MALLOW will spend Christmas 2012 as the top dogs in the Munster junior league Division 2 after recording an impressive 11 point win over rivals for the title Castleisland.
While the majority of people were out hunting for last minute presents for the impending festivities the men in green and yellow were adding to their impressive start to this year's campaign while also putting a severe dent in the title aspirations of their Kerry opponents at their St Joseph's road base on Sunday.
It may only be Christmas but with both sides came into this tie sitting on a very respectable 23 points (three behind table toppers Muskerry) this game always looked like it could go a long way to deciding what team are best equipped to go on to challenge for the title and more importantly take one of the elusive two promotion places on offer. Mallow came into the tie on the back of some impressive wins, while Castleisland saw their challenge falter a little last time out as they came unstuck at home to mid table Bandon.
Not for the first time in the north Cork venue the plaudits have to go to the forwards for the win. Although the front five had plenty of problems in the scrum, they dominated the line outs and gave a tremendous platform for the backs to show what they could do. The front three of Chris O'Regan, Frank Thornton and Jason Sheehan were immense up front with second rowers Neil Lucey and Captain John McAulliffe putting in tremendous displays all over the pitch. McAulliffe in particular showed his undoubted worth to this side giving his all against a very physical and powerful Kerry opponent.
While the front five were strutting their stuff in the mud, number eight Owen Glynn and out half Robbie Doyle were holding the line superbly in the middle of the park with the former giving his usual no compromise display with the latter showing great ability with the ball in hand. With the forwards may take most of the credit for this win it would be easy to overlook the contribution of the back line but they definitely didn't let the side down either with full back David Walsh finishing off a great move involving Doyle for the games only try on 30 minutes and Andrew Cashman showing great resolve with the placed ball as he slotted over four valuable penalties.
These two sides are generally pretty evenly matched so this game was never likely to produce bonus points for four tries, but the 11-point winning margin means that Castleisland leave county Cork with nothing to show for their efforts and that will hurt. This loss will be a devastating blow to the Kingdom men who have now seen a very competitive early season title challenge come unstuck in recent games.
Mallow for their part have been a little patchy at times but they really seem to have got the bit between their teeth as their challenge for a place in the J1 really seems to be gathering some momentum. Mallow opened this tie much the stronger side and were ahead after six minutes thanks to a Cashman penalty.
The visitors were level two minutes later when Con Reynolds kicked his side's first opportunity.
Reynolds had his side in front on 18 minutes as he bagged his second penalty, which was given for more Mallow indiscipline at the breakdown. From there on in it was only Mallow that troubled the scoreboard as they snatched the lead back thanks to Walsh's terrific try. Two minutes after the restart Cashman stretched his side's lead with another cool finish before adding the insurance scores on 60 and 73 minutes.
Castleisland never looked like getting the difference down as they went in search of a score that would have garnered them a valuable losing bonus point with the boot of Doyle keeping them pinned back in their own corner for most of the last 15 minutes.
Mallow will now have to wait and see how Muskerry get on in their game against Presentation on December 30 to see who will be top of the pile come January 1 2013. MALLOW: D Walsh (Try), L O'Regan, A Cashman (4 pens),, R Weedle, L Browne, R McCarthy, O Glynn, D Murphy, O Horgan-White, J McAulliffe, N Lucey, J Sheehan, F Thornton, C O'Regan. Replacements: H Kenna, T Gardiner, A Twomey CASTLEISLAND: TJ Cashman, W Nolan, S O'Connell, S Flynn, S Brosnan, C Reynolds (2 pens), G Downey, K Downey, K Lyons, D Casey,T O'Sullivan, R O'Sullivan, M O'Sullivan, M Cronin, E McSweeney. Replacements: A Cauldwell, J McCarthy, D O'Connell REFEREE: M Corrigan