Thursday 18 July 2019

Dundalk loss from the jaws of victory

Wicklow 24 Dundalk 19

Dundalk player coach Mike Walls faces a battle to re-energise his team for Saturday's vital Leinster League clash in Ashbourne, after they suffered the most heartbreaking of defeats last weekend.

Facing one of the title contenders Wicklow, who have quickly established themselves in the top flight following promotion last spring, the away side looked to have snatched a crucial win when they were awarded a penalty try to take a 19-17 lead with the 80 minutes almost up.

The men from the Garden County had a man sin-binned following that incident, but they dug deep and five minutes into time added on they somehow breached the Dundalk defence and got over the whitewash for the decisive score.

Dundalk's defeat, their seventh of the season in the league, does little to aid their fight against relegation ahead of Saturday's crunch game against Ashbourne, who are just above them in the table.

Currently occupying the relegation play-off position, Dundalk are desperate to end a run of three defeats on the bounce and they come up against an Ashbourne side who have yet to discover the form that won them the league title last spring.

That said, they have qualified for the final of the All-Ireland Junior Cup where they will put their title on the line against Enniscorthy at the end of this month.

It remains to be seen which Ashbourne will turn up at their Milltown House grounds, and the same could be said of Dundalk who have been desperately inconsistent this season.

However, there were positives to take out from the performance in Wicklow and Walls, while ruing his team's inability to close out the game, feels a similar display over 80 minutes could yield a positive result.

Wing Patrick Reilly was on kicking duties for Dundalk on the day and enjoyed a good outing, missing just once. It was he who fired over a penalty in the early stages to give his team a 3-0 cushion.

With the set-piece performing up to scratch at usual, that should have given the visitors a platform to cause more problems for Wicklow, but they were sloppy in open play at times and Wicklow went in front with a converted try before Reilly made it a one-point game once more with his second successful kick.

Right on the stroke of half-time, though, Wicklow extended their lead to eight points with their second converted try.

Perhaps the break suited Dundalk more, for Reilly took advantage of Wicklow indiscipline to kick two more penalties on the restart, only for the hosts to push the lead back to five with a three-pointer of their own.

The Louth men kept coming, though, and they seemed to have stolen a priceless win when the referee ran under the posts to signal a penalty try following an infringement which saw a Wicklow player yellow-carded.

With Dundalk holding a 19-17 lead, they prepared for an onslaught during injury time and they survived one major scare when a Wicklow drop-goal attempt sailed wide of the target.

The resultant 22 drop-out was booted downfield, but back Wicklow came and the 14 men somehow found a hole in the Dundalk defence to get over for the match-winning try.

Dundalk: Sam Weber; Robert Williams, Patrick Reilly, Derek Williams, Laurence Steen; Jonathan Williams, Mike Walls; Jonathan Gray, Stephen Arrowsmith, Robert Farrell; Greg Whately, Enda Murphy; Alistair McCormack, James McConnon, Tiernan Gonnelly. Replacements: John Smith, Ciarán Lennon, Niall Smullen, Conor Williams, Ray McCabe.

The Argus