The Cork Admirals drew 6 – 6 with Trinity College last Sunday in Presentation Brothers College Sports Grounds. The game was an intense, highly physical affair with defences holding the upper hand for long periods. The Admirals scored early but were pegged back on the last play before the half. The Admirals were frustrated with the result and to have not taken home the win as the main talking point after the game was what looked like a stone wall safety very late in the fourth quarter for intentional grounding in the end zone was ruled a sack at the one yard line and not a score.
The Admirals came into the game on the back of a comfortable but sometimes sloppy win over the North Kildare Reapers. Trinity had played twice and while they had narrowly lost out to the UL Vikings in their opener they had earned an impressive win at home since then against the perennially strong Belfast Trojans. This was going to be a test for the Ads but the team came ready to play.
The first Admirals drive saw Jimmy Diedrich reel of a couple of first downs on the ground but the drive stalled deep in Trinity territory when a run on fourth and short was a nose shy of the first down. The first play on defence was to be a big one. Harris Monagan read the Trinity QB and stepped in front of a throw intercepting the ball and running it back to the ten yard line. The Admirals got the ball in the end zone on the next play, Admirals quarterback Stephen Hayes found receiver Cillian McGillycuddy in the end zone to put six points on the board. The same duo looked to link up again on the two point play but McGillycuddy was shackled tightly in the end zone and couldn’t get free to make the catch.
Both teams then traded possession a number of times with neither team able to get the ball across the line. The Admirals defence was starting to gain the upper hand and Trinity were struggling to cope with the blitz. Bryan O’Brien and Barry Rea were proving tough to handle inside and Monagan was everywhere. The Admirals threatened on a couple of occasions with Diedrich in particular running the ball well and Hayes connecting with multiple receivers but penalties seemed to get the offence behind the chains and stifle any momentum. The Admirals did have a great opportunity late in the half when after moving the ball well with just a few minutes on the clock the drive stalled on the five yard line. The final play of the drive was an agonising incompletion with the pass from Hayes coming off McGillcuddy’s hands in the end zone when he would have backed himself to make the catch. The near miss spurred Trinity on before the half and they used the final seconds to move the ball down the field. A pick up in the passing game and some good clock management gave them a chance and they converted when on the final play of the half they completed a short pass to the back corner of the endzone. The PAT was charged down by Big Baz Rea and the half came to a close with the score tied at 6-6.
The third quarter played out much the same as the first for the Admirals. The offence collected some first downs and put together some drives but dropped passes and flags erased any momentum. Trinity had their best opportunity to score just at the change into the fourth quarter. After a string of completions Trinity had a goal to go from the five. Barry Rea stuffed a run up the middle on first down. Another big sack from Ayo Mumuni pushed them back to the twenty on second. Kit O’Keeffe knocked down a pass on third and Frankie Tschifo in his first game for the Ads came off the edge quickly on fourth and broke up the attempt at a field goal before the kick could get away. That was as close as Trinity would get for the rest of the day and the Admirals defence had Trinity on their heels after that. Tschifo in particular was in uncompromising form racking up some big hits and Mumuni was finding himself troubling the quarterback on every opportunity. Paul O’Farrell back at corner was also having his say on the game getting his hands in front of a number of throws.
The frustration for the offence was mounting. The offensive line of Eoghan Lynch, Eoin Spillane, Rob Hennessey, Jason Dowling and Sean Tynan were still making holes to run the ball. However an unsportsmanlike conduct foul put the team behind the chains again with a drive looking promising at the Trinity thirty. The Admirals were forced to punt on a forth and very long. Punter Kit O’Keeffe managed to get the ball out of bounds at the five despite ending up on the ground at the end of the play. What happened next left a sour taste in Admirals mouths. Ayo Mumuni appeared to get home on another blitz and while scrambling to get away the Trinity QB threw a despairing attempt at a pass that didn’t get out of the end zone as he was being tackled by Mumuni. The shout came in for a grounding call which in the end zone would have resulted in a safety and an 8-6 lead but the call on the field was that the QB had forward progress halted just beyond the goal line. Yet another fifteen yard penalty got Trinity off their goal line and the chance to go at them again was gone. The remainder of the quarter had Trinity pinned deep but the Admirals couldn’t get the ball moving for the go ahead score. On the final play Trinity punted from their end zone again but the return was stopped well short.
With that the game was over and everyone struggled to process the result. Both teams will feel like they did enough to come away with the win. The Admirals defence were seething with the no call for a safety and despite notching up a hatful of sacks and holding Trinity to a paltry twelve yards rushing on the day they will be disappointed with not keeping a zero on the board. The offence also had some joy running the ball for nearly 150 yards and passing for nearly another 100 but will rue the string of flags that sapped the juice from a number of drives. Trinity on the other hand will point out that if they despite the sacks they had some joy throwing the football and had they converted either of the PAT or field goal attempts they would have taken home both points. Both sides will look forward to chapter two and the rematch later in the season back in Dublin but there is a lot of football to be played between now and then. Next up for the Admirals is a trip to Limerick on 23 April to renew the old rivalry with the UL Vikings.