dundalk: Ryan McAuley, Ciaran McCormack, Andy Kerr, John Devitt, Ciaran Callaghan, Tiernan Gonnelly, Ciaran Lennon, Neil Reilly, Ronan O’Reilly, Brendan McDonnell, Eoin O’Malley, Jo Hanna, Derek Williams, Conor Reilly, Conor Lenehan. Subs: James McCann, Conor Quigley, Matt Raftis, James Daly, Darragh Conroy, Daniel McSherry, Dylan Martin, Andrew Cullen.