The Cork Admirals got back to winning ways last weekend finishing 21 -16 victors in another tough and evenly contested fixture with the Dublin Rebels at PBC Sportsgrounds. Having built a two score advantage the Admirals allowed the 2017 Shamrock Bowl Champions back into the game and handed over the lead in the third quarter. It took a passing touchdown with four minutes on the clock to push the Admirals back ahead and a pair of turnovers from the defence after that to see the game out.
The Rebels entered at 3-0 for the season while the Admirals trailed at 1-1.The two sides had played out another cliff hanger two weeks previously in Dublin where the Rebels won by a solitary point 14-13 following a failed two point conversion attempt late in the game from the Admirals. The sun shone to greet both teams as this one kicked off. Again there was little between the sides with both offences enjoying purple periods and in general the ball moved more freely than the previous rain soaked encounter.
The Admirals received the ball to start the game and quickly got into the opposition half. Some strong running between the tackles reeled of a sequence of first down but the drive was halted on downs just outside the red zone. The Rebels responded by flipping the field behind some strong running of their own but turned the ball over looking for the tight end on a seam route, safety Kit O’Keeffe reading the play and stepping in front of the throw. The end zone beckoned for a moment but an excellent covering tackle from the Rebels running back finished the play at halfway when a score looked on.
The Admirals failed to make much of a dent on their next drive but a well executed kick and chase by the Cork punt team forced the Rebels back inside their own ten. The Dublin outfit managed one first down to give them a little breathing space but a high snap on the punt had the punter in trouble and linebacker Sam Lawlor was on hand to make the tackle on the opposition one yard line. The teams traded ends at the finish of the quarter and the Admirals scored on their next offensive play, running back Brian McCarthy diving over the line for the score. The resulting PAT was blocked and the scoreboard read 6-0 Admirals.
The following possession for the Rebels looked to be gaining momentum and Pete McMahon at running back was again very prominent for them again. But the drive petered out when the defence stiffened up inside their own thirty yard line. Mike Allshire making the key tackle on fourth down to get the ball back for the Cork team. It was too and fro at this stage and the Admirals moved the chains and looked threatening again. However a deep pass was picked off on the opposition five yard line to kill the momentum. It only took a few plays to get the ball back and grab that momentum back again. Cornerback Dave Healy got his hands to an attempted pass and knocked it into the air before securing the interception and handing great field position to the Admirals at the Dublin thirty. One play was all that was needed again. Stephen Hayes at quarterback looked off the coverage and delivered a perfectly weighted ball to resident deep threat Jahn Dasini and the Cork receiver cantered over for the score. No mistake this time up front protecting the kick allowed Kieran Murphy to convert the PAT and the Admirals led 13-0.
The challenge was well and truly laid down at this stage at the feet of the Rebels and to their credit they responded and put together their best offensive series of the game. A defensive pass interference call got them moving but was followed a few plays later by a flag for offensive interference. However the resulting third and long was converted to keep the chains in motion with time ticking down. A blown coverage allowed a receiver to come wide open with the error being punished for a big gain and getting the Rebels into scoring position. A fumble near the goal line could have been costly but the ball was recovered by the Dublin offence with enough time for one more play in the half. They made the most of it completing a fade to the back corner of the end zone to get on the score board. The two point attempt was unsuccessful and the teams left the field at the half with the Admirals leading 13-6.
Into the second half and both teams renewed the contest with the same vigour as the first. The Rebels again moving the chains but after the drive stalled at half way veteran defender Darragh O’Farrell flashed through the middle of the line to block the punt and hand the impetus back to the Cork team. The offence started brightly but couldn’t keep up the head of steam and following another solid punt the Rebels began from inside their own twenty. This pattern was then reversed and following another drive in which the field was flipped the Rebels were forced to punt after Ayo Mumuni put in a bit hit on the new quarterback on second down and O’Farrell and Harris Monagan combined for a sack on third. The resulting punt was put under a lot of pressure but the bounce of the ball took it out of bounds on the home sides two yard line. The offence dealt with the difficult situation well and after a pair of solid runs got the team a little breathing room Hayes connected with Cillian McGillycuddy for a first down. A poorly timed penalty pushed the team back and disaster struck on the following play when Hayes couldn’t get a hold of the snap and the Rebels recovered possession on the one yard line. Two plays later they were in the end zone with McMahon collecting a well deserved score on the day and crucially the two point attempt was converted to hand the lead back to the Dublin side 14-13.
The script was flipped now and it was the Dubliners who had laid down the challenge to see if the Cork side could respond. With the last action of the third quarter McGillcuddy gave the team a big spark returning the kickoff to the opposition thirty with the last man making the tackle. The Admirals fed from the energy of the big return and two play later Hayes found O’Keeffe in at receiver down the middle and Kit hung on to make the catch under pressure down on the five yard line. It looked like advantage Admirals at this stage with a first and goal from the five. McCarthy went close on the next play before disaster struck again. Center and QB weren’t on the same page and an early snap was fumbled with the Rebels recovering to get out of a very very tight corner.
The omens were not looking good at this point. Storm clouds were figuratively and literally gathering. The skies first darkened and then began to open up. All the while the scoreboard hanging by the entrance to the field read 14-13 to the Rebels, almost teasing the efforts of the home side by showing a reminder of the disappointing final score from the previous outing. But the squad showed some fantastic resolve. The defense came back onto the field and forced a three and out to preserve the field position, Mumuni winning a race to the sideline with McMahon on the key third down to force the punt. O’Keeffe had a big return to bring the play back inside the Rebels thirty, fielding the ball and picking up a key block from Dave Healy. The rain was becoming biblical as the Admirals Offense came back onto the field. Hayes connected with O’Keeffe again to half the distance to the goal. A piercing run from McCarthy got the Admirals another first down and goal from the five. Disaster nearly repeated itself when McCarthy spilled the ball on the following play but center Rob Hennessey emerged from the growing monsoon with the ball in hand. A holding call sent the Admirals back to the fifteen and in the rapidly deteriorating conditions it appeared to be a big ask. But the offense was up to the challenge. On third and goal from the fifteen Hayes dropped back and delivered a strike to who else at this point but Kit O’Keeffe in end zone. The home sideline went crazy in celebration. After taking the time to think it over the two point play was attempted and no prizes for guessing where the ball went as the red hot tandem of Hayes and O’Keeffe hooked up once more to send the Admirals ahead 21-14.
However there was still four minutes left on the clock and the Rebels weren’t about to get washed away in the growing flood. McMahon saved some of his best runs for the fourth quarter and the Admirals were bitten by a pair of draw plays and a sweep to a receiver on fourth down. It took a last ditch tackle by O’Keeffe on the Admirals five yard line to prevent a score and it seemed like advantage Rebels with a first and goal from the five and the running game in full flow. But it wasn’t to be on the drive. A fumbled exchange between quarterback and running back was pounced upon by defensive end Mike Allshire. Pressure off. The offense came back on and churned out some yards as the Rebels burned the remainder of their time outs to preserve the clock. Facing a fourth and five from their own ten yard line with forty seconds left the Admirals elected to voluntarily give up the safety and two points in order to safely clear their lines. The Rebels got the ball back one last time with sixty yards to go and only forty seconds left. It wasn’t to be this time as after a pair of incompletions Admirals linebacker Harris Monagan secured the win intercepting the ball setting off a big response from the home sideline.
At the end of a hugely physical and tense battle between the two teams the Admirals had emerged winners on a scoreline of 21-16. With the result the Rebels fall to 3-1 while the Admirals move to 2-1 and take a big step forward in the SBC South. Admirals Rebels was one of the most keenly contested rivalries in the SBC in the not too distant past. A fixture isn’t really a rivalry until the teams are splitting results and the feeling coming away from sharing the last two ties is that the rivalry is very much back on. While this was a big win for the developing Admirals team to get in the bag all eyes will be straight onto the next fixture now. Next up for the Admirals is a road trip to Dundalk to take on the Louth Mavericks on Sunday 13th May. A win there would see the Admirals top the SBC South at the half way point in the regular season.