On Sunday last the Cork Admirals Youth team kicked off their season playing away to the South Kildare Soldiers. The squad were up and on the road before the sun came up as the game was played in a sunny but cool Oaklands Community College in Edenderry Co. Offaly. This was the Admirals first foray into the IAFA Youth League and the first game of football for a large number of the squad. The Soldiers have been the form team in this league over the last few years and entered the game at 2-0 for the season having secured two good wins in the first series of games. The junior Admirals gave their all against a more experienced side and led 6-2 until deep into the fourth quarter but two scores for the Soldiers late on gave them the win on the day 16-6.
Cork started the brighter of the two sides with the Admirals defence dominant early. Sacks from debutants Philip Kelleher and Phylip Walters helped the unit to settle and the “Filibuster” duo were all over the Soldiers back field creating havoc. Another defensive debutant linebacker Cian O’Mahony secured the first turnover on the day, wresting the ball away from the Soldiers tight end in close coverage. Other debutants Peter O’Connor and Jack Clarke were settling in well and showed they were more than up to the task while senior squad members Dave Healy, Sam Lawlor and Dan Kelleher anchored a very solid performance from the defensive unit.
The Ads offence had two good drives to finish the first quarter. Chris Ryan was running the ball well behind an offensive line of Joe Agar, Joe Clarke and Conor “TC” McCarthy. Admirals QB Dan Sheedy also picked up a pair of big first downs on the ground during this spell. The Admirals offence as a whole including, Joel Ouethly, George Hickey, Dion Cuthbert, Conor Cronin, Alan Buckley and Christopher O’Neill were working hard and their efforts were bearing some fruition. A pair of turnovers in the red zone saw both possessions end without points however as the Soldiers stood firm at the crucial time.
Into the second quarter and the Admirals defence continued to keep the soldiers under wraps. Jahn Dasini fresh from an impressive rookie season with the Admirals senior team secured another turnover stepping in front of a deep pass attempt from his free safety position and handing the ball back to the Admirals. A few plays later Sheedy connected with Dasini at wideout on the deep ball and OBJ sprinted clear of the cover to get the Admirals on the scoreboard. The Soldiers picked off the attempted two point play and ran the return back for a score in the other direction to leave the scoreboard at an unusual looking 6-2 to the Admirals.
There was still time for the Soldiers to reply before the half. The Kildare outfit converted on a long fourth down when it appeared to everyone that Admirals defensive captain Dave Healy had brought the runner to the ground deep in the backfield. The Admirals with one eye on the clock let the Soldiers drive the ball up the field and were happy to see the seconds tick away and take a lead to the half 6-2.
The Soldiers took more control in the second half and began to move the ball while the Admirals found yards harder to come by. Dasini was everywhere in this period and had another pick this time in his own end zone to torpedo a dangerous situation. On the following Soldiers drive he knocked the ball loose in a tackle and Admirals linebacker Sam Lawlor was on hand to scoop up the ball. The Soldiers then had their best opportunity to score as the game ticked into the fourth quarter. A pass interference call allowed them to move the ball into the red zone and another PI penalty in the back corner of the end zone gave them a first and goal from the two much to the anger of the Cork side line as it appeared that cornerback Jack Clarke had made the play of the game in getting his hands to the ball to deny the Soldiers receiver. A few plays later the Soldiers got in on a QB run and converted the two point try to lead 10-6.
The Admirals made a big attempt to get back in the game but some costly procedural penalties came against them. First, a big gain on a screen pass to Ryan was brought back for a procedural foul. Then a big gain on a run by Sheedy and a fifteen yard personal foul at the end of the play was erased for a similar call. The Admirals rued those two plays after the game when it looked like a big effort to retake the lead was undone by mistakes as a result of some inexperience.
The drive petered out on following that and the Soldiers were able to add another score. Again a contentious pass interference call at the end of a short completion on a very long third down restarted a drive for the Soldiers. The Soldiers capitalised on the next play and although scrambling under pressure their QB picked out an open receiver who wove his way into the end zone. The pass attempt on the two point play was knocked down by Joe Clarke but at 16-6 the Admirals were running out of time and in need of two scores.
The Admirals refused to throw in the towel and gave it another go but attempts at getting the ball down field came up short and following another exchange of possessions the game came to a close.
The young Admirals have much to be proud of. The majority of the squad were putting on the pads in anger for the first time and all gave a great account of themselves. Despite losing out late in the game the Admirals went toe to toe against a more experienced team and were a few calls or a few minutes away from closing out the win.
Next up for the Admirals Youth team is a trip to Mullingar to take on the Westmeath Minotaurs and the Craigavon Cowboys on Sunday 12th November.