Young Munster 21
Dublin University Football Club (DUFC) fell to their ninth defeat in this season’s Energia All-Ireland League (AIL) Division 1A, with a 21-9 loss to Young Munster in atrocious conditions in College Park on Saturday. Three tries in the first half saw the visitors surge ahead, while Trinity could not capitalise on some gilt-edged opportunities to pick up even a losing bonus point, as their quest to avoid relegation grows increasingly more challenging.
Munster emerged 28-24 victors when the two sides met in Limerick in November. Since then, Trinity have only won once, against Terenure last month. Indeed, the students have only one win in their last seven games in the AIL and lie in 9th place in the league table on 18 points, only ahead of bottom side Ballynahinch on points difference. The hosts welcomed Ireland Club international Colm Hogan back into the side, lining out at full-back. With Ryan Baird in action for Leinster in the RDS, the second-row responsibilities fell to the formidable duo of Jack Dunne and Arthur Greene. For the visitors, Conor Bartley, himself fresh from Ireland Club duty, returns at tighthead, while Munster Academy player Josh Wycherley, brother of senior Munster player Fineen, was among the replacements.
The strong wind which swirled around College Park ahead of kickoff had more or less subsided as the game got underway, only to be replaced by severe downpours. While many casual spectators retreated to shelter, the brave DUFC faithful stood firm, their voices lending the home side some much-needed support. As Storm Dennis wreaked havoc across the country, the relentless rain was also causing problems on the field. Both sides struggled to keep hold of the greasy ball, with Trinity’s best opportunities falling flat due to handling errors.
Young Munster, on the other hand, looked dangerous in attack, with fly-half Evan Cusack happy to kick behind the Trinity defence and put the students under pressure. The visitors made the breakthrough on 12 minutes, when lock Alan Kennedy crashed over for the game’s opening try, with Cusack adding the extras. Trinity sought to return fire soon after, and after a lengthy period of running the ball through the forwards, a penalty from Michael O’Kennedy brought the deficit back to four points.
Munster struck again, with Kennedy breaking through the Trinity line, before his second-row partner Sean Rigney touched it down, Cusack slotted over the conversion to make it 14-3. Flawless from the tee, Cusack was also superb kicking out of hand, his cross-field effort finding Luke Fitzgerald on the right wing, who burned Liam MacMahon on the outside to cross the whitewash for the visitor’s third try. All of Munster’s chances were coming from turnover ball, as Trinity’s forward momentum was constantly interrupted by unforced errors.
However, Munster’s ill discipline began to have an influence, with the penalty count mounting as the first half wore on. Needing to find a quick way back into the game, Trinity kicked for touch multiple times, but this approach proved fruitless. The penalties kept coming, and in the dying minutes of the half, loosehead prop David Begley was sent to the sin-bin for an infringement at the breakdown. O’Kennedy knocked over two kicks directly in front of the goal to leave the score at 21-9 at the break.
Trinity were beginning to grow into the game at the start of the second period, with both sides taking advantage of the absence of wind and putting some probing kicks into each other’s 22, hoping to force a mistake from the opposition. Trinity were creating chances, but could not find the crucial final pass to see them over the line. Meanwhile, the visitors dug in, knowing that a robust defence was essential to securing an important away win. Hogan was impressive in both fielding the ball and from the boot, but as the game wore on, Trinity’s thoughts turned to salvaging a losing bonus point.
They came close, and reinforcements in the shape of James Fennelly and Tomas Killeen seemed to inject the hosts with some creative energy. Again, however, handling errors were Trinity’s undoing, and Young Munster held on to take 4 points back to Limerick. The result means that DUFC remain in 9th, one point behind UCC who held on against UCD to pick a losing bonus point at Belfield. Trinity travel to fellow strugglers Ballynahinch next Saturday, in what may prove to be a decisive fixture in the quest to move out of the dreaded dropzone.