The Cork Admirals renewed life in the Shamrock Bowl Conference last Sunday after three years in the IAFL 1 Division. Following last year’s successful season the time had come to take the step back up to the top grade. The Admirals took the spoils from the opener after a hard fought encounter with the North Kildare Reapers on a score line of 22-6. Rushing touchdowns from Brian MacCarthy and Vladamir La Greca along with a punt return from Jimmy Diedrich were enough to see the Admirals victorious over a North Kildare side that gave the Admirals a lot of trouble for long periods.
The Admirals were also beginning life playing in a new home venue. Presentation Brothers Cork Sports Grounds in Wilton was the setting for the game. A strong westerly breeze blew straight across the field intertwined with a mixed bag of sunshine and light showers which was to have an effect on both teams passing games.
The Admirals were jittery to start on offence but Super Vlad La Greca had some nice carries to settle the nerves. The Admirals collected a couple of first downs but never troubled the Reapers line. Much of the first quarter was too and fro with the Admirals enjoying better field position. The Ads defence hit the ground running early and the Reapers early attempts at running the ball were snuffed out by Barry Rea in the middle of a stout Cork defensive line. The second Reapers punt was fielded at his own 30 by Jimmy Diedrich who broke the first tackle, picked up a block and raced down the home sideline followed by a huge roar from the bench before extending the ball over the line beating the last defender to the pylon. The Admirals were on the board at 6-0.
The next few possessions were tense with neither team making an impact until after scrambling for his life on a third down the Reapers QB connected with a pass which would set them on their way. One more long catch and run later and they were knocking at the door down inside the Admirals 10 yard line. On second down the Reapers QB found an open receiver at the back of the end zone and the score was tied at 6-6.
This spurred the Admirals to life and the offence put together their best drive of the game. The Oline made room for La Greca to reel off a few first downs and a 27 yarder from the Italian had the Admirals with a first and goal from the five. The Admirals got the ball across the line but had the play squashed due to an inadvertent whistle. A penalty for defensive holding on an open receiver gave the Admirals a new set of downs and Brian McCarthy smuggled the ball into the end zone through a crowd with a big push from veteran center Rob Hennessey getting him across the line. McCarthy added the two point try on the ground and the Admirals had the lead again at 14-6. Neither team could manage much more before the break and the score remained the same until the half.
The Admirals got the game moving in the second half and earned a little breathing room by scoring on the opening drive after the break. Simon “Kit” O’Keeffe got the ball to the half way on the opening return. The key play was a big forty yard completion from quarterback Stephen Hayes to Jimmy Diedrich with Diedrich making a spectacular diving catch way down the field. This set the Admirals up with a goal to go and La Greca muscled the rock in for the score behind a big push from Eoin “Fridge” Spillane and offensive captain on the day Eoghan “Goose” Lynch. Unbelievably after a few tough rushing games for the Admirals and nearly 200 yards on the ground in last years the bowl game for Vlady this was his first score in a Cork jersey. Hayes connected with rookie reciever Jahn Dasini on the two point play for his first catch and score and the scoreline read 22-6.
That was as good as it would get for the Admirals who despite McCarthy, La Greca and Bobby Carrigan running the ball well in patches Hayes and co found it hard to get anything going in the passing game in the swirling conditions. The North Kildare side kept themselves in the game holding up deep in their own territory after Diedrich had come up with the ball after a botched punt return. The Reapers kept searching for the score that would get them back in the game and their quarterback kept some drives going with elusive running mixed with some short throws. Sacks from Harris Monagan, Brian Leonard and Bryan “BOB” O’Brien cut short successive Reapers drives. Cillian McNally shut down the only Reapers visit to the red zone of the second half with an interception and O’Keeffe had another on the last play coming down with the hail mary to finish off the game.
So the Admirals get their campaign off to a winning start. After a long and tough preseason the players and coaches are delighted to be back playing football and especially to be 1-0. The Admirals will be happy with the win but the first encounter as usual has thrown up plenty of areas to work on. Credit has to go to the Reapers who despite being at a numerical disadvantage were a dogged determined side all day and played hard all the way to the final whistle. Next up for the Admirals is the visit of Trinity College to the PBC Sports Gounds in three weeks time.