After a six week break the Donaghadee first fifteen players welcomed visitors Omagh to Donaldson Park for another crucial league fixture. With the Dee smarting from a 35-15 reverse in Omagh back in October, coaches Ian Martindale and Jimmy McCoy were looking for a much improved performance. Playing up the ‘slope’ in the first half, Donaghadee's scrum-half Paul Johnston was quick to break through the Omagh defence only for his pass to fail in finding his support players and open the Dee scoring. The ever alert Davy Thompson then gathered a loose ball to take play to within the Omagh line. Johnston quickly spotted the opening for the team’s first try. Richard Millar was unable to add the conversion.
Omagh's response was immediate as their well drilled forwards forced the Dee to concede a penalty, with second row Mervyn Edgar’s attempt dropping short from the halfway line. The rampaging Donaghadee prop Chris Schofield and hooker Paul Hamilton then carried play into the Omagh half, only for the referees whistle to penalise their efforts for holding on. Another break by Dee centre Bobby Harper and Hamilton led to a scrum on the Omagh twenty two. The Dee front row of Schofield, Hamilton and captain Chris Good once again forced Omagh to concede a penalty, with Millar adding the points to increase the Dee lead to 8 – 0.
An attempted kick through by the Dee out-half Paul Blewitt was hacked through by Omagh winger Alan Heaney deep into the Dee twenty two, forcing the Dee to give away a penalty. The kickable attempt at goal was turned down, with the penalty being kicked instead to the corner. With a catch and drive, the Omagh forwards drove hard to the Dee line, only for the Dee defence to turn the ball over to allow Blewitt to clear his lines. Omagh's loose-head prop Stephen Rutledge continued to get through a lot of hard graft as he urged his players on only for the well organised Dee defence to prevent Omagh from scoring.
The Dee then went on to miss a golden opportunity to add to their scoreline. From a lineout on the Dee ten metre line, clean ball from Millar was swiftly moved by Johnston to Blewitt who fed centre Gavin Gordon. Gordon then exchanged passes with winger Rory Garnham only for Graham to be tackled short of the line. Omagh again conceded a penalty, with Millar pushing his attempt wide. Omagh then carried play deep into the Dee twenty two for Edgar to reduce the deficit with a well struck penalty. Within two minutes the Dee team had stretched their lead with a well worked try. Schofield gathered a loose ball to take play deep into the Omagh half. Blewitt’s quick ball allowed full back Billy Allen to hit the line at pace. His pass to winger Garnham allowed this ‘speedster’ to outstrip his opposite number from thirty five yards for an excellent try in the corner. Again Millar was unable to add the difficult conversion.
Omagh then turned a quick Dee penalty to force a lineout on the Dee twenty two. A crooked throw allowed the Dee to clear their lines. Once again Garnham and Gordon showed Donaghadee's other winger Andrew Findlater in for a stirring try in the corner. Millar was again unsuccessful with the touchline conversion to leave the Dee leading 18 – 3 at halftime.
An injury to Dee flanker Stuart Hutchison forced him to retire from the pitch. Despite being reduced to 14 players the Dee team were quick to score their fourth try. A kick and pick up by full back Billy Allen put centre Bobby Harper away for another try in the corner. Millar added the touchline conversion to increase the Dee lead to 25 – 3. The Omagh side, with Edgar particularly prominent, continued to play their part in a hard fought physical encounter on a heavy pitch. After a Omagh attack broke down in the Dee half, Allen's deep kick was gathered by Garnham to once again outstrip the Omagh cover and score his second try in the corner. Once again Millar could not add the points.
This resilient Omagh team were not going to give in, and were denied a try when winger Andy McFarland's kick through went into touch just short of the line. With Blewitt clearing the Dee lines, Findlater was denied another try after good ball from a Dee lineout. Omagh surged back up into the Dee twenty two. After a period of pressure Omagh scored a well deserved try through second row Edgar at the posts. The same player then added the points to his conversion. With the Dee players tiring, Millar's long range penalty attempt from the halfway line dropped short. The gathering clearance kick was picked up by second row Davy Thompson who attempted an audacious drop goal attempt from 35 metres, to bring the game to its conclusion. The scoreline may have flattered the Dee, as Omagh played their part in this thrilling encounter. Both teams will have benefited from this bruising encounter as the Dee now prepare for a busy Towns Cup/Junior Cup and League campaign in the coming weeks and months. From 1 – 15 the Dee players all contributed to this excellent result.
Donaghadee team 1. Chris Schofield, 2. Paul Hamilton, 3. Chris Good (captain), 4. David Thompson, 5. Kyle Morrow, 6. Stuart Hutchinson, 7. Chris Hamilton, 8. Richard Millar; 9. Paul Johnston, 10. Paul Blewitt, 11. Rory Garnham, 12. Bobby Harper, 13. Gavin Gordon, 14. Andrew Findlater, 15. Billy Allen.
Crawford Cup - Donaghadee 2nd XV 5-22 Belfast Harlequins 3rd XV Minor League East - Bangor 3rd XV vs Donaghadee 3rd XV - game postponed due to unplayable pitches at Upritchard Park.
An apology to the players of Omagh and Belfast Harlequins who visited Donaldson Park on Saturday: Unfortunately the recent weather cut off the water supply to the club on Saturday, after a burst pipe was discovered in the carpark. This meant that all players from the four teams, and in particular the visiting teams from Omagh 1st XV and Belfast Harlequins 3rd XV were unable to shower after their matches, which were played in particularly muddy conditions. The club would wish to apologise to all these players. This was a situation beyond our control, and steps will be taken to have this burst pipe mended prior to the two home matches at Donaldson Park on Saturday 23rd January.