Wednesday 23 October 2019

Skerries in winner-takes-all fight

Rugby, Ulster Bank All-Ireland League Div 2B: MU Barnhall 41 - Skerries 10

Skerries are preparing to host fellow strugglers Dungannon this coming Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm) with their relegation fate still not decided - but crucially with their destiny in their own hands.

The Goats were well beaten by the already-confirmed champions MU Barnhall on their own patch, but defeats elsewhere for Galway Corinthians and Dungannon kept Skerries out of the bottom two and they will be safe from the drop if they beat the men from Tyrone at Holmpatrick.

With Sunday's Well already doomed to dropping out of the All-Ireland League, five other teams got into the final weekend of the regular season in a dogfight to avoid a likely relegation play-off against one of the top clubs from Division 2C, possibly Malahide.

One of those looking around nervously as they search desperately for the winning formula is Skerries and they will have to rediscover their top form to overcome Dungannon who themselves must pull off an away victory to ensure their own safety.

Skerries weren't expected to pull off a result on the playing fields of Maynooth University last Saturday, in a match played in cool, crisp, sunny conditions, and they were soon up against it.

Despite Barnhall's kick-off going directly to touch and the visitors being awarded a scrum on the half-way line, the champions were on the scoreboard almost instantly.

They won the scrum against the head and centre Mellett sliced through the defence and positioned a grubber kick perfectly for winger Lacey to score under the posts, with the try converted by out half Chester.

Shortly after, illegally handling in a ruck by Skerries allowed Chester to convert a penalty and two more tries quickly followed for Barnhall.

Skerries winger Paul Devitt, showing neat footwork, replied by scoring a try in the corner to give them a glimmer of hope, but approaching half-time Barnhall get their fourth and bonus-point try to leave the scoreboard reading 29-5.

The second half offered little solace to Skerries as Barnhall continued their high-octane, highly committed and skilled performance. Two further tries were added before Skerries replied with a second try through Devitt to complete the scoring.

In fairness to Skerries, fate conspired against them when a number of their selected team were unable to play for various reasons. This resulted in a major reshuffle, with replacements playing in unaccustomed positions against the best team in their league.

Barnhall were unlikely to under-perform and were in celebratory mode as they anticipated the post-match presentation of the Division 2B trophy in front of their large group of home supporters.

The young Skerries replacement players were to be commended for their competitive commitment, in particular Peter O'Neill, Robbie Murphy, Ross Gordon and David Goodman.

The backs tackled well in open field but had no answer for the quick recycle and high-powered Barnhall play. Forwards Ross Halligan, Ben Jenkinson and Michael Turvey never gave up and defended well.

But more will be needed as Skerries prepare for that winner-takes-all encounter with the visiting Dungannon side this coming Saturday.

Skerries: Kevin McGrath, Mikey Sherlock, Sean Dempsey, Paul Devitt, Conor Lennox, Blair Mills; Cormac Marrey, Kieran Leonard, Trevor Scuffil, Tom Mulvany, Ross Halligan, Michael Turvey, Ben Jenkinson, Evan Sherlock. Replacements: Conn Marrey, Johnny Sherwin, Robbie Murphy, Ruairi Woods, David Goodman.

Fingal Independent