The Cork Admirals won their first home game of the 2016 in impressive fashion beating the South Kildare Soldiers 24-0 in a wet and windy Carrigaline RFC. Cork was subject to some pretty heavy rainfall during the week preceding the game which resulted in the fixture being moved from the Admirals home in Dolphin RFC. Conditions at kickoff were tough going to say the least with the ground very heavy underfoot, a strong breeze and squally showers rolling through. With the clouds darkening at the off it was never going to be easy for either team to flex their passing games.
The Admirals took to the conditions better though and the defence was able to pick up from where they left off in Waterford. A three and out on the first drive was highlighted by a big hit behind the line by linebacker Romain Beréti and a nice pass breakup by rookie cornerback Liam O’Leary. The offence was able to get the ball moving on the ground with running back Brian MacCarthy to the fore but the drive stalled in the red zone resulting in a FG attempt from Luke Abbot. The conditions; which were to play havoc with both teams special teams all day; made executing the kick difficult and the FG was blocked by the Soldiers.
The defence was in mean form in the first half and the Soldiers were finding it hard to get anything going. Rookie defensive tackle Bryan O’Brien got into the backfield for a couple of stops and Beréti was shutting down the run. The secondary were playing tight and the pass rush was putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. In fairness to the Soldiers they came to play and were unlucky to have a big gain on a fake punt called back on a procedural penalty. They also kept on trying the deep ball and had a big gain on one completion resulting in safety Ayo Mumuni chasing down a receiver sprinting down the sideline. That play led to the Soldiers best chance for a score but the defence held firm on four downs from inside the ten.
The offence was ticking over nicely and the Soldiers had no answer for the Admirals run game in the first half. Running backs Brian MacCarthy and Jason Dowling were racking up the yards, both going over 100 in the first half. The O-line of Countdown guru Séan Cooke, James O’Brien, Rob Hennessey, Eoin Spillane and Séan Tynan were in dominant form. Four touchdowns from four consecutive drives were enough to put the Admirals in a great position with three from MacCarthy and one from Dowling. The highlights of the offence in the first half were the sniping runs of MacCarthy, an 85yd TD run from Dowling and one huge block from guard Séan Tynan coming around the corner in front of the Admirals bench. The Admirals did flounder on extra point and 2 point conversion attempts going 0 for 4 to leave the score at the half Admirals 24 Soldiers 0.
If conditions were poor at kickoff then they were worse during the second half. The Soldiers again showed they hadn’t given up on the game and caught the Admirals by surprise executing an onside kick to reclaim possession to open the second half. A sack by linebacker Harris Monagan stopped the drive momentarily. The Soldiers were still in pass happy mode and attempted over thirty passes over the course of the game but the Admirals secondary including O’Leary, Mumuni, Luke O’Callaghan and veteran John O’Sullivan yielded very little, getting in the way of a lot of throws and knocking the ball down. The Admirals were then to suffer the first of two big setbacks on the day. Linebacker and tackling machine Chris Allen was ejected after a hit on the quarterback was called for a targeting foul. Allen dived forward in an honest attempt to sack the quarterback in the act of throwing but was adjudged to have made contact with the crown of the head first and not his shoulder. A tough call on the player who took it well. The drive ground to a halt however when Liam O’Leary picked off a ball in the red zone for his first career interception.
The Admirals were moving the ball well again in the third quarter. Rookie running back Fergal Buckley cranked up some nice runs on his first career carries but the Admirals couldn’t punch it in and a fumbled snap in the mud led to the Admirals first turnover of the year. If the first setback was big the second was a huge blow to the Admirals season. Quarterback Stephen Hayes; who was having a quiet day throwing the ball but keeping the offence ticking over nicely; suffered a bad leg injury. On a first down from the halfway he dropped back to pass and avoided the first rusher, he suffered a nasty hit after he tucked the ball to run getting hit low around the ankles. The ambulance was called for and after a long delay Steve was stretchered from the field with the remainder of his season in doubt.
After the delay the teams traded drives before the close. Cork came close to adding a fifth score but were held up on four attempts from inside the five. The secondary again shut down the Soldiers passing game and in deteriorating field and weather conditions the game petered out with no further scores. Admirals 24 Soldier 0.
So the Admirals move to 2-0 on the season but now have to plan without 2015 MVP Stephen Hayes for the foreseeable future. Stephen is and has been a huge part of the Admirals both on and off the field. Everyone at the club wishes Steve a speedy and full recovery and is looking forward to seeing him back under center. The Admirals also now have to plan for the return trip to play the Soldiers in Kildare in two weeks without 2015 Defensive MVP Chris Allen. Despite the big scoring spread the return fixture now promises to be much closer with the Soldiers defending their home turf and Admirals having to adjust their game plan. Also the weather conditions in two weeks are unlikely to be as bad which should allow the Soldiers a bit more ease in utilising their passing game.
Finally, best of luck to Chris Allen and his fiancée Hana who are getting married next week. From all the Cork Admirals have a great day, enjoy the celebrations and best wishes for the future.