All Ireland League – Old Wesley 15 Old Belvedere 15
Old Wesley stemmed the tide of 3 defeats when, in their local derby clash “around the corner” with Old Belvedere , after a pulsating contest which swung incessantly, they had to settle for a hard fought draw , with 2 valuable AIL points secured.
The spirit and commitment displayed by Wesley throughout the 80 minutes was impressive and reflected the concerted effort and preparation , of all concerned ,which went into this vital match.
Belvo started brightly and only very strong defence from Wesley kept their line intact , but at the expense of a converted penalty by Tim Foley after 5 minutes. After 15 minutes, Belvo doubled their lead with another penalty by Foley. Wesley , to their credit, hit back immediately and a ruck infringement by Belvo gave promising young full back , Jack Maybury, the opportunity from 45 metres and he duly slotted the ball between the posts with a superb kick. ( 6-3 Belvo).
The intensity shown by the Wesley forwards , with JJ O’Dea giving a great ball- carrying performance , drove Belvo back and , despite a lavish supply of possession, they were unable to breach the home defence, when a little more composure and accuracy with the final pass might have delivered a dividend.
Finally , after 33 minutes, Wesley got the breakthrough that their great efforts deserved when , after a number of sweeping movements , with right winger Eoghan O’Reilly to the fore, captain Darren Horan crashed over to the right of the posts for Maybury to add the points with a re-taken conversion ( 10-6 Wesley). Belvo stormed back before the interval and , again , the excellent Wesley defence kept their line intact , with centres Cillian Monaghan and James O’Donovan in particular, stiffening up the Wesley midfield significantly.( HT 10-6 Wesley).
Belvo increased their own intensity after the interval and after sustained pressure, Wesley conceded a penalty, which ace marksman , Foley, again converted after 47 minutes ( 10-9 Wesley).
Both sides slugged it out in a very physical but fair contest and , eventually after 68 minutes, Belvo regained the lead when Wesley conceded a penalty as Belvo’s rolling maul was getting very close to the visitor’s line. Whilst this converted penalty left Belvo 12-10 in the lead, there was a sense that Wesley ” escaped” with 3 points only from this passage of play.
Wesley now had to chase the game and , unfortunately , on 75 minutes, Tim Clifford was yellow-carded in his efforts to regain possession , and things now looked bleak for Wesley when Foley knocked over his 5th penalty to leave the scoreline 15-10 to Belvo, with time running out.
The final 5 minutes summed up the commitment and “never say die” spirit of the Wesley side , when , down to 14 men, they tore into their opponents and ,after a number of excellent phases, they created an overlap with an excellent “miss ” pass from replacement Adam Kennedy to the industrious Tommy O’Callaghan on the left wing , who showed great determination in grounding in the corner , despite the best efforts of 3 Belvo defenders.
With the scoreline at 15-15 and 2 minutes remaining , the tension was unbearable as Maybury stepped up to the difficult touchline conversion and , despite a superb contact, the ball just drifted to the right of the posts.
From the restart , a by-now 14 man rampant Wesley side threw everything at Belvo in pursuit of a late , late winner and the match ended with a relieved Belvo seeking the sanctuary of the touchline to bring proceedings to an end.
This was a great contest between 2 very committed sides and a duplication of these efforts in future matches will , undoubtedly , be accompanied by success. The fact that Wesley scored the only 2 tries of the match and presented a very determined and much- improved defence , will have been very encouraging for the visitors.
OLD WESLEY SCORERS – Tries- Darren Horan and Tommy O’Callaghan
Conversion/ Penalty– Jack Maybury
OLD WESLEY TEAM : Jack Maybury, Eoghan O’Reilly, James O’Donovan, Cillian Monaghan, Tommy O’Callaghan, Tim Clifford, Aaron Atkinson , Cronan Gleeson, Dave Rowley, James Burton, Donnchadh Phelan , JJ O’Dea, Darren Horan (c), Stephen Boyle, Kieran Murphy.
Replacements – Conor Maguire, David Henshaw, Josh Pim, Conor Barry , Adam Kennedy