ENERGIA All-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B
Naas 36 – UCC 24
Match Report: Mark Herbert
Photos: Michael Linehan
After their defeat away to Highfield on January 12th last in the 2023/2024 Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B, Naas had the chance to regain winning ways when they entertained another Cork side in the shape of UCC last Saturday afternoon. Due to the counter attraction of the Leinster v Leicester game, and the fact that it was a bitterly cold day, a smaller than normal crowd was in attendance. However, those that did turn up when treated to a fine game, which was a credit to both sides considering the conditions they had to deal with.
There was a gale force breeze blowing straight down the pitch, and Naas played with the advantage of it in the first half. The home side knew that they would need to obtain a decent lead by the interval, so they would have been dismayed to have conceded the first score after ten minutes. The UCC wing forward Jacob Sheehan made a break in midfield, and when he was hauled down the ball was shifted out to the left wing, where Tom Coughlan was waiting. He sprinted down the wing, evading a couple of despairing tackles before finishing in style. Cian Whooley added the conversion and UCC led by seven points to nil.
Naas roared back into the attack but were frustrated by some fine defending by the visitors until the 29th minute. Then Naas managed to turnover a ball in midfield before shipping it quickly out to Charlie Sheridan, and he needed no second invitation, racing away to score. Craig Ronaldson added the conversion to level the scores.
The latter narrowly missed with a penalty attempt on 34 minutes, but within seconds Naas were in front. Straight from the drop-out restart Muiris Cleary found a hole in the UCC defence and there was no stopping him as he galloped away to score. Ronaldson again added the conversion to make it 14-7 to Naas, which proved to be the interval score, although Fionn Higgins nearly added another try just two minutes later, when he was just unable to ground the ball after a brilliant break.
However, the general opinion at the break was that seven points was nowhere near a big enough lead for Naas, considering the wind advantage that UCC would have in the second half. The home players proved this to be wrong emphatically. Whatever coach Johne Murphy said to them at the break certainly worked the oracle, as they soon stamped their authority on the game. Just three minutes after the restart some great handling by the backs put Sam Cahill away and he finished in style in the corner, and by the 48 minute Naas had secured their try bonus point. On this occasion Fionn Higgins put in a chip that was taken by Louis Bruce, but he was almost immediately buried by the on-rushing Higgins. Naas quickly recycled the ball, before moving it out to Charlie Sheridan to score. With Craig Ronaldson converting the second of these tries Naas now led by 26-7.
However, with such a strong breeze behind them UCC were always going to have a spell of dominance, and they reduced the margin after 55 minutes when some good work by their pack drove Naas back, creating space out wide for Peter O’Sullivan to score. Then on 62 minutes following a UCC five-yard scrum, there was a series of pick and drives by their pack before they allowed their backs take over, leading to a Louis Bruce try. With Cian Whooley converting both tries, suddenly UCC was right back in the game, just five points down at 26-21.
Any doubts about Naas winning this game were erased on 72 minutes. UCC were awarded a scrum just inside their own half, but a great Naas shove drove them right off the ball. Bryan Croke put in a kick over the visitors’ defence and Derry Lenehan was onto it in a flash. He fly-kicked it ahead and won the chase for the touchdown for the score. Into an ever-strengthening wind the conversion was missed, but Naas now led by 31 points to 21.
Somewhat surprisingly UCC elected to go for the posts when awarded a penalty on 78 minutes, which Cian Whooley successfully kicked, but it was Naas who had the final say, when in injury-time Bryan Croke broke down the blindside to get in for a sixth try of the afternoon for the home side. The conversion was missed but Naas had emerged victorious by 36 points to 24.
All in all, a decent afternoon’s work by Naas, with the full five points on offer taken and winning ways resumed. Next up for them is an away trip to Buccaneers next Saturday afternoon. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and as always all support will be greatly appreciated.
Naas: Fionn Higgins, Donal Conroy, Charlie Sheridan, Craig Ronaldson, Sam Cahill, Bryan Croke (capt), Derry Lenehan, Jordan Duggan, Neil O’Hanlon, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, David Benn, Conor McVerry, Paul Monahan, Muiris Cleary, Eoin Walsh. Replacements: Adam Coyle, Conor Doyle, James O’Loughlin, Cillian Dempsey, Jack Sheridan, Ben Noone.
UCC: Louis Bruce (capt), Sean Condon, Darragh French, Peter O’Sullivan, Tom Coughlan, Cian Whooley, Andrew O’Mahony, Michael Cogan, Luke McAuliffe, Daniel McCarthy, Jason Aherne, Sam O’Sullivan, Nathaniel Edogbo, Jacob Sheahan, Eanna McCarthy. Replacements: Adam Wrona, Alex Hamilton, Patrick McBarron, Peter Hyland, Jack O’Sullivan, Billy Kiernan.
Referee: Oisin Quinn.