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Sunday 16 June 2019

Houndogs show teeth in epic win

Houndogs 15 Rathdrum 7

Rathdrum’s Ciaran Phelan drives forward
Rathdrum’s Ciaran Phelan drives forward
The Rathdrum RFC and Houndogs teams after their pitched battle on St Stephen’s Day at the Ivy Leaf. Photos: Noel McMullen

For the 45th year Rathdrum RFC hosted The Houndogs on a beautiful St Stephen's day at the Ivy Leaf in Rathdrum.

This festive fixture is the longest running charity rugby match in Leinster and draws a large crowd from all over the county.

The Houndogs are an invitational team primarily from clubs across Wicklow, but also some from further afield.

This year the Houndogs were represented by former Rathdrum players, members of Greystones, Wicklow, Arklow, Cambridge University and a Hungarian International winger.

Started as fun game to run off the Christmas excesses, the annual event has become a great fundraiser for local charities and this year the club collected over €1200 for Rathdrum Cancer support services.

On a perfect day for rugby, with little to no wind and firm pitch underfoot, the Houndogs settled the quicker of the two teams.

It was obvious at an early stage that this would be a clash of two contrasting styles of rugby; the open free flowing devil may care attitude of the Houndogs versus controlled forward dominated 10-man style of the home team.

Throwing the ball wide at every opportunity it was the 'dogs who struck first getting Hungarian international winger Alastair Hill into space and his speed and evasive running style allowed him to cross the line for the game's first score.

Rathdrum responded with a try of their own soon afterwards. Rathdrum forwards worked the ball up into the opposition 22 and who else but veteran outhalf Conor Parsons dummied, shimmied and side stepped his way over the line and behind the posts to take the lead following the conversion.

The match will be remembered long by the sizable vocal crowd of over 200 for the intensity of the hits from both teams. Danny Dowling from Rathdrum, the Doyle brothers and Eoin O'Sullivan from the Houndogs all stopping attacks with thunderous tackles that drew groans from the crowd.

Following a period of intense pressure from the Houndogs, Rathdrum were penalised in their 22 and the visitor's opted for a shot at goal.

Not a usual call by the Houndogs, but in this instance the right one by captain Michael Doyle, as the score settled his team who almost from the resultant kick off scored the decisive try of the match.

The ball was worked up the field through an initial break by Dave Walsh who offloaded to his son Ted, who found winger Alastair Hill. Hill had only one thing on his mind like any good winger and a try close to the posts was the result. This was converted by Ted Walsh and the match finished 7-15.

Following the finish of the competitive game a further 10 minutes were plaid for those who may not have laced up boots in a few years. Houndogs shirt sponsor Dave McHugh, who played his first match back in 1989 in Con Cashman's field showed no sign of match rustiness in the centre. George Tice took his position at no.2 alongside his sons Dalton and Paddy and nephew Isaac and watched on by his World Cup hockey silver medallist daughter Elena showed that sporting prowess definitely runs through the family.

On the Rathdrum side, Morgan Sheridan and Ray 'Razor' Cooke rolled back the years and forgot the injuries to get their 10 minutes of physical activity this Christmas holiday.

Special thanks to all who helped out on the day, Neil and Grainne Short for cooking the famous chilli, Dave McHugh and Lineup SME for Houndogs jerseys, Kilbeggan whiskey, Nespresso, The Corner House Rathdrum and Phelans of Clash for spot prizes, The Cartoon Inn for the use of the "Coffin Shed" for the after match presentations and all the players and supporters who once again made time on St Stephen's day to support a great rugby tradition.

Houndogs: A O'Donnell, P Lynch, P Brennan, M Doyle (Cpt), I Phillips, D Tice, M Dowling, E O'Sullivan, A Doyle, P Tice, T Walsh, C Greagsby, D Walsh, A Porter, A Hill, J Dunne, G Tice, D McHugh. Management: J Cashman, D Walshe, H Cullen.

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