Young Skerries put it up to Wanderers
Rugby: Ulster Bank All-Ireland League - Wanderers 20 Skerries 8
A youthful Skerries team put on a heartening performance despite going down to Wanderers at Merrion Road in their penultimate AIL match of the season last Saturday.
For the first time this year there was a hint of spring in the air and the Goats - safe from any threat of relegation and with no pressure - made a number of changes to their starting line-up.
Ben Jenkinson returned from injury to start in the second row along with Sean Attley, Dan Egan moved from wing to wing forward and Michael Turvey went to centre in place of the injured Mikey Sherlock.
Just as the game was to start, the heavens opened and there was a lot of surface water on the pitch, which made life very difficult for both sets of players.
Within 90 seconds Wanderers make the best of starts with a quick-fire try which was duly converted to make the score 7-0.
To Skerries' credit they regrouped from their shaky start and took the game to Wanderers. A number of phases between backs and forwards led to a break into the Wanderers 22, but a tip tackle on a Skerries back resulted in the referee showing the Wanderers player a red card after only 10 minutes of play.
From the resulting penalty, Skerries went to the corner, but after some good defence a turnover was conceded and Wanderers cleared their lines.
Michael Turvey was making inroads in the centre, but some inaccurate passes with a very slippery ball cost them a try or two and Skerries' only success was a great penalty from the half-way line by Billy Mulcahy - 7-3.
Ross Dempsey went off injured and Colin Doyle came into the centre at this point.
Wanderers kicked a penalty and five minutes from half-time they punished some poor tackling to score under the posts - 17-3 approaching half-time.
Skerries' lineout was functioning well, with Ben Jenkinson the source of good ball.
Ross McAuley was his normal industrious self and Skerries were unlucky not to reduce the deficit before the interval.
The incessant rain stopped, but there was still a lot of surface water lying on the pitch. Both sets of players, to their credit, tried to play some decent rugby but were unable to add to the scoreboard for the first 25 minutes.
Wanderers repelled each Skerries attack with a lot of double tackles to put Skerries on the back foot at times.
At about the 65-minute mark a change of direction from Mulcahy allowed Skerries attack up the short side and quick hands allowed Mark Oliver to score in the corner. Mulcahy was just short of the long conversion, but Skerries were on the move to chase down at least a bonus point. Jenkinson was to the fore, but after a chase from a high box kick the referee adjudged him to have caught the player in the air, with the resulting penalty by Wanderers making it 20-8.
The visitors still went in search of that bonus point with some good attacks from McAuley, Ruari Woods and Paul Devitt, but again the last passes wouldn't go to hand.
Cian McGuinness replaced Sean Attley, Conn Marrey came in for Barry Murphy and then Dan Egan, and Conor Ronayne replaced Cormac Marrey, and they all contributed without making that elusive breakthrough.
Skerries play their final AIL match against Dungannon at Holmpatrick next Saturday, kick-off at 2.30pm and the team and management hope there will be a big crowd to support the team.
Meanwhile, in the Metro League 4 Final played last Friday night Skerries' J1 side defeated Malahide 27-10, securing promotion to Division 3 for next season.
Needless to say, the celebrations went on long into the night and weekend and some of the credit for the success must go to the coaching and management of Rock McMahon, Dean Brassington, Nicky McDonough, Derek O'Sullivan, Geoff Duff and Emma Quirke.