Ardee Community School won’t get a chance to avenge last season’s McMullen Cup Final defeat at Donnybrook Stadium in 2018 – after a disappointing 5-18 defeat to Dundalk Grammar School at Mill Road on Thursday afternoon ended the seniors cup hopes for another year.
The defeat sees Ardee CS exit at the quarter-final stage having made the short hop to Dundalk Rugby Club to face their local rivals. Having already beaten their last eight opponents in Division 2A Northeast Pool Div 1 action earlier in the campaign, Andy Robb’s team arrived in good spirits.
They were buoyed too by a comfortable 19-0 win over Malahide in the round of 16 – and the return of a number of key players from th last year’s run to the final – notably GAA stars Conor Gillespie and Donal McKenny who swapped trying to score over the posts with attempting to run under them for the day.
It wasn’t enough for Ardee however – who were boosted by James Reilly recovering from injury – and after a chastening 60-15 to Wexford’s Good Counsel College at Donnybrook Stadium last March, their McMullen Cup journey ends after two short outings this time.
Writing on Facebook, coach Andy Robb said, “This team have always excepted honest criticism & the fact is we beat ourselves today. We didn’t play our game, argued with ourselves, lacked focus, composure & the clinical edge we’ve come to see from our seniors.
“That is by no means to be disrespectful of DG [Dundalk Grammar] who have clearly been working hard since our league encounter, but we simply didn’t show up today! We were looking too far up the road rather than what was in front of us… A determined DG team.”
It took less than 60 seconds for the host to reach the try line, their effort converted. Soon after, a penalty handed Ardee a ten point deficit with just ten minutes played. De La Salle had reached this stage by beating St Marys Drogheda 46-0 last time out.
Gillespie was denied a try on his return by the referee’s whistle. Had it arrived, it would have handed the Blue & Reds a certain filip going into the break. They did go over to reduce the arrears, coming after a bulldozing run from prop Cyr Bakekolo, but that wasn’t converted.
The visitors momentum was checked in a niggly second half which suited the team with the lead. Another penalty and then a well worked try saw them over the line.
What will hurt for many of the Ardee CS line-up is that this was their final crack at cup success. Many, including captain Joe Mulholland and Bakekolo, won’t be around for another go next year. Three successive years had brought defeat on each visit to Donnybrook – and there was, with foundation, hope that 2018 could be different.
Robb must rally his team for the task of the Division 2A playoffs in the new year. “The team need to reflect on this loss & ask themselves some serious questions, potential only gets you so far, you also require hard work!,” he added.
The loss also means Ardee CS don’t qualify for the Vinnie Murray Cup, with DGS now going forward to tackle Catholic University School.