The Cork Admirals made the trip to the alternate capital last Sunday to take on the reigning Shamrock Bock Champions from 2017 the Dublin Rebels. The form book coming into this one indicated that this might be a close contest as both sides had notched up comfortable wins over the UL Vikings to open their respective campaigns. The grounds in the Sportslink Santry were in excellent condition given the recent run of poor weather but unfortunately the conditions on the day went from wet to very wet to cats and dogs as heavy downpours punctuated a drab and gloomy afternoon.
The Admirals came out of the blocks at full tilt. The Rebels had possession to start the game but only managed one first down before a short punt gave the Admirals the ball. Rookie running back Phylip Walters had a solid carry to start breaking through a tackle before being hauled down by the facemask pushing the Admirals across the halfway line. The driving rain didn’t detract from the Admirals efforts to put the ball in the air however and the next play signalled the Admirals intent when Quarterback Steven Hayes connected with wide receiver Jahn Dasisni taking the top off the defence and streaking home for a forty yard score. Kieran Murphy added the PAT and the Admirals held a 7-0 lead.
The Rebels looked stunned by the strike and on the resulting kickoff the Rebels kick returner allowed the ball to bounce before batting the ball around on the goal line and downing the ball in the end zone. The Admirals were screaming for a safety but a touchback was awarded. What seemed like a significant play at the time would turn out to be crucial by full time. Still looking a bit shaky the next snap was also fumbled but the loose ball ended up back in the hands of the home team. The Admirals defence were beginning to turn the screw and the following three possessions for the Dublin side only yielded one first down but two interceptions from Ayo Mumuni and Kit O’Keeffe. Linebackers Harris Monagan and Aidan Waters were everywhere and the ironman Michael D’Angelo was a thorn in the Rebels side on both sides of the ball. The offence continued to put the ball in the air and another deep attempt came agonisingly close when Andrew Lyons got behind the deep cover but had the pass come off his fingertips with a score beckoning.
That was as close as anyone came to troubling the scoreboard until the later stages of the second quarter. After the Ads came up short on a fourth down in the middle of the field the Rebels moved the chains behind some good running plays and a timely penalty on a third and long. The drive ground to a halt deep in Admirals territory when the rushing yards dried up and the ball was turned over on downs after an unsuccessful rushing attempt from the five yard line. The Admirals saw out the half with safety Kit O’Keeffe hauling in his second pick of the game.
After having the best of the first half the game quickly turned early in the third quarter. A change at QB sprung the Rebels into life and on their first possession a long run by new player got the Rebels into the red zone. Two plays later they were in when their slot receiver picked up a short completion and got across the goal line into the corner of the end zone. The resulting attempt for two was stuffed short and despite the surge the Ads still held a slender 7-6 lead. That disappeared quickly as early in the resulting drive the Rebels turned the ball over returning an errant throw the distance to take the lead. This time the two point attempt was successful and the scoreboard read 14-7 to the home team. The Admirals offence were finding it harder and harder to keep a secure hold on possession and on the very next play turned the ball over again handing the Rebels a gilt edged opportunity to stretch their lead. Four plays later they were off the field as the Admirals defence got to grips with the new signal caller and shut down the opportunity. Michael Allshire had a sack and rookie end Aaron Hogan was proving difficult to contain. Veteran tackle Bryan O’Brien got home for his customary sack too and the Rebels looked like they were out of ideas after a brief productive spell.
The game grew more and more patchy as the half wore on. The Rebels would only secure one more first down by penalty until the final two minutes. The only reprieve for the Admirals was when another ball on special teams was mishandled and Conor Linehan was on hand to recover flipping the field in the process. Handling was still a problem and the best opportunity of the half for the Admirals came undone with another fumble lost in the Rebels red zone with the ball carrier trying hard to secure a first down. Field position became more and more important and successive turnovers shifted the ball towards the away teams end. A well placed punt which was downed inside the Admirals five yard line and inside the two minute warning gave the Admirals an eighty five yard mountain to climb. But climb it they did. Hayes connected with Dasini over the middle, the kid faked the safety out of his shoes and sprinted away from the chasing pack of defenders. Kit O’Keeffe in at receiver made a colossal effort to out sprint the cover and assist Dasini with a key block, walling off the chasing group and allowing the 2017 offensive rookie of the year to get over the line for a memorable eighty five yard score. At the home of the champions the Admirals went for two for the win but the attempted pass drifted over the hands of the intended target. The Rebels recovered the subsequent onside kick and got the first down they need to bleed the rest of the clock and finish out the game.
The Admirals will rue a number of miscues in the second half. A string of turnovers made it difficult to add to the scoring tally. But despite those it was the two scores from the Dublin side in a thirty second period early in the third quarter which made the difference between the sides. With the loss The Admirals fall to 1-1 on the season. A rematch against the same opposition awaits in Cork in two weeks time when the Rebels make the return journey with first place in the SBC South still very much up for grabs at this early stage in the season.