Gorey too strong for Naas in final
Leinster Under 16 final: Gorey 14 Naas 5
The Gorey Under-16s headed to Mullingar on St. Patrick's Day to take on Naas in the Leinster final.
The lads overcame Tullamore in a tough semi-final while Naas knocked out Enniscorthy. Naas had lost the Under-15 final last season so were going to be well fired up for this one.
The match had originally been set for Mullingar's grass pitch, but the heavy rain over the previous few days meant that the artificial surface was called in to action. On the journey up we travelled through some very heavy showers, but thankfully the rain then held off for the afternoon.
The lads played against the wind for the first-half. There was nothing between the teams initially, with both sides probing.
Any attacks by Naas were well dealt with by Lee Cushe, Michal Kruczek and Ross O'Loughlin, while Simon Campbell-Carty cleverly countered from their kicks.
As the game entered the second quarter, Gorey were spending more time in the Naas half. George Hadden, Seán Egan, Ewan Stephens, Evan Byrne, Shay Guilfoyle, Jack Higgins and Daragh Fitzpatrick all made great carries, but the Naas defence was excellent with some super tackling.
However, great clear outs by Seán Sawyer and Rory Tubritt kept the ball alive to be recycled for the next attack.
Finally, after 20 minutes, came the breakthrough. Seán Egan passed to George who burst through to the Naas five-metre line.
Ewan gathered and was almost held up short, but another big clear-out by Rory gave him the extra inches to score, with Lee then slotting a great conversion for 7-0.
Gorey survived a scare from the re-start, when not dealing with a long kick-off resulted in a needless Naas line-out, but they managed to clear their lines.
They then really went for Naas for the remainder of the half, with George, Brian Cushe and Shay all going close.
But the scoreline remained the same as the half came to an end, with Naas probably happy to be only seven down and still well in the game.
The second-half began as the first ended, with Gorey again on the attack. The forwards battered the Naas line repeatedly for five minutes until Jack Higgins decided to take over.
From a ruck a metre out, with the forwards lined up to have another go, he saw and dived though a small gap to score.
As if that wasn't enough, he then stepped up for a conversion, five metres from the sideline, to kick a super extra two points for 14-0, but still a long way to go.
Brian Cushe had a few darting runs down the wing, including a very clever kick and chase that almost paid off, but then Naas came back in to the game.
Their back line started stringing some passes together and gained in confidence. Ten minutes in to the second-half they scored a try, which was not converted, which crucially meant they had to score twice to win.
With tails up, they came at Gorey again. They almost got down the wing but good cover from Ewan and Shay resulted in a Naas player kicking out on the full when, if he had kept ball in hand, he might have done more damage.
The resulting line-out was most likely claimed by Adam Cleary as, in an outstanding performance, he had done so all day no matter which team had the throw.
Gorey's forwards and backs lined the field, making sure there was no gaps, and put in some great tackles to get through to the final few minutes.
Gorey hearts started to beat a little easier as it became clear that they were not going to cough up the two scores that Naas required.
Great scenes followed at the final whistle and the presentation as the Gorey lads celebrated a superb win with their parents and coaches.
All the squad are very grateful to J.P. Redmond and Nevil Copeland for their great help throughout the season.
Team: S. Egan, D. Fitzpatrick, E. Byrne, R. Tubritt, A. Cleary, S. Sawyer, G. Hadden, E. Stephens, J. Higgins, L. Cushe, R. Cleary, M. Kruczek, R. O'Loughlin, B. Cushe, S. Campbell-Carty, A. McNeill, J. Curley, S. Guilfoyle, E. McCrea, J. Milne, D. Sheridan, I. Moldes, C. Byrne.