On Saturday last Cashel went to the lion’s den at Temple Hill in Cork to play cup specialists Cork Con in the Munster Senior Cup Semi Final.
It was a daunting task but a challenge which the Cashel players took on with great bravery and while the Roman gladiators did not always leave the arena in one piece, the Cashel players, though defeated, left the field with their heads held high.
In perfect conditions and on a perfect pitch Con took the game to Cashel in the early stages and used the maul to great effect. Their larger pack were difficult to stop. They hit very hard and it looked as if it was going to be a very long day for Cashel. Con missed a penalty after three minutes but on the 10th minute they won a lineout 5 meters out and after much pressure barged over for a try which Tipperary man Darragh Lyons converted.
Cashel suffered a blow in the 15th minute when Brian Silke had to leave the field with what turned out to be a fractured cheek bone. Rory O’Connor moved to the centre and Ross Mullane can on on the wing.
Cashel were contributing in a big way to a very competitive and entertaining game with play going from end to end and both teams playing a running game. However the penalty count was going against Cashel and Con went three points further ahead on the 20th minute when Lyons kicked another penalty.
This seemed to give Cashel a shot in the arm and they upped their game. The front row of Emmett Hall, Cian O’Donnell and Howard Stanley were excellent and the Cashel scrum was very strong. Second rows Sean Walsh and Philly Ryan carried the ball well and the back row of Ed Leamy, Brendan O’Connor and John Ed O’Connor were everywhere. The Cashel lineout was crisp and set up good attacking positions for the backs. For the second quarter Cashel were on top. Pat O’Connor kicked a penalty on the 25th minute, He was unlucky with another and then hit the post with another penalty. The half time score of Cork Con 10 Cashel 3 could have been a bit closer.
The second half started with Con putting pressure on Cashel. They missed a penalty on 43 minutes but scored a try on 46 minutes after sustained pressure by their pack, to go 17 points to 3 ahead. Lesser teams would have thrown in the towel but not Cashel. The game opened up at this stage and the backs were magnificent in this phase of the game. Andy Kelleher at 9 and Conor Quinlan at out half got the backs moving. Giles Boland and Rory O’Connor made deep runs into the Con half. Wingers Kevin Leamy and Ross Mullane tackled well and played their part. Pat O’Connor at full back was majestic and proved he is a player for the big day.
On 54 minutes Kevin Leamy went off with a bad ankle injury and was replaced by Darren McGrath who immediately got involved in the game. The Cashel forwards worked very hard and Ed Leamy was immense. They were rewarded on 67 minutes when forward pressure created a platform for the backs. The ball went from the left hand corner to the right where Rory O’Connor touched down for an excellent try. Pat O’Connor converted and with 13 minutes left and the score at 17-10 the outnumbered Con supporters were getting edgy and the great Cashel support got louder.
Cashel at this stage brought on Alan Downey, Michael Hickey, Michael Cross, Danny lambe and Michael Kelly and they fitted in well. However the penalty count once again went against Cashel and on the 70th, 73rd and 78th minutes Con were awarded three penalties. Darragh lyons converted two and played advantage with the third and dropped a goal. This put the game out of the reach of Cashel but they did not give in. They came roaring back and three minutes into injury time the forwards again created a platform. The ball once again went through the hands and Giles Boland scored in the right hand corner. Pat O’Connor hit the post with the conversion. This was the final play of the game.
It was disappointment for Cashel but there was joy for one family as James Ryan from Meldrum, son of Jimmy and Mary Ryan had a fine game for Con at number 8. It was a bitter sweet day for Jimmy who played many great games for Cashel and on other days would have loved to see Cashel progress to the final.
The coaching staff of Ian Dunne and Greg Oliver, the management team of Sean Curry, Denis Moran and John O’Connor and the medical staff, Davina Hanly and Tommy Ryan, who were very busy all day, can be very proud of this team’s performance in the Senior Cup. It was Cashel’s 4th semi final but they have yet to reach a final. However they can go forward with great confidence secure in the knowledge that they were part of a great sporting occasion and that they acquited themselves well. Con play Ul Bohemians in the final. Next week Cashel play Corinthians in the league in Galway.
Cashel: E Hall, C O’Donnell, H Stanley, P Ryan, S Walsh, E Leamy, J E O’Connor, B O’Connor, A Kelleher, C Quinlan, K Leamy, B Silke, G Boland, R O’Connor, P O’Connor, D McGrath, A Downey, M Hickey, R Mullane, M Cross, D Lambe, M Kelly.