The Cork Admirals kicked off their 2016 season with an away trip to Munster rivals Waterford Wolves. The teams had met three times during the 2015 season with The Admirals on top on both occasions during the regular season but the Wolves pipping The Admirals to the IAFL Bowl by the smallest of margins. So it was with renewed vigour that The Admirals travelled to Waterford to start over on the quest for an IAFL 1 bowl and promotion to the SBC.
The Admirals were mixing a blend of the 2015 team, some promising rookies and a few overseas players who have settled in Cork. Also in a big development for the team from 2015 Head Coach Alan Lomasney was patrolling the sidelines again seeking to guide the team to promotion with Coach Séan MacKnight, Coach Trevor O'Connell and Coach Luke O'Brien alongside him rounding out the coaching team.
It was a dull, overcast and chilly day in Waterford with the expected sunshine staying away. Both teams were treated to an exceptional playing surface and grounds in the RSC Waterford to open their respective seasons.
After months of preseason practice and workouts the time to play some football had finally arrived. Cork kicked off and started strong with the defence setting the tone they wanted by posting its first three and out. The offence then went to work and seized the opportunity by scoring on the first drive of the game and season. RB Jason Dowling had a 30yd run on the first offensive play and TE Paul O'Driscoll followed it up with a long catch and run from a Steve Hayes pass. RB Brian MacCarthy punched it in from 5yds out for the first score of the season. Luke Abbot made no mistake with PAT and the Admirals led 7-0.
The game was put on hold for over an hour when Admirals Rookie Shane Dennehy was injured and taken to hospital by the attending ambulance. Best wishes to Shane in his recovery from everyone at the club and we hope to see you back on the field very soon. Also many thanks to long time Admirals Veteran Nic McSweeney who gave up his evening to accompany Shane.
When the game recommenced the two teams then traded possession and punts before a blocked punt gave the Wolves good field possession. The Admirals defence yielded one first down before Waterford were forced to attempt a long field goal which was converted from 40yds leaving the score 7-3. At that point the game was on and the next score would prove to be crucial.
Cork went looking for a reply and got it before the half. A long drive resulted in QB Hayes finding TE O'Driscoll in the end zone from 5yds to push the Admirals 13-3 up. Some tough runs from RB Brian MacCarthy and FB Jason Dowling kept the chains moving on the drive. Waterford were having some joy on special teams. A blocked PAT and a blocked FG kept the scoreboard stationary. The defence couldn't be broken down on the possessions in between and the score remained 13-3 at the half.
Cork received the kick off to start the third quarter and quickly turned possession into points again. RB Jimmy Diedrich had a monster third quarter coming up with two big runs of 50yds and 45yds and a TD. The Admirals Offensive Line of James O'Brien, Séan Cooke, Rob Hennessey and rookies Eoin Spillane and Séan Tynan were starting to take over the second half and the Admirals were moving the ball well on the ground. When Diedrich ran in from the halfway to make it 19-3 midway through the third it was going to be a tough ask for the Wolves to make a comeback.
On the next Admirals drive rather than go for it on fourth down from the Wolves 35 the Admirals chose to pin the opposition back deep and Luke Abbot executed a beautiful kick pinning the ball back inside the 10. On the next play the Wolves QB was dealt a bad snap and had no choice but to cover the ball for a Safety under pressure from LB Chris Allen. That left the score 21-3 nearing the end of the third.
Waterford just couldn't get any momentum going on offence with the Admirals defence applying serious pressure at this point. Second year LB Chris Allen kept up his 2015 form and got through for a couple of sacks. Rookie D Linemen Kieran Murphy and Bryan O'Brien had excellent first days out never yielding an inch. Veteran D Tackle Brian Leonard put in one monster hit knocking a ball loose which was pounced on by Romain Bereti for the games only turnover. The secondary of Ayo Mumuni, Luke O'Callaghan and including rookie Liam O'Leary made it hard for the Wolves to get anything going in the passing game. Defensive Captain Harris Monagan kept the whole unit in check coming away with a very solid first day out.
Heading into the final quarter the Admirals continued to pile on the pressure. The passing game was becoming more open and QB Hayes found targets in WRs Kieran Kiely, Andrew Lyons and TE O'Driscoll again. RB Diedrich got in on the passing game too with a nice 30yd catch and run. Hayes finished the drive with a nice play, dodging pressure to finding a sprinting MacGillycuddy in stride to scamper home for a 35yd TD strike leaving the score 27-3 to Cork.
The defence again stood firm and it left time for one more Admirals drive. Facing a fourth and long from the Wolves 30yd line Luke Abbott trotted out to attempt a 47yd Field Goal into a slight breeze. To the amazement of both sidelines and onlookers he nailed the huge kick with plenty to spare sending the Admirals home with a 30-3 win.
The Admirals are now up and running for 2016 with a 1-0 record. Next up is a home and away duo of games against the South Kildare Soldiers who had an impressive win also on Sunday.
Many thanks to all who participated in making the event including the Waterford Wolves, the team of officials and the ground staff in the RSC.
Many thanks also to our sponsors Stagparty.ie