By Kieran Murphy
TULLOW ladies rugby team produced a brilliant second-half performance to win their second Paul Flood Cup final in three years when they overcame the stern challenge of Tullamore by 24-7 in Donnybrook on Saturday.
After losing a league final two years ago at the same venue, the Slaneysiders were desperate to win this one.
A first-half try from Sara Rennick nudged them ahead but Tullamore hit back to lead 7-5 at the interval. The eventual winners survived some scary moments in the second half before tries from Ciara Kinch, Hilary Griffin and Lauryn Faulkner secured victory. This was one to savour for captain Alex O’Brien.
“It is a very proud moment. We have had such a wonderful group of girls all year. We couldn’t ask for better. They are so committed. Their strength all season has been their ability to battle. I am really so proud,” she proclaimed.
Earlier in the season Tullamore overcameTullow in the league and in the provincial AIL qualifying league final the Offaly side were only beaten 10-7. O’Brien anticipated a tight affair.
“No game is ever guaranteed. Tullamore have always given us such a wonderful game and today was no different. They put it up to us to the very end. The last try secured it for us,” she said.
The key moment may have been Hilary Griffin’s intercept try after Ciara Kinch had restored Tullow’s lead early in the second half. However, with Tullow leading 17-7 Chloe Farrell brought off a brilliant try-saving tackle on 66 minutes.
“Chloe is very good at making those breakaway tackles. She has been exceptional for us all year. She has been away since she joined the army. She has always committed to us and we love having her,” said Alex.
Tullow struggled in the first half. O’Brien says they were confident they could turn it around.
“We didn’t turn up in the first half. It was very close but in the second half we started to find our feet.
[Coaches] John Roche and James Foley have been super. They have made sure our fitness was kept up to scratch and we have never really had a down week. That is what the game is all about and this day is what it is all about.”