Donaghadee certainly seems to have some luck with Saturday weather. For the second home league game in a row it was fine after a wet week. Last Saturday’s two games became only one when word arrived that Cooke had not been able to field a team to play Donaghadee Thirds in Minor League East 3. The Seconds game was against Ballyclare, and the pitch and climatic conditions were well suited to a game of exciting running rugby football. With the club’s First XV having a welcome week off, the only real rival attraction was the Ireland v. Samoa on TV. When Donaghadee’s excellent attacking play and relentless pressure in the opening minutes threatened the Ballyclare line again and again the large crowd of regular Dee men lining the pitch decided that they had made the right decision.
First to impress for the home side were Ally Lockhart, returning after two week‘s absence, and Paddy Quinn with some impressive foraging. The Donaghadee players gradually raised their game as it became obvious that the visitors’ only strategy seemed to be simply to kick any possession away. Any of these clearance attempts that stayed infield were greedily swallowed up by one of the waiting Dee men. Davy Thompson, looking anxious to test himself after a long and frustrating lay-off, fielded too many of these kicks for Ballyclare’s liking, since he repeatedly bludgeoned the ball back into the defenders’ danger zone each time to set up another attack.
This pressure, largely at this point being Thompo ably assisted by his forward colleagues, was bound to bear fruit. For fairy tale fans the finish was not quite right, even though it was excellent rugby. Disney studios would have scripted the inevitable try to Thompo, but a legion of tacklers brought him down on the goal line, and a quickly rucked ball gave Lockhart a split second. That was all he needed. As a determined upright ‘Clare defence came at him, the half-back chose the subterranean route and put the Dee’s first points on the board.
If Donaghadee’s outside-half Adam Cooper was annoyed at missing the conversion, it did not last long. Donaghadee’s backs ran a complicated inter-passing pattern, twice involving Ian Martindale, also back from absence, and when Cooper got the ball thirty metres out he half-dummied and then steamed through the totally wrong-footed defence for a stirring try – and a fine conversion kick by this impressive young man to make the score 12-0 to Donaghadee.
Backs doing the scoring was fine for most watchers, but Davy T had something to prove, even if it was to himself. At his next opportunity he slammed forward, and when his support and he were stopped briefly, it was the same hero who emerged and crashed over to put the mathematical stamp on the move when Cooper made it 19-0. Ballyclare were not to be totally denied in the half, and managed a penalty goal near the break.
The new half did not take too long before the scoreboard began clicking again. Strong Dee pressure made the ground, a ruck formed close to the ‘Clare line and stuck there for some seconds. When the ball emerged the ever-alert Lockhart grabbed it and was over for another five points before anyone else could react. Minutes later the fired-up Thompson got hold of the ball again and, festooned with support, crashed over for another stirring try. Cooper, fairly effortlessly, converted both and the scoreboard now read 33-3 to Donaghadee.
When Ballyclare’s next sally into Donaghadee territory went wrong, Lockhart grabbed the football and set his backs off again. This attacking run started inside the Dee “22” and finished with another try. Largely it was the slick inter-passing and good support running of Martindale and Michael Moore that combined to give the inevitable try to the latter and a new score of 38-3.
When another rampage by Donaghadee gave Andrew Cash the ball with a narrow corridor down his left wing he took it with aplomb, running round to go under the Ballyclare posts. Cooper added the points for 45-3. Ballyclare looked determined to finish with some credit and found a route through the Dee defence for what looked to be the final match score of 45-8. Ian Martindale had other ideas, and when he got possession on the restart he set out on a long curving run to his left that concluded when he scored Donaghadee’s final try for 50-8.
This piece is perhaps a good place to mention the efforts of team captain Andrew Dunn and team manager Ian Fleming who have worked hard moulding a group of rising young stars and a few stars of yesteryear into a strong and cohesive team – one that is in the top half of their league. These guys do not just win most of their games, but week on week they remind spectators and coaches that any one of them can step up a level to the rampant First XV if and when needed – something all ambitious sports teams need.
The group do not neglect the social and the fun side of rugby either. For their recent trip to Limavady in Junior League 2 the squad agreed to make it a “Pimm’s o’clock tour” and all, including supporting staff, travelled north attired as 1920s dandies, replete with straw boaters and “20s Man-about-town outfits.” Their manager is dropping hints that another special is due soon. One can only wait.
Donaghadee team: Michael Moore, Colin Smith, Chris McGivern, Ian Martindale, Andrew Cash, Adam Cooper, Alistair Lockhart; Adam Torrans, PhilMcCaughey, Phil Collins, Paul Ferguson, Andrew Dunn (c), Paddy Quinn, Gavin Prue and David Thompson.
Donaghadee’s 1st XV host UUC this week, the Seconds are away to Lisburn 3 and the Thirds also away, to Queens 4. All games to kick off at 2.30pm. At a 5.30pm kick-off time Ireland take on the might of the All Blacks in the new Lansdowne Road stadium. This game of course will be on the big screen at the Donaldson Park clubhouse. Why not watch the game among rugby people; the combined cheering might give Ireland the lift they surely need.
For Your Diary
The following week (27 Nov) the Firsts have a hard fixture away to Ballynahinch 2 in the Conference League 2, the Seconds will be away to Academy 2 and the Thirds are at home to Randalstown 3, both in the League. The club’s next pre match lunch is scheduled for Saturday December 4 immediately before the Firsts’ game against Lisburn. Reservations are already coming in, and anyone wishing to attend should contact Hans Arthur at Grace Neills Bar, or Club Hon Sec Jim McGrugan as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.