The final score at Glenina on Saturday flattered the second division visitors somewhat as Galwegians advanced to the third round of the AIB Cup at the expense of Highfield with relative ease.
This game had more subplots than a Tarantino movie, with last season’s coach Paul Young returning to his old stomping ground along with former ‘Wegians players Nick Waverly, Aaron McGettigan and one time Connacht flanker Brendan O’Connor. Add to this the senior debut of renowned hurler Diarmuid ‘The Rock’ O’Sullivan and Saturday’s game had shedloads of potential but ultimately failed to live up to its billing, as two late converted tries from Highfield left the outcome looking tighter than it actually was.
Galwegians lead 13-3 at the break and were well in control for the most part. An early penalty from Rob O’Bierne was followed by a well-worked try by centre Chris Brigl which was converted by outhalf Matt Brandon after O’Bierne was forced off injured.
Highfield’s young number eight Mick Delane soon joined him on the sidelines after he was carded for use of the boot at a ruck. Parity in numbers was restored, however, after O’Sullivan’s first touch of the ball. The Rebel legend, on self-imposed exile from the Cork hurling panel, was on the shoulder of lock Tony Wise when he galloped out of defence and John Cleary joined Delane in the sin bin after coming in offside to deny O’Sullivan in the home ‘22. Wakely slotted the resultant penalty but Brandon cancelled the score with a penalty in reply four minutes before the half-time tea to leave 10 points in it at the turn.
Highfield played some good rugby in the closing moments of the first half, defending manfully in midfield and taking the game to the opposition, and the Cork side continued their lively form upon the restart. Wakely was wide with a straightforward penalty before Brendan O’Connor went close to crossing the Galwegians’ whitewash in the left corner. Despite being forced into touch by Jamie Stephens’ tackle, Highfield were awarded another shot at goal for an earlier infringement but again Wakely screwed his penalty wide.
With Highfield’s comeback thwarted, Brandon put Galwegians further ahead just shy of the hour mark when the Aussie flyhalf collected his own chip over the try line and added the conversion for 20-3. In a frantic final quarter Liam Casserly put the result beyond doubt when he barged over under the posts, Brandon again adding the extras. Galwegians might have been forgiven for taking their eye off the ball in the closing moments at 27-3 ahead and the visitors grabbed the opportunity to post two tries in reply before the final whistle. The industrious Wise crossed first before fullback Peter Martin followed less than a minute later, Wakely converting both with drop goals to add a touch of respectability to the final score. Galwegians face a January clash against Nenagh Ormond in the next round.
Galwegians: Robert O’Bierne, John Cleary, Chris Brigl, Chris Rodgers, Brian Murphy, Matt Brandon, Tom Ellard, Brian McGovern, Alex O’Sullivan, Jamie Stephens, Brian McLearn, Liam Scahill, Andrew Brown, Nick McCarthy, Liam Casserly.
Subs: Cormac O’Beirne for Robert O’Bierne (inj ) (15mins ), Michael Swift for Liam Scahill (47mins ), Ben Draper for Brian Murphy (61mins ), Ross Fitzgerald for Alex O’Sullivan (67mins ), Dan O’Connor for Jamie Stephens (70mins ).
Sin bin: John Cleary.
Highfield: Peter Martin, Morris Power, Nick Wakely, Colin Mahony, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Conor Quaid, Mick Cummins, Martin Gately, Cathal Touhy, Conor Forde, Tony Wise, Matt McCann, Brendan O’Connor, Aaron McGettigan, Mick Delane.
Subs: Conor O’Leary for Conor Quaid (inj ) (h/t ), Frank Quinlan for Brendan O’Connor (52mins ), Rory O’Donovan for Mick Cummins (66mins ), Conor Hartnett for Cathal Touhy (75mins ).
Sin bin: Mick Delane.
Referee: Alan Gargan (Leinster ).