Paul Flood Cup Final
By Kieran Murphy
TULLOW are the 2019 Paul Flood champions. For the second time in three years the Slaneysiders lifted the trophy which in stature has parallels with the Provincial Towns Cup for men.
The eventual winners came to Donnybrook on Saturday with questions surrounding their season. At one stage towards the latter end of the year a glorious treble was on offer, but they lost the All-Ireland Cup semi-final to Bohemians and the All-Ireland qualifying league final to Suttonians.
It would have been hard to take yet another defeat but sentiment and desire alone doesn’t mean victory. Also they were acutely aware that when they played a league final at the same venue two years ago they failed to perform and lost a game they would have fancied themselves to win.
Tullamore had beaten them once already this season so there was no sense of overconfidence going into the contest. Both sides enjoyed spells of dominance in the first half. Tullow started well with the wind in their backs blowing towards the Old Wesley end of the ground.
On 13 minutes the Slaneysiders, in a period of sustained pressure, sucked in the Tullamore cover and Sara Rennick cut inside her opposite number to dive over for the lead try. Tullamore used the strength of centre Caroline Aherne and number eight Rose Dunne in an effort to find holes in the Tullow defence. The eventual winners threw their bodies at everything that moved.
Eventually that pressure told and Anne Maree Manley dived through for a deserved try. Full-back Kim Cobbe converted the try to give Tullamore the lead.
The attrition rate was huge with players from both sides requiring attention at regular intervals in the half. A Tullow move saw the Tullamore defence bundle the ball-carrier into touch on 35 minutes. The eventual winners were unlucky when Hilary Griffin kicked long. The defence failed to gather the ball which ran ever so slightly away from the Tullamore winger. In their efforts to win turnover ball the onrushing Tullow attack were pinged for taking the player out when not in possession. It was a tight call and Tullamore survived to take a 7-5 lead into the interval. Leaving out the tackling, Tullow would have had to admit it was not one of their better halves of rugby.
That all changed in the second half. The ante was raised and five minutes in Ciara Kinch drove over for the lead try.
Four minutes later Hilary Griffin latched onto a poor Tullamore pass inside their own half and the full-back ran all the way to the posts for an opportunist’s try. Her conversion put her side 17-7 in front with 31 minutes left.
As happens in games like this Tullow seemed happy to hold what they had. Tullamore roared back and at times it looked as if they must score. It was ferociously competitive. Towards the end of the third quarter both teams were reduced to 14 within minutes of each other with the referee deeming Catherine Aherne of Tullamore and Jane O’Neill of Tullow to have taken out players with illegal high tackles.
Yet the game was never dirty or dangerous.
With 14 minutes to go Tullamore had an overlap wide right. They looked certain to score but somehow Chloe Farrell got across, invited the ball carrier go one way and when she did the Tullow centre executed a brilliant try-saving tackle. Tullamore never really got another chance after that.
Instead, going into injury time Lauryn Faulkner scored her side’s fourth try which by that stage was just the icing on the cake.
A magical and a never-to-be-forgotten day for Tullow at what is spiritually the home of Leinster rugby. This is one for the record books.
Tullow: Hilary Griffin, Sarah Rennick, Chloe Farrell, Jane O’Neill, Alex McNeill, Catherine Dempsey, Ann Marie Fitzgerald; Ciara Kinch, Katie O’Brien, Amy McGrath, Nicola Caldbeck, Lana Brennan, Clare Nolan, Ciara O’Dwyer, Alex O’Brien. Subs: Helen O’Brien for Lana Brennan (19 mins), Lauryn Faulkner for Brennan (29 mins), Ciara O’Brien, Tara Caldbeck, Ashling Carroll, Alice Carroll, Aoife Nolan.
Tullamore: Kim Cobbe, Katie Hanlon, Caroline Aherne, Orlaith Foxe, Roisin Kane, Pauline Keating, Ashling Magner; Robin Maher, Roisin Feighery, Katie Murray, Ciara Farrell, Sinead Rigney, Anne Maree Manley, Rose Dunne, Emer Phelan. Subs: Sarah Jane O’Connor, Moya Griffin, Chloe Carroll, Ayesha Roche, Katriona McInerney, Jane O’Reilly.
Referee: Paul Dolan (ARLB)