It was a historic day for Athlone Touch Rugby last Saturday as they travelled to Wicklow RFC for their first ever tournament.
As Ireland’s newest Touch Rugby club, Athlone was invited to take part in the inaugural Irish Touch Series (ITS ), with more than a dozen teams from around the country going head to head in several venues during the next couple of months.
Athlone began the day with back to back games against two strong Dublin clubs, Donnybrook and Clontarf. The men and women from Dublin 4 contained several international players in their ranks and put Athlone under pressure from the start. By half-time they had established a two-point lead. Athlone fought back in the second half and Shane Donohoe set up a score for Jess Menton in the corner. As expected, though, Donnybrook rallied and added a couple of scores before the end.
The Athlone players next faced Clontarf. While the northsiders took a 2-0 lead into the break, Athlone rallied strongly in the second half and put Clontarf under sustained pressure, with some good driving play and footwork from Paul Gavin, Kyra Wildy and Nigel So. However, they just could not break down their opponents’ defence. Clontarf then showed the type of clinical finishing in the red zone that only comes with experience, as they added a couple more scores to run out 5-0 winners. However, this scoreline did not do justice to Athlone’s efforts.
Game three was against Belfast Warriors, and in the first period Athlone held their own against the well-organised and structured Ulster side. The Warriors drew first blood, but Athlone came close to levelling when Gemma Staunton almost touched down in the corner. The second period was a different story, as the northerners really got on top. Athlone struggled to deal with their relentless driving and high tempo game, and they eased to a comfortable victory.
The final game of the day was a Connacht derby against Westport. Athlone got off to a flyer as Nigel So fooled the Westport defence with a clever dummy to give his team the lead in the first minute. Westport fired back with three scores before the break.
Athlone fought back impressively and player of the day Shane Donohoe caught Westport napping to dive over in the corner. Again, Athlone were unable to turn further sustained pressure into points, and the Mayo side added two more scores before the end to win 5-2.
Overall it a great experience but a steep learning curve for Athlone. The talent and desire is there, it is just a case of increasing the knowledge and experience of the game by taking part in more competitions.
Anyone, male or female, is welcome to come down to training on Monday nights at 6.30pm in Buccaneers RFC. See Athlone Touch Rugby on Facebook or contact Denis O’Connor on (085 ) 7742751 for details.