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Star McCullagh turns Hospital passes into try bonanza

There was no disguising the standout figure in this one as King's Hospital left wing Paul McCullagh finished with four blistering tries at Donnybrook yesterday.

The new state-of-the-art surface lends to a quick tempo and the difference in speed between these two was undeniable.

The disparity was not apparent in the opening exchanges as Gorey went to their stock-in-trade narrow game, their captain Paul Boyle a real target for them.

It didn't take KH too long to see this and send multiple defenders in to limit Boyle's influence as well as that of tight-head Conor Fitzpatrick. Once they were shut down, Gorey were short on ideas.

When Hos' out-half Rob Lawless shot through the middle for the opening try, converted by full-back Sam Dowds, the confidence just drained away from Gorey.


Their only real opening came from a penalty for out-half Michael O'Scanaill which he struck well but short into a swirling wind.

Chances were at a premium for Gorey and not even a sparkling break and grubber from centre Aaron Davies could get them going.

In fact, it was just when the Wexford boys threatened to make a game of it that KH countered with speed for McCullagh to post the first of his quartet.

He was back in full stride almost immediately as his solo run took him down the left touchline and outside the cover for 19-0 in the 24th minute.

Gorey scrum-half Chris Martin tried to orchestrate front-foot ball through the power of captain Paul Boyle and prop Conor Fitzpatrick. But, they were well marshaled.

It came to nothing. Lawless broke from deep to feed centre Rolus Olusa for the next seven-pointer on the half-hour and McCullagh wrapped up his hat-trick from an inside ball by Olusa for 33-0 on the half-time whistle.

It was difficult to know what the Gorey coach could say to his players during the interval. The speed of the flawless surface makes for flowing rugby, aiding the athleticism, pace and organisation of King's Hospital as time and again Hos came from deep to cut Gorey up in the wide channels.

This was a damage limitation exercise for the McMullen Cup qualifiers. They just were not equipped to play at this pace.

It didn't take McCullagh long to appear on the edge of an attack for his fourth try, right wing David Smith grabbing the seventh in the 43rd minute.

Any independent observer's heart would go out to an overmatched collective especially their captain O'Boyle who made numerous carries and tackles, one in particular as he hunted down a certain try.

It made little difference as one phase later centre Olusa glided over to the right.

The advent of driving rain did interfere with KH's flow of traffic and the willing hits from Gorey began to shake the ball free.

Still, replacement Daniel Courtney karted the ball for another, number eight Matthew Bursey slid in on the wet surface and Olusa concluded his impressive showing with his hat-trick on the final whistle.

King's Hospital: S Dowds; P McCullagh, R Olusa, W Potterton, D Smith; R Lawless, R Sharkey; J White, J Perry, C Petit, F Shilling, J O'Reilly, S Kane, S Charman, M Bursey. Replacements: S Doyle for Kane 28 mins; D Courtney for Smith, C Murphy for Charman both 51 mins; O Onolemomem for White 54 mins; S Le Roux for Sharkey 60 mins.

Gorey: L Willoughby; D Sweeney, J Roche, A Davies, W Hurley; M O'Scannaill, C Martin; D Bellanova, J O'Loughlin, C Fitzpatrick, M Wafer, A Masterson, R Doyle, D Garz, P Boyle (capt). Replacements: C Savage for Hurley 41 mins; A Carey for Wafer 43 mins; L Molloy for Garz 56 mins; M Browne for Fitzpatrick, R Hughes for Martin, C Coates-Nolan for Roche all 60 mins; J Redmond for Carey 62 mins.

Referee: B Armstrong, Leinster Branch.