independent

Saturday 27 May 2017

Magnificent Malahide are heading to AIL

Malahide 34 Clonmel 9

Paul Byrne

Malahide sealed promotion to the AIL in style as they powered away from a tiring Clonmel in the final twenty-five minutes to cap a dream season for Ricky Evans' side.

Malahide's second successive victory in the Ulster Bank League Round Robin gave them an unassailable lead with a game to spare in the four-team group and once the final whistle blew the celebrations began in earnest for the North Dublin outfit. The victory caps a remarkable couple of years for Malahide who will play in the Senior Ulster Bank All Ireland League for the first time in their history. Not bad for a side who were plying their trade in Division 1B this time last year.

Under coach Rick Evans' guidance the men from Malahide have improved immeasurably in recent seasons with two successive league wins now followed by promotion to the AIL. Malahide began their round robin campaign with a lacklustre 26-17 win up in Omagh last weekend and knew they must improve if they were to beat a very physical Clonmel side.

The game started with the men from Tipperary bossing things as they used their powerful front row to push Malahide back to dominate the early exchanges. Malahide were let off the hook in the fifth minute as Clonmel missed a kickable penalty but two minutes later they did fall behind as they conceded another penalty which was successfully kicked over this time around.

Clonmel would have been disappointed to have only put three points on the board having dominated the opening twenty minutes and they were made pay with an outstanding long range kick from the dead eyed Conal Keane who made it 3-3 after 25 minutes. That penalty seemed to settle Malahide down and just five minutes later they were in front as captain fantastic John Shine ran through a ruck before barrelling over the line to put his side 8-3 up. Conal Keane made no mistake with the conversion and suddenly Malahide were seven points clear.

The momentum was with the Dubliners now and they made that count as they finished the half with a flourish with Marcus McAllister scoring a wonderful try as he sidestepped his man before running in at the corner to make it 15-3 at the break. Given Clonmel's superiority for much of the half Malahide would certainly have been happy enough with that half-time scoreline.

The second half saw Clonmel step it up once more and two penalties in the space of five minutes saw Malahide's lead reduced to six and it looked as though we were set for a tense dramatic finale at Estuary Road. However, the Munster men visibly wilted and seemed to run out of steam as Malahide's fitness shone through in the final quarter. Eoin Crowley and Leo Weiss both scored almost identical tries in quick succession to stretch Malahide's lead to eighteen points with the scoreboard reading 27-9.

By now Clonmel looked a beaten team and Malahide capped a fine second half performance and more importantly promotion to the AIL with a try under the posts from Mark Hewitt. A typically excellent display from one of the finest teams Malahide has ever produced. After the game club president Alun Brophy was lost for words as he tried to put his team's achievements into perspective.

'This is all just so surreal. I honestly can't get my head around it. I'm just so proud to be part of this wonderful rugby club and so proud of the players, coaches and supporters who have helped us get to where we have reached today. We sat down a couple of years ago to map out a path for this side but nobody ever thought we would get to this point so quickly. I have to give a special mention to Rick Evans who is not only a great coach but also a great friend of everybody involved in Malahide rugby. He has come in and raised standards in the club and as well as that he has embedded himself into the community and truly embraced the club. We can't thank him enough for all he's done for Malahide rugby,' stated an emotional Alun.

Fingal Independent

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