IN glorious conditions, when parasols and sunshades replaced umbrellas, serious rugby made a welcome – and winning – return to Shamrock Lodge for this Colm O’Shea Cup quarter-final last Saturday.
Complementing the tropical conditions were the playing pitches which were resplendent and a credit to the ground staff at the venue.
We have to go back to March 2020 when the last game of rugby was played at the Lodge and credit has to go to the coaches and mentors of Boyne RFC for keeping the interest of the game alive among the players at all levels in the club, through very difficult times.
Whilst Covid has greatly affected the domestic resumption of the game in many clubs, one had only to observe the amount of player activity at Shamrock Lodge on Saturday last to know that the club has survived the last 18 months extremely well.
Longford came to Boyne with high hopes of advancing in this new Colm O’Shea junior competition, having come through the earlier rounds with impressive results.
Their previous two encounters with Boyne had also yielded wins, but the Drogheda men have shown a massive improvement and following a pretty evenly contested first half they upped the gears in the second half to show the visitors a clean pair of heels.
Boyne opened the game with a flourish and practically from the kick-off impressive wing forward Rory Hennessy had them on the scoreboard with an excellent try which resulted from turnover ball won by the forwards.
Number 8 Karl Keogh, making a welcome return to the club, made no mistake with the conversion to give Boyne an early 7-0 lead.
From the resumption following this score, it was Longford who turned the tables to exert pressure on the Boyne rearguard with a period of sustained pressure which was rewarded with a try.
They failed to convert, which left the score 7-5 after 17 minutes.
Both sides had periods of possession before Boyne increased their lead, this time centre Cathal Greene crossing for their second try which was contrived through a series of moves by the backs.
Keogh failed with the conversion to leave the half-time reading 12-5.
Whilst the first half was a pretty evenly contested affair, the same couldn’t be said for the second moiety and in the 50th minute Boyne cut loose and with Hennessy, Hugh Carolan and Collie Joyce-Ahearne making great thrusts to set up their backs, it was out half Kevin McCleery who made a scintillating run to outpace the Longford defence and touchdown for his side’s third try – 17-5.
This was a golden period midway through this half for Boyne and another two tries followed in the 55th and 59th minutes.
Robert Vallejo (pictured above left), playing on the wing for this match, added to his already impressive try-scoring tally this season with a brace and once again it was initial good work by the Boyne forwards in the loose which set up their backs for these scores.
Keogh converted both tries to push his side out to 31 points.
Going into the last quarter Longford did make an attempt to put some respectability on the scoreboard, but it was Boyne who finished off the scoring and this time it was impressive full back Michael Briscoe who crossed for the last try of the game, which Keogh converted.
Promising young referee Katie Byrne, from Tullamore, deserved plaudits for her performance on the day.
Boyne continue to show improvement, with some exciting young players starting to emerge and play their part in their impressive opening to the new season.
As stated, the return of Keogh and the introduction of Greene along with the return to action of Carolan and Vallejo following injury has given Boyne coaches and mentors great optimism for the new season.
The club will also field a 2nds side this season as well as an Under-20s side which bodes well for the future.
The excellent record of the Boyne club in producing top quality youth players also continues, with nine players from the club fielding for the North East Leinster side in the recent Shane Horgan competition. They also had players involved with the Leinster youths at Under-18 and 19 level.
Boyne must now travel away to play Seapoint in the semi-final of the Colm O’Shea competition this coming weekend.
BOYNE: Michael Briscoe; Robert Vallejo, Cathal Greene, Adam Brodigan, Graeme McQuillan; Kevin McCleery, Nick Smith; Tadgh O’Reilly, Matthew O’Callaghan, Hugh Carolan; Colm Joyce-Ahearn, Patrick Prendergast; Rory Hennessy, Ben Dunphy, Karl Keogh. Replacements: Sean Callan, Evan McGinn, Conor Callaghan, Ciarán Smith, Aaron Kierans.