The Cork Admirals were back on the road last Sunday traveling away from home to play the South Kildare Soldiers in Cill Dara RFC just outside Kildare town. The Admirals came into the game at 2-0 after a strong early season start having already beaten the Soldiers in the previous outing in Cork. However it was the start of a new chapter for the Admirals having to adjust to life without quarterback Stephen Hayes who was ruled out for the season with a broken leg. On a positive note Stephen had successful surgery and is already on the road to recovery.
It seemed like summer was finally trying to overtake the prolonged poor streak of weather with the sun shining and conditions ideal at kickoff. The Admirals were clearly up for the game and the defence set the tone early driving the Soldiers back on four consecutive downs setting up great field position for the offence. Jimmy Diedrich who was deputising for Hayes got the Admirals moving finishing the drive by finding running back Brian MacCarthy in the end zone from 6 yards out. Diedrich ran the two point attempt in himself beating two tacklers on the goal line to force it in to give an 8-0 lead to the Admirals.
The Admirals kept up the pressure on special teams. A deep kickoff from veteran Nic McSweeney was fumbled at the one by the Soldiers and corner back Kevin Downey was first to react to the opportunity by swiftly pouncing on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The two point try was unsuccessful and the lead remained at 14-0.
The pressure was all on the Soldiers now and the Admirals defence gave them no respite. Again the Soldiers failed to move the chains over four downs despite a false start penalty against the defence. Defensive end Cathal Buckley and in particular defensive tackle Bryan O'Brien to the fore for the Ads making tackles to push back the Soldiers who appeared to be favouring the run game this week to the surprise of many.
Another short field for the offence was capitalised on with towering Tight End Paul O'Driscoll on the receiving end of another TD pass from Diedrich. The QB scrambled for another successful two point attempt to leave the score at 22-0 still in the first quarter.
It was going to be a difficult task for the Soldiers to recover but they kept on playing hard and the teams traded possessions without any gain for either side. The Soldiers then had their best spell of the first half after a switch to the passing game, completing a few passes. Admirals linebacker John Madden shut down the drive by first sacking the quarterback and then bringing down the running back in the backfield on consecutive plays.
The offence got rolling again and put a nice nine play scoring drive together. Wide receivers Cillian McGillycuddy and Kieran Kiely had a couple of nice gains and running back Jason Dowling had some nice runs including one highlight where he hit the B button hard on the sideline dodging two tacklers in the process. Diedrich kept the chains moving and capped the drive with another strike to O'Driscoll in the end zone. The two point try was good when Diedrich threw up a desperation heave while taking a hit but Dowling was able to make the catch leaving the Admirals in control at 30-0 nearing the end of the half.
The defence was able to get the ball back one more time before the half. Linebacker Romain Béretti stepped in front of a pass and picked it off with under a minute on the clock. Once again Diedrich was able to find his favourite target in O'Driscoll getting open behind the defence for a 35 yard score right before the half. The two point attempt fell incomplete and the Admirals took a 36-0 lead into the half time break.
The Soldiers weren't going to lay down and a surprise onside kick to start the second half caught the Admirals special teams napping and handed possession to Soldiers. What followed was a sustained period of pressure as the Soldiers gave it everything to try and get on the scoreboard. The switch to the passing attack was paying dividends and a couple of first downs later the reward was a first and goal from the Admirals five yard line. Four downs wasn't enough to get the ball in the end zone however the drive finishing when the Admirals interior line duo of Brian Leonard and Bryan O'Brien combining for the stop on fourth down and goal from the one.
The Admirals couldn't quite get the offence back in top gear in the third quarter with Ben Jenkins now in at quarterback. Three consecutive drives resulted in two punts and a turnover off an intercepted pass. The Soldiers kept piling on the pressure and most of the third quarter was played in the Admirals end. The defence was continuing to bend but not break. Rookie corner back Liam O'Leary was continuing his fine start to the season breaking up two deep passes in man coverage and safety Ayo Mumuni stopped a number of successful plays from going the distance. Two consecutive Soldiers drives stalled close to the line and when Luke O'Callaghan created another turnover by picking off a pass in the end zone it seemed like the Soldiers were never going to be able to break down the Admirals defence.
At the start of the fourth veteran Nic Coffi was now in at running back, Jenkins was starting to find his feet and the chains started to move again following a scoreless third quarter. Two successful drives followed. Firstly Jenkins connected with O'Driscoll for his fourth TD catch of the day which was followed by a series of strong runs from Coffi topped off by a TD run and two point run behind a dominant offensive line.
The defence were keen for the shutout. Defensive captain Harris Monagan made three consecutive plays at one point including a nice pass break up. Bryan O'Brien knocked another ball loose and Cathal Buckley made another tackle for a big loss. The game finished with O'Callaghan nabbing his second pick and the Admirals fourth turnover of the day. Final score Admirals 50 Soldiers 0.
A strong outing for the Cork team sees them take pole position in the IAFL 1 South Division with a 3-0 record. Next up is a visit to the Westmeath Minotaurs where a win against another divisional rival would put the Admirals in firm control of a playoff spot at the halfway point in the regular season.
Many thanks to the Soldiers. The game was played in a tough but sporting manner, in excellent facilities and the post game hospitality was much appreciated before the long spin back down to Cork.