There are times in the life of a team when adversity strikes.
You are a long way from home, you have lost a game the previous week, which you should have won, you are playing a team a few positions above you in the league table and you lose your talisman in the warm up.
Do you throw in the towel or you do what Cashel did on Saturday against Rainey Old Boys at Magherafelt. Having lost Ed Leamy in the warm up, 19 players, inspired by a passionate pep talk from coach Brian Hickey, rolled up their sleeves and played like men possessed to grind out a famous victory that will rank with any victory achieved our the years by this club. Josh Moynan replaced Leamy, Andy Kelleher was back in his more familiar role at scrum half, the versatile Darren McGrath started on the wing and Jono Ruru came in at outhalf. The towering Brendan Cross came into the second row.
Rainey drew first blood with a penalty when Cashel were penalised in the scrum. Six minutes later Andy Kelleher robbed a ball from a Rainey scrum and raced into their 22. Rainey were penalised and Darragh O’Brien converted. Once again Pat O’Connor and Brian Silke were tackling like demons in the centre. Darragh O’Brien at full back and wingers Kevin Leamy and Darren McGrath fielded all the high balls that came their way.
On 25 minutes Kevin Leamy stepped into a ruck, picked up the ball and ran into the Rainey 22, Rainey were penalised and O’Brien made sure with the kick to put Cashel ahead again. Then on the 28th and 32nd minutes Rainey kicked two penalties to go ahead. From the second kick off Pat O’Connor put the ball deep inside the Rainey 22. They cleared to touch and Cashel won the lineout giving possession to Andy Kelleher who headed for the Rainey posts. The gap increased and he forced his way over for a great individual try under the posts. Darragh O’Brien converted and made the score 16-9 on the stroke of half time after Jono Ruru put in a crunching tackle and John Ed O’Connor took the ball on.
The second half was only a minute old when Rainey narrowed the gap with a penalty. The Cashel forwards were playing well, props Danny Lambe, James Maxwell and later Howard Stanley were outstanding. Hooker Niall Fitzgerald hit every lineout and was constantly in the thick of the action. Brendan Crosse and captain Sean Walsh carried ball after ball and won a number of Rainey lineouts. Kieran Gleeson, Josh Moynan and John Ed O’Connor were outstanding in the back row and nobody was taking a step back.
Then the pressure increased as Jono Ruru who was playing very well had to leave the field with a knee injury. Two minutes later Pat O’Connor put in a try saving tackle. Andrew Wallace came on, caught a huge Garryowen from Rainey - he later put in another try saving tackle as did Darragh O’Brien and Brian Silke as Rainey threw the kitchen sink at Cashel. On 67 minutes they narrowed the gap to a point and Cashel were down to 14 men. They rallied and a Rainey player went to the bin. Darragh O’Brien kicked the penalty to stretch the lead to four points. After 5 minutes of injury time the most welcome sound of the final whistle came. The team always gets the praise but the skill of coach Brian Hickey in motivating his players and in plotting this victory must be acknowledged.