The Cork Admirals eked out a 14-7 win over Munster rivals Waterford Wolves last Sunday at Dolphin RFC to round out a successful regular season. Cork Admirals history was made as this was the first time the club has had an undefeated regular season. Yet again the team recovered from going behind early to retake the lead and hold on for the win.
The Admirals were starting yet another new quarterback with "Tall" Paul O'Driscoll stepping in behind center and the offence clicked early behind the new signal caller. After Waterford failed to move the ball early Cillian McGillicuddy got the offence in position to strike with another excellent return on special teams. The Cork drive quickly got the chains moving on the back of some hard running from Brian McCarthy and Stuart Donaldson. A pass interference penalty against the Wolves left the Admirals on the doorstep. After a couple of efforts came up just short O'Driscoll ran the ball in himself to get the Admirals on the board at 6-0.
The Wolves appeared to be spurned into life after giving up the opening score and put together their best series of play. A number of successful runs resulted in the Waterford team knocking on the door. Harris Monagan and Cathal Buckley combined for a pair of big stops on first and second down but the Wolves made no mistake on third getting across the line and adding a successful kick to take the lead at 7-6.
At this point it was game on. The Wolves who dashed Cork's hopes of a championship last year were determined to play the role of spoiler again and ruin the chances of a maiden perfect regular season. Nothing was going to be given out easy. A win was going to have to be earned.
The Cork defence dug in after that drive. The D Line of Buckley, Brian Leonard, Bryan O'Brien and Kieran Murphy wrestled back control of the line of scrimmage. The Wolves early success on the ground was drying up and they were forced to air out the football. The Admirals secondary of Liam O'Leary, Anthony "Lineman" Linehan and Ayo "Hangry" Mumuni were tested but never troubled making it difficult for Waterford to find anywhere to throw the football. When O'Leary picked off an attempted deep ball for another interception for the rookie it set up the Admirals in great field position.
A pair of first downs from McCarthy and Donaldson and another pass interference call left the Admirals with a goal to go situation. After a great play from a Wolves linebacker set the drive back it was third and goal from outside the ten. O'Driscoll then connected with wide receiver Simon "Kit" O'Keeffe for a score. The fifth Admirals quarterback this season to pass for a touchdown. O'Driscoll successfully scrambled for the two point try and the Admirals were back in the lead.
Neither side were able to trouble the scoreboard operator again before the half with a blocked field goal attempt from Cork the most either side could muster. The scoreboard read Home 14 Away 7 at the end of the second quarter.
The second half was a tense tight affair. Neither side was able to move the ball freely. Cork were hanging onto their one score lead and trying to add a second. Waterford were withstanding everything that Cork threw at them but struggling to move the ball against a cork defence growing in confidence.
The Admirals offence spluttered on its opportunities in the third quarter. Penalties and a sack put paid to two successive drives. Waterford weren't having any luck with the ball in hand either and a switch back to the running game failed to bear any fruit. The highlights for the Admirals in the third were few and far between. O'Keeffe had a huge punt to change field position and Kieran Murphy got into the backfield for a bit hit and stop on a third down. With both sides tiring the clock ticked over into the fourth.
For the remaining minutes the ball was stuck inside the Waterford half but the Cork side couldn't get across the line. Running back Vladamir "Vlad" La Greca got the ball close when he picked up big yards being released by a crushing block from O'Keeffe. Four attempts from inside the ten couldn't get the ball in though and possession was turned over on downs.
The Cork defence tried its best to finish off the game when on the very next play Mumuni picked off yet another pass this year and wove his way through the crowd for a twenty yard return only getting stopped on the eight yard line by the last defender. It looked like the Wolves would surely bow to the relentless pressure but like the champions they are they absolutely never gave in.
The Admirals pressed hard for the insurance score and La Greca got the ball into the end zone only for the score to be frustratingly wiped out for a holding call well away from the play. After being pushed back for the penalty the Admirals couldn't get the points they needed to be comfortable and the possession was relinquished with under two to play with the Wolves needing a touchdown to rescue the game.
The Admirals weren't in the mood to let the record they had been chasing all season slip away and a big effort from the defence shut down the last Wolves attempt. Bryan O'Brien and Romain Beretti sacked the quarterback and Brian Leonard got in for a tackle to halt the Wolves with excellent coverage downfield making it impossible for the quarterback to find anywhere to throw the ball. When the ball was turned over on downs the Wolves were out of time and timeouts and Cork took the field in victory formation to kneel out the game for the win while Head Coach Alan Lomasney was getting the Gatorade shower on the sideline.
The relief at the final whistle was palpable. The Wolves had come to Cork and played a tough game staying in it right until the final whistle pushing Cork all the way. Emotions were high and the squad celebrated history for the club going 8-0 for the first time.
That's not it for the Admirals for the season though. An even bigger task lays ahead. The Westmeath Minotaurs come to Dolphin RFC on Sunday July 17th in the IAFL Division 1 semi final with a place in the final in August in CIT the prize for the winners.
The undefeated regular season is now in the history books and the Admirals start again at 0-0 looking for two wins to secure the championship which has eluded them in the past two years. Nobody will be looking past The Minotaurs in two weeks. It took a touchdown with fifty seconds on the clock for the Admirals to win in Mullingar during the season so the upcoming semi final should prove to be another close contest between two well matched teams.
The season rolls on.......