Nolan lands pressure kick to seal Gorey win
GOREY'S UNDER-19 team faced their old rivals Wexford in the climax of the South East League. Gorey won the toss to have home advantage in this much-anticipated final.
These two talented teams had faced each other both home and away in the earlier stages of this very competitive league, with Wexford coming out victors on both occasions.
However, Gorey had shaved the Wexford advantage to just a few points in their last encounter and the home crowd eagerly waited to see if they could overcome their neighbours.
Conditions were sticky under foot after recent rain and a long season of wear on the pitch. Wexford immediately tested Gorey's full-back with a long high ball which their winger chased up and came out tops.
He ran a great line to avoid two Gorey defenders who lost their footing in the slippery conditions. So, after just a couple of minutes Gorey found themselves 7-0 down, after the easy conversion.
This wasn't the start Gorey would have hoped for and Wexford couldn't believe their luck to have put points on the board so early in the game. Gorey immediately put their gameplan into action and it wasn't long before Wexford were pushed back into their own '22.
The rucks were fiercely contested but Gorey were giving nothing away and only two minutes after Wexford's score, Gorey were awarded a penalty for holding on and James Nolan slotted over a difficult kick to draw the score back to 7-3.
Gorey lost their flanker, Eric Lacey, after just eight minutes due to an injury. He had been having a very good game up until then,contributing to Gorey's good scrummaging.
Gorey's scrum-half, Micheál O Scannáil, was having a great game and causing lots of problems to his opposing number, as well as feeding great ball to out-half Cathal O'Neill.
Gorey continued to make incursions into Wexford's half with some great passing through their centres and some good runs by Eoin Walsh at 13.
It wasn't long before Wexford were forced to concede another penalty, which was put away to bring the difference to just one point at 7-6 and it remained that way until half-time.
The second-half began with no changes of personnel and both teams went at it hell for leather, as they both realised the game was there for the taking. Wexford now began to put Gorey under pressure with long testing balls from their out-half.
Gorey's defence was resolute, with some crunching tackles coming in from captain Donnchadh Carroll and J.J. Earle. Gorey's Sam O'Keeffe came on for David Eikrem and took up position on the wing, with Jack Cleary moving to full-back.
Just moments after taking to the field, O'Keeffe made a tremendous tackle on his opposite number, who looked like he was through for a score.
Wexford continued to try to find a way through Gorey's line and were eventually rewarded with a penalty of their own with just ten minutes remaining, but the kick didn't have the required legs and the ball fell short and under the bar.
Gorey now went into overdrive and drove Wexford back into their own half with wave after wave of attack. Now it was Gorey's turn to have a shot, as they were awarded a penalty, with only five minutes of normal time remaining.
James Nolan stepped up once again and his shot seemed destined to float neatly between the posts, only for the wind to pick up and draw it just left of the upright.
Panic might easily have set in for most teams but Gorey were well-drilled and well-disciplined and they stuck to their gameplan and pinned Wexford into their '22 , with the opposition defending determinedly.
Just as it looked like Gorey would run out of time, the referee penalised Wexford once again for holding on and he made it clear that this would be the last play.
The pressure was palpable as James Nolan stepped up once again, with the wind now swirling around, to take an all-or-nothing kick.
Silence descended on the large crowd, only to be broken by the most tremendous roar as he slotted the ball over to give Gorey the 9-6 win. This score line doesn't fully reflect what a nail-biting encounter this game was, with tremendous play by both teams, who were fitting participants in this final.
This was a fitting end to a great season for a group of Gorey players who have given everything throughout the season and richly deserved this reward.
For some, this would be the last time they play together as a team, as some head off to college or further afield.
Gorey: Kallum O'Donoghue, J.J. Earle, James Mulligan, Josh Bergin, Zach Sinnott, Eric Lacey, Donnchadh Carroll (capt.), Harry Woods, Micheál O Scannáil, Cathal O'Neill, David O'Neill, James Nolan, Eoin Walsh, Jack Cleary, David Eikrem, Seán Mahon, Joe O'Loughlin, Charlie Wildes, Sam O'Keeffe, Chris Martin, Cian Savage, Eanna Crowe.
GALE CUP DERBY
The Under-20 Leinster Gale Cup draw threw up an intriguing derby tie between Enniscorthy and Gorey to be played on Saturday next, April 12, at Ross Road, Enniscorthy, with a 2.30 p.m. kick-off.
Enniscorthy under the leadership of captain Jack Murphy and vice-captain Davy Murphy will be looking for home advantage to give them an edge against a strongly-fancied Gorey outfit.
This game will give an indication of rising talent in both clubs.