Tries: R Deverell, D Milne, C Hughes
Conv: A Deverell (3)
Pen: A Deverell
Try: C Dyra
Pen: R Cafferkey
WESTPORT’S All-Ireland Junior Cup voyage hit rocks at Spollanstown on Saturday as Tullamore booked their ticket to the decider at the expense of the West Mayo men.
The intensity of the contest was evident from the kick-off and, even in the final minute, the battle at the breakdown was bone-crunching and fiercely-contested. There was a real feel that this was the last game of the season for both sides, as they were saving nothing and freely dipping into reserves.
The contest was decided in the engine room and, while Westport were hard to fault in that area, there is no escaping the fact that the Leinster League side had the edge overall.
The powerful Adrian Hughes at eight was always going to be their battering ram and he delivered in fine style. Their half-back pairing of the abrasive Richie Hughes and skillful Aaron Deverell also deserve credit.
Tullamore led 16-3 at half time, scoring key tries at the top and tail of the half; Rory Deverell got the first, after a series of phases in the visitors ‘22’ that stretched the Bulls defence to breaking point and quick hands out wide for a definitive early statement.
Westport, roared on by a huge travelling support, that included their mini rugby section who had played their Tullamore counterparts in the pre-match warm-ups, gradually began to assert themselves on proceedings.
Their response came in the shape of a Ryan Cafferkey penalty after a Kevin Corcoran kick and chase led to Tullamore’s infringement.
That settled the nerves and increased belief but over the next 20 minutes Tullamore added two penalties through the boot of Aaron Deverell for an 11-3 lead. Those scores underlined their extra edge in the contest. Powerful back row play and a direct fringe-busting attack had the Bulls back-pedalling.
The game’s key score came on half-time as second row David Milne finished off another overlap that had resulted from intense sustained pressure.
Westport had their chance late on in the half to add to their tally but a five-metre lineout went awry and the home side survived.
After half-time the Bulls didn’t yield and, if anything increased the intensity.
The half didn’t see a score until the final ten minutes and Westport certainly had the edge in terms of territorial advantage. Tullamore shipped two yellow cards for Paul McNiff and Thomas Bennett but Dave Keane was pinged for hands in the ruck soon after the second home sin-binning, negating the advantage.
Colin Hughes scored a third try for Tullamore — made by that man Hanley— with five minutes remaining while Christy Dyra responded for Westport after a line-out drive from a fired-up pack.
The game had numerous other highlights for the visitors, none more so than the huge ovation reserved for Eddie Walsh who put in a huge effort over his 65 minutes before being replaced.
Throughout the side Westport had heroes; examples include Mark Gillian’s try-saving first half tackle, the tireless work-rate of Brian O’Donnell and Eoin Joyce. Matthew Walsh’s tremendous strength at scrum time, Chris Ryan’s work at the breakdown and a huge effort from Dave Keane and Peter Corcoran in the back row also.
Yet, in the end, Tullamore’s Cup know-how and finishing ability proved key.
C Draper; C Hughes, D Clavin, T Gilligan, R Deverell; A Deverell, R Hughes; T Bennett, C Glennon, E Brady; D Milne, I Deverell; K Browne, R Connor, A Hughes.
Replacements used: J Clancy, G Molloy, I Scully, P McNiff.
R Cafferkey; M Gillian, E Joyce, B O'Donnell, K Corcoran; E Walsh, T Ellard; M Cronin, C Dyra, M Walsh; N O'Neill, T Dever; C Ryan, D Keane, P Corcoran.
Replacements used: JP Walsh, D O'Toole, D Conway.
Referee: F Murphy (Munster)