Dodd's army tops of Towns
Out-half on song for Dundalk as Fa'atau hails fighting spirit
DUNDALK 35 TULLAMORE 20
PROVINCIAL TOWNS CUP FINAL
It was a pulsating encounter from start to finish in Edenderry yesterday, but ultimately it was Dundalk who went away the happier as the Louth side secured their 10th Towns Cup triumph in fine style.
Tullamore had started the game at breakneck speed, and were threatening to run away with it, but Dundalk showed excellent composure to come back into it, with full-back Steven McGee and out-half John Dodd (with 30 points between them) their stand-out performers.
Having played into the previous two finals, the Offalymen looked the more experienced side going into this clash, and they seemed to use it to their benefit in the opening 10 minutes, taking a 10-0 lead with a try from second-row Dave Hanlon, as well as a conversion and penalty from winger Mark Whelan. But, as Dundalk player-coach Ene Fa'atau said in the aftermath of the game, there is tremendous belief in his team.
"They (Tullamore) came out firing, and they threw everything at us, but we've been talking about belief this whole year, just trusting and believing in ourselves. Just sticking to our system and that's what did it for us in the end," the former Samoa Sevens star said.
Indeed, this focus certainly did reignite the challenge of the Mill Road outfit, with Dodd finally opening their account with a penalty on 27 minutes, and they narrowed the gap to two with just four minutes of the half remaining when former Clongowes star McGee touched down to the right of the posts.
They ended the half by taking the lead courtesy of a Dodd penalty on the left wing, and Fa'atau felt it was crucial that they went in ahead.
"I think it was (vital to be ahead at the break). It was a mental thing. The first 20 minutes they were just banging away, but we got back into our groove, and things just started happening for us," he said.
"The boys were working hard, I just can't say enough for the boys. They deserve it, they put in the work for the whole year. Even today they just kept banging away, and if you knock on the door for long enough it just opens."
Dundalk were looking for revenge on Tullamore for their two semi-final defeats in 2009 and 2010, and they increased their lead upon the restart with a 30-metre drop-goal from the outstanding Dodd.
However, the Midlanders soon found themselves back in front with a try from centre Ivor Scully, converted by replacement John Moloney who made a big impact.
Things became frustrating for Dundalk for a while after this setback but they managed to regain the lead with 11 minutes of normal time remaining when wing Stephen Murphy touched down for a brilliant individual try.
Out of everything that happened in an action-packed encounter, Fa'atau felt that this period represented the biggest turning point for his charges.
"When we were only up by a couple of points, we steadied the ship with a drop-kick. Then they came back, but we still seemed to be in control. I think control for us today really was the key, especially in the last 20 minutes," he said.
Certainly credit must go to Dundalk, as they recorded their first win since 1987 in spectacular fashion, with the dynamic duo of McGee and Dodd grabbing a try apiece, with Dodd's try being particularly eye-catching as he intercepted a Tullamore pass before running unopposed under the posts.
This gave the Division 1A side a deserved 15-point victory and Fa'atau paid tribute to his backroom team.
"I'm lucky enough to have really good people with me like Barry Durnin, Pete Flanagan and Larry Stein," he said. "Those make it very easy for me, I don't have to worry too much about what's going on on the sideline, and so I can focus on my game."
DUNDALK -- S McGee; S Murphy, C Scully, MJ McKevitt (S Mulligan 77), D Guest (G Lynch 56); J Dodd, J Williams; K Dorian, C McDonald, R Donnelly (K Fearon 56); D Fearon, B Cunningham (S Soraghan 74); P Meegan, M Rowntree, E Fa'atau.
TULLAMORE -- M Brazil; C Hughes, K Scally, I Scully (P Gardiner 67), M Whelan (J Moloney 40); A Deverell, R Hughes; G Molloy, C Feighery, A Bracken; D Hanlon (D Milne 56 (D Hanlon)), I Deverell; C Cornally (K Browne 34 (C Cornally 62)), David Milne, A Hanley.
Ref -- P Haycock (IRFU)