For the fourth game in a row the Cork Admirals were involved in a tight contest with the game on the line right up until the final possession. Having faced off against Trinity College in a tight tussle that resulted in a 6-6 tie in Cork earlier in the year it was time for the return leg in Dublin. This time however it was the Admirals who made the late burst and two touchdowns inside the last six minutes saw the Admirals overturn a thirteen point deficit to take the win.
The weather conditions could not have been better for football on the day. The sun was doing its best to poke through some hazy cloud cover and the temperatures hovered in the high teens. A little humidity made it feel hot and sticky but neither side complained as both wanted a chance to air out the football.
Whether it was the long bus drive up or some other reason but the Admirals were slow to settle again and Trinity wasted no time getting on the board. Following a QB scramble and a few quick run plays a short completion was hauled in under pressure by a Trinity receiver but he found a way to wriggle free from the challenge and win the race to the end zone. The extra point was good and score board read 7-0.
The Admirals stuttered on offence early and Trinity picked up where they left off. They began to move the ball well and threatened the Admirals end zone before Cillian McGillycuddy dived in front of a throw and made a fantastic grab for the first interception of the day. That play sparked the team into life and the offence responded by driving the ball up the field. Admirals QB Stephen Hayes was finding his form and began to reel off completions to multiple receivers. Kieran Kiely had his first catches of the year bringing his practice form straight to the game. Andrew Lyons got his hands on the ball as did Florent Mailleau, Paul O’Driscoll, Jimmy Diedrich and McGillycuddy. Diedrich went very close to breaking the plane on a catch and run before Flo got into the end zone for his first TD in Admirals colours. Kieran Murphy added the PAT and tied the game 7-7.
The Admirals defence was starting to exert a bit more pressure and after forcing a third and long Rookie Safety Dave Healy picked off an errant throw; somehow managing to keep the ball off the turf and hold on for his first interception. Hayes went back to work and after some hard yards inside he found McGillycuddy with the deep ball in the back of the end zone. Murphy added the PAT and the Admirals had a 14-7 lead.
The remainder of the half did not go as planned for the travelling team. Trinity were starting to have a bit more joy running the football and the team took a blow when Jimmy Diedrich was ejected on a targeting call when it looked like he had made a big stop on the Trinity running back. The team rallied and forced a third and long but a pass interference call kept Trinity moving. The drive finished with the Trinity QB rolling out of the pocket and running the ball in from five yards out. The PAT was good and the teams were level again at 14-14.
There was still time for the home side to pile on the pain before the half. A pair of flags on the return set the Admirals way back and a short punt under pressure left the defence with a lot to do. Trinity felt the momentum with them and quickly got back in the end zone with their QB making the short completion into the end zone just passed an out stretched defender. What didn’t seem significant at the time but would prove to be crucial later on was that the PAT snap was fumbled but Trinity were back ahead 20-14.
The Admirals still had time to commit another mistake before the half and an excellent return to the half way was spoiled when the ball squirmed loose at the last second and Trinity had another chance before the half. Safety Dave Healy was right on time again for the defence and pulled in his second pick of the day to see out the half on a speculative deep throw snaring the ball against his helmet. Halftime came just when the team needed it the players took the opportunity to regroup. A second quarter lead had been erased and a string of flags and poor play had given Trinity the initiative.
As poorly as the team had played in the second quarter it got a little worse to start the third. Trinity again were finding success with their running game and on the other side while the Admirals offence were backed up against their own end zone by a good punt. In an almost carbon copy of the previous score the Admirals had a poor punt from their own end zone and Trinity took advantage of their opportunity again. This time the Trinity running back doing the damage on a pair of runs, shaking off tackles and getting across the line for a well deserved score from him on the day. The PAT was converted and Trinity took a healthy lead on the score board at 27-14.
The clock ticked over into the fourth and the pattern remained the same in the second half. Both sides showed flashes but it was the Cork team who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. After the defence finally managed to force some three and outs the Admirals offence got themselves in gear. Hayes who was continuing to rack up the completions on the day got the hurry up working well and Trinity started to feel the pressure. Again spraying the ball around to multiple receivers and aided in the backfield by Stuart Donaldson spinning his way out of tackles there was a growing sense that the momentum was shifting back to the Ads. Paul O’Driscoll was very prominent in the fourth quarter despite drawing a lot of attention from the Trinity secondary but it was McGillycuddy again who would get the score to get the Admirals back into the game. Another acrobatic play but this time on offence resulted in the Cork player keeping his feet in bounds while he reached out and pulled in the pass from Hayes. Murphy unerring all season added the PAT and the Admirals were one score away trailing 27-21.
With only four minutes left on the clock the home side had possession back with a chance to run out the clock. The Admirals defence held firm. Bryan O’Brien got into the backfield for an important negative play and on a crucial third down defensive tackles Brian Leonard and Sean Curtin combined to force the ball loose with the wily old veteran Leonard being the quickest to react in the middle of the mêlée and secure the football setting up a short field for the go ahead score. Enter Hayes and co with enough time to take it home. A few completions got Cork in range and Donaldson had hard yards on the ground getting inside the five. A pair of well defended plays left the Admirals with needing to convert a fourth down to stay in it. Hayes rolled out of the pocket and with the option to sprint to the pylon stepped inside the defender to cross the line. Tied game 27-27. Kieran Murphy made no mistake with the kick to push the Admirals into the lead 28-27.
Trinity still had time to rescue the game from the fire but the Admirals defence refused to yield and four plays later the ball was back with Cork team inside the two minute warning. The Admirals got the first down they needed to kneel out the game fittingly Hayes converting again.
So the Admirals get their record back to .500 at 2-2-1 and get back into one of the playoff spots in the SBC South. All in all it was a game that ebbed and flowed with both teams enjoying purple patches. For a nice change it was the Admirals who came from behind in the fourth quarter this time and got the late scores to earn the win. Back to winning ways at last but a lot of football left to be played still. Next up for the Admirals is another road trip for a rematch with the North Kildare Reapers in Naas on June 11th.