Nightmare start scuppers romantic dreams of upset

 

Schoolboy dreams are never inhabited by painful failure, and so for CBC Monkstown the shock of the opening five minutes of yesterday's Senior Cup semi-final at Lansdowne Road would have been insuperable. They gifted Terenure College 12 points and effectively dashed any romantic notions of an improbable victory - well, almost.

For what followed after the interval must rank as one of the finest comebacks, Lazarus not withstanding, when Monkstown conjured a remarkable recovery, scoring four tries in the process: it could so easily have been more.

A better return from their placekicks (one from six, two from in front of the posts) and CBC would have enjoyed St Patrick's Day even more. If things appeared unpromising for the losers initially, then by halftime they were positively gruesome: 28-0 in arrears and the prospect of another 35 minutes to be endured.

It is to their credit that Monkstown displayed tremendous grit and determination and no little self-confidence in the second half, a trait that had been noticeably absent in those opening exchanges.

Then Monkstown looked petrified, the magnitude of the occasion spawning countless basic errors. Straightforward tackles were missed as Terenure captain and centre Barry Flynn muscled his way past two tacklers on a cut-back for a try. Out-half David McAllister added a fine conversion and would subsequently offer a masterful display of place-kicking. Ultimately it would prove a decisive difference between the teams.

Three superb penalties and a magnificent touch-line conversion to right wing Sean King's second try were a testament to McAllister's ability with the placed ball.

King's first try came from another catalogue of disaster from a Monkstown perspective. Full back Darren McKenna dropped a garryowen, re-gathered and passed to Niall Kearns.

Unfortunately for the latter, the ball was spilled in the first tackle, then moved swiftly to King and he cantered past the cover to score in the corner. It was to be McAllister's only failure.

Terenure controlled the game almost at will, facilitated by Monkstown's unease. Flynn was proving difficult to stop, while scrum-half Robbie Sparks made a couple of searing breaks, one of which led to a try.

The pack rumbled forward, but without the cohesiveness of previous rounds. Hooker Brian Blaney and tight-head James Keogh both enjoyed some effective ball-carrying forays, but as the match progressed their influence became negligible.

When Terenure really need to wrest back the initiative they suddenly floundered, dogged by indecision and the handling errors that had afflicted their opponents.

Maybe it was the oranges, maybe coach Pat Fox's interval team talk, but Monkstown were a team inspired in the second half. From the moment that tight-head prop Simon Lamont crashed over for an unconverted try on 41 minutes, the underdogs set about an unlikely comeback, one which they sustained to a thrilling finish.

McAllister's departure necessitated a switch in the Terenure back-line with left wing Graham Crawford moving to out-half and Ken Treacy coming on. The Monkstown pack just upped the ante, tearing into their opponents, and in second row pairing Shane O'Farrelly and Stephen Kearns they boasted two of the game's most effective performers.

Terry O'Malley, captain George Mahon and wings James Kirwan and Frank Keegan were others to excel in a fine team effort. Scrum-half Conor St Lawrence grabbed a second try which Kirwan converted, the only successful kick at goal - Darren McKenna took responsibility for a couple - from six attempts.

Encouraged by the inroads they made, Monkstown maintained the momentum and deservedly added a third when excellent hooker Barry Twomey and O'Malley plunged over the line together: the latter was credited with the try. Kirwan missed the conversion, as he would do in injury time when McKenna crossed in the corner for another thoroughly merited score.

It fostered ideas of what might had been, but in looking at the Terenure players one suspected that they weren't that rattled, confident that if the situation merited it, they would have responded emphatically.

Monkstown had outscored Terenure by four tries to three in a bizarre match. That Terenure are the better side is indisputable and deserve their place in the final against Clongowes.

But, in Monkstown's case, for 35 minutes they lived that schoolboy dream: memories to be cherished.

Scoring sequence - 1 min: Flynn try, McAllister conversion, 7-0; 5: King try, 12-0; 15: McAllister penalty, 15-0; 18: McAllister penalty, 18-0; 27: McAllister penalty, 21-0; 29: King try, McAllister conversion, 28-0. 41: Lamont try, 28-5; 54: St Lawrence try, Kirwan conversion, 28-12; 63: O'Malley try, 28-17; 72: McKenna try, 28-22.

Terenure College: M Duffy; S King, D Dunlop, B Flynn (capt), G Crawford; D McAllister, R Sparks; K Mahony, B Blaney, J Keogh; R Gernon, R McDonnell; J Barretto, A Kelly, R Hegarty. Replacements: K Treacy for McAllister (36 mins); D Whelan for Barretto (58 mins); J Anthony Lee for Keogh (63 mins).

CBC Monkstown: D McKenna; F Keegan, N Kearns, R McCarthy, J Kirwan; O Nolan, C St Lawrence; N Byrne, B Twomey, S Lamont; S O'Farrelly, S Kearns; T O'Malley, J Walsh, G Mahon (capt). Replacement: K Doyle for Byrne (58 mins).

Referee: C Brannigan (Leinster).