Terenure terriers refuse to crumble

Terenure terriers refuse to crumble

9 October 2019

BALLYNAHINCH shook off their insipid displays in the SONI Premiership to push much-fancied Terenure right to the wire in their first appearance back in AIL Division 1A since 2016. 

The Dublin outfit were the form team over the second half of last season and having recently clinched the Leinster Senior League title, were heavy favourites with pundits and bookmakers prior to kick off. 

They were also almost at full strength, while the home side were patched up in midfield after losing Rory Butler to injury. Veteran centre Stuart Morrow was again pressed into service with Aaron Cairns returning on the wing following concussion. 

Up front Ben Cullen earned the starting loose head spot and hugely influential number 8 Conall Boomer returned from injury. However, with eight players involved in the Ulster A Celtic Cup game on Friday night and four more in South Africa with the Pro14 squad, Brian McLaughlin’s options were limited. 

Tom Stewart and Connor Rankin were released to take their places on the bench, but the team that took the field was largely drawn from the squad which had been under-performing over the pre-AIL period. 

A few honest words on Tuesday night and an exceptional week on the training paddock clearly made a big difference as the home side tore into their opponents from the whistle. 

Playing away from the clubhouse and into the wet and gusty conditions, they drove into the Terenure half and were rewarded for an excellent scrum with a penalty to allow Sean O’Hagan to give his side the lead.

Some indiscipline from a visibly fired up home forward pack allowed Terenure the chance to gain a foothold in the home half, but a superb turnover from Boomer on former ‘Hinch prop Campbell Classon allowed Ryan Wilson to clear. 

Cairns was doing his best to keep the home support involved and after skinning his opposite number twice in quick succession, he proceeded to drive him almost into the home dugout with a massive hit which got the home crowd even more fired up. 

However, a three point lead was scant reward for Ballynahinch after 25 minutes and Terenure began to turn the screw. 

They had a clear scrum advantage with referee Kieran Barry taking umbrage with Cullen’s angles and following a scrum deep in ‘Hinch territory, they went through the phases and eventually drove prop Liam Hyland over for a try at the posts to take a 7-3 lead.

Moments later a superb long grubber kick forced Cairns back over his own line and Terenure won another penalty from the resulting 5m scrum. 

Declining the shot at goal they opted for another scrum and another infringement led to a penalty try, taking the lead out to 14-3 after 33 minutes. 

Undaunted, Ballynahinch finished the half strongly when a trademark Rhys O’Donnell show and go sent him flying up the left touchline and almost over in the corner. Stout defending from Terenure averted the immediate danger, but a penalty for offside allowed O’Hagan to kick another penalty and cut the gap to 14-6 at half-time.

As conditions worsened there was belief around the ground that this was not an insurmountable deficit, but disaster struck early in the first half when replacement Rankin elected to move the ball from deep. 

His long pass to a flying Ross Adair was only inches off target, but allowed the prolific Jake Swaine to hack through and win the race for the line to take his side 13 points clear at 19-6. Ballynahinch refused to lie down and used the conditions to dominate field position. 

Blindside Aaron Hall put his injury nightmare behind by driving Terenure back at every opportunity and O’Hagan’s deadly boot dragged them back into the game with two penalties. When the under pressure Terenure outfit conceded another penalty in their own 22, almost everyone in the ground expected another three points. 

The ever-alert O’Donnell had other ideas as he took a quick tap penalty and weaved his way over to score at the posts. 

O’Hagan’s conversion made it 19 all and as the weather really closed in, the home side were the clear favourites as they piled on the pressure in search of a win. 

Terenure defended well and were handed a lifeline when Cairns elected to run a speculative clearance instead of launching it back downfield. 

The ball was knocked on in the centre of the pitch and with heavyweight lock James Simpson off, the field Terenure once again exploited their scrum superiority to milk a penalty. 

Swaine held his nerve to nail the kick which, although central, was made tricky by the grim conditions.

Ballynahinch threw everything at a tiring Terenure defence as the game entered injury time and after more than 20 phases of hammering away around the 22m line O’Hagan called for the goal. 

The slippery conditions and heavy pressure meant his kick was a little rushed and it dropped short and wide to allow the away side to mark the ball and kick it out for a hard-earned win.

The locals will reflect on a game they probably should have won, but will take an enormous amount of positives from the performance after visibly stepping up their physicality. 

Small margins will make a huge difference in this league and the fixtures come fast over the next few weeks. ‘Hinch travel to UCC this weekend to take on a student side buoyed by their demolition of much-fancied Trinity at the weekend and with the squad still thin due to Ulster A’s involvement in the Celtic Cup final, skipper John Donnan will have to lift his men for another big effort. However, he will be a happier man after his team showed that they belong in this company.

Ballynahinch: Ben Cullen, Conor Piper, Johnny Blair, James Simpson, John Donnan (c), Aaron Hall, Olly Loughead, Conall Boomer, Rhys O’Donnell, Sean O’Hagan, Aaron Cairns, Ryan Wilson, Stuart Morrow, George Pringle, Ross Adair. Replacements: Tom Stewart, Nacho Caldera, Bradley Luney, Greg Hutley, Conor Rankin.