Donnellan Double Gets Clontarf Over The Line Against Battling UCD

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A champions Clontarf began their reign with a hard-fought 24-19 victory despite UCD’s valiant efforts in this first round tussle. ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 1A: Saturday, October 1 UCD 19 CLONTARF 24, UCD Bowl Scorers: UCD: Tries: Mark Fleming, Sean O’Brien, David Ryan; Cons: Tim Corkery 2 Clontarf: Tries: Dylan Donnellan 2, Ivan Soroka, Michael Courtney; Cons: Conor Kelly 2 HT: UCD 12 Clontarf 14 Clontarf’s talismanic captain Matt D’Arcy led from the front, setting up his centre partner Michael Courtney for a second half try before Dylan Donnellan, last season’s top scorer, touched down to secure the bonus point. It was a back-and-forth affair during the opening 40 minutes. Mark Fleming and Sean O’Brien both crossing the whitewash for UCD, with front rowers Donnellan and Ivan Soroka replying for the visitors. There were plenty of positives for the students, who trailed 14-12 at half-time, to take away from the contest. There were impressive performances from Dylan O’Grady and David Ryan, in particular. But, it was the title holders who just did enough on the day. Andy Wood’s charges began their title defence with a trip across the Liffey to face an always youthful and game UCD. The Tarf line-up that took to the pitch today consisted of 12 players who started in the AIL final against Terenure just 5 months ago. The hosts started with intent. Tim Corkery missed an early penalty to put his team in front, but, a couple of minutes later, they earned a penalty in a dangerous position. Opting to kick to the corner. On the doorstep of the Tarf scoring zone, a crafty lineout caught their opponents off guard when Mark Fleming took the ball right at the front, running over for an easy try. The hosts led 5-0 with a little over 10 minutes gone. The visitors were always going to react to going behind early. When they finally got some territory, they made it count, piling the pressure on the opposition defence. Their pack almost got them over, but the ball was deemed to be held up. However, they scored their 1st try of the season not long after. It came from a lineout maul deep in the redzone and who else could have been on the end of it, only last year’s top try scorer Dylan Donnellan. Conor Kelly adding the extras. It was a very competitive opening half with both sides enjoying purple pitches. The lead exchanged hands a couple more times before the break. College number 8 Sean O’Brien barrelled over from close range, after a powerful carry off the back of the scrum. The home advantage didn’t last long. After working their way back into the right area of the pitch a strong Soroka carry edged them over the line. Kelly restored their lead with a nice conversion. The champions had a 2-point cushion going into the half time interval. D’Arcy who is entering his 10th season with Clontarf burst into life early in the 2nd half. After a perfect set piece play, he made a beautiful break before slotting his centre partner Courtney away for the try. Despite losing a man to a yellow card, the 3 time AIL winners didn’t concede a score. In the 60th minute, they extended their lead. A good backline move and a smart kick from fullback Tadhg Bird, the college team were pinned deep inside their own danger zone. A Bobby Sheehan overthrow was pounced on by Donnellan who ran in for his 2nd try of the afternoon. How many will he get this season? It was 24-12 with 20 minutes to go. To their credit, College put in an impressive last quarter. They played some stylish rugby throughout, out half Corkery, outside centre David Ryan and left winger Cosgrave all having an impact on the game. In the 69th minute, they were rewarded for their efforts. O’Grady caught Angus Lloyd’s box kick. The ball was recycled and made it way to left winger Chris Cosgrave who followed up his own chip kick before passing back inside to David Ryan who got over for the score. The conversion was kicked. There was 5 points in it with just 10 minutes to play. Kelly missed the opportunity to make it a two-score game, when his penalty went wide. The Belfield boys threw the kitchen sink at them, but they couldn’t find the winning score. It finished 24-19 to Clontarf in a highly entertaining contest. UCD: Harry Donnelly; Dylan O’Grady, David Ryan, Ben Brownlee, Chris Cosgrave; Tim Corkery, Michael Moloney; Hugo O’Malley, Bobby Sheehan (capt), Evin Coyle, Jonny Fish, Mark Morrissey, Bill Burns, Sean O’Brien, Mark Fleming. Replacements: Killian McQuaid, Rob Byrne, Gerry Hill, James Tarrant, Rob Gilsenan, Alex O’Grady. CLONTARF: Tadhg Bird; Hugh Cooney, Michael Courtney, Matt D’Arcy (capt), Cian O’Donoghue; Conor Kelly, Angus Lloyd; Ivan Soroka, Dylan Donnellan, Ben Griffin, Fionn Gilbert, Cormac Daly, JJ O’Dea, Martin Moloney, Tony Ryan. Replacements: Declan Adamson, Darragh Bolger, Ed Kelly, Sam Owens, Conor Kearns, JP Phelan.