It was Round 9 of the Digicel Gaelic League and the all conquering Cabra Gaels were in a position to clinch the League honours with a Round to spare last Sunday.
It was left to the Western Gaels to block their coronation as league champions but their task was made nigh impossible as several key players were unable to report for duty at the rugby club in South Sound. Colm Moynihan and Shane Gallery were still celebrating the Royal wedding and James Kennedy was ruled out with a bruised toe. However team captain Paul Broderick was able to shake off a serious knee ligament injury and he lined up at full forward.
Cabra dominated the first half and goals from Declan Daly and Etienne Duvenage gave them a commanding half time lead but Western Gaels rallied bravely and came back strongly in the second half.
An early goal from Dave O’Driscoll gave his teammates great encouragement and with Conrad Proud and Mike Oldfield getting on top in defence, a comeback looked on the cards.
Trevor Murphy was also putting in a great display and he kicked some fine points but then a speculative shot from distance found its way past keeper Shannon Moylan and Cabra could finally relax.
They ran out winners by four points but Western Gaels were able to take great encouragement from their second half display and they will be confident of their chances going into finals day while Cabra will be seeking to complete a league and cup double.
The second men’s match was the battle of the cellar-dwellers of the men’s league, Wolfe Tones against Gabriels. With one player advantage the Wolfe Tones capitalised through goals from Garry Lynch and new Aussie recruit Scott Henderson as well as three overs from Eamon Wilson. The Gabriels were still within reaching distant at half time thanks to three overs from Niall Boyle. The score was 10-3 at the half-time break.
A lack of discipline from defender Shane Delaney led to his dismissal to the sin bin and this halted a spirited comeback by the under-manned Gabriels. Goals from Johnny McLaughlin and Niall Boyle were not enough to close the gap and the final score after another Garry Lynch goal for the Wolfe Tones was 15-10.
South African George Mervitz continued his good form in the midfield for the Wolfe Tones while the return of Scott Brittain was a big plus for the Gabriels.
The last match of the day saw the third place ranking Ladies, Oliver Plunketts, take on ladies league favourites Na Piarsaighs. The Plunketts are one of the few teams to have taken a game off the Na Piarsaighs this season and they were keen to secure another victory. Easier said than done when the Na Piarsaighs approached the field with a 14 strong squad ensuring a steady supply of fresh legs throughout the game.
By contrast, the Oliver Plunketts had just the one brave hearted sub – Caroline Deegan, playing with a broken toe but still kicking further than most players and goal keepers on the field.
The Na Piarsaighs came storming out of the gate in the first half with two quick points scored by Mary Dunne and Laura Fitzgerald. The Oliver Plunketts rallied round and tore the ball back to the Na Piarsaighs goal with some excellent play in mid field by speed demon Michelle Bailey and Lauren Keller.
Some over enthusiastic tackling by the Na Piarsaighs translated into a penalty and a hard earned point for Oliver Plunketts by top scorer Janice Gordon. However, the Na Piarsaighs defenders resisted any further efforts by the opposition to score in the first half with Fiona Brander – the back who thinks she’s a forward – making some fantastic solo runs down the pitch to keep the ball out of danger.
Score at half time was 4-1 to the Na Piarsaighs and 1-0 to Oliver Plunketts. In the first few minutes of the second half, a well placed pass by Dearbhaile O’Sullivan to Janice Gordon resulted in a quick point for Oliver Plunketts. However, the comeback was brief.
Oliver Plunketts were tiring while the Na Piarsaighs coordinated passing translated into point after point by Abbey Le Cornu, Laura Fitzgerald and Mary Dunne.
Liz Austin’s clever play and general tallness just on the 45 line meant that the Na Piarsaighs stole several goal kicks straight back leaving them well positioned to score another goal (Laura Fitzgerald) before the final whistle. Final score was 8-2 to the Na Piarsaighs and 2-0 to Oliver Plunketts.
The final match day of the league will be held on Sunday 22 May for the crowning of the men’s and ladies Digicel champions.
All games are also available for viewing on www.caymanrugbyTV.com