waddle did his bit but it was Gandhi who sealed the deal for Ballyshannon in a very close Ravenhill Cup final with Strabane at a blustery Omagh on Saturday.
Gandhi is the nickname for the Ballyshannon full-back, Anthony Boyle, while Waddle is the handle on second row, Anthony Coughlan, who both played their part in a deserved victory.
Conditions were far from ideal with the swirling wind and hail showers, more akin to an encounter in December than May.
Over the 80 plus minutes Ballyshannon were the better side and if the conditions had been kinder then they would have probably won more convincingly as they had the superior backs and always looked dangerous with ball in hand.
The conditions, however, militated against winning primary possession with lineouts a lottery and whatever trump card Strabane had was in their more physical pack.
At one stage early in the second half it looked as if that superior physicality might be a deciding factor, but that quickly evaporated with ‘Shannon camped for most of the second period in the Strabane half.
They had turned over at the break on level terms - 3-3, a very good return given the strength of the wind. They can thank outhalf and coach Raymond Gallagher, who gave a masterclass with the boot in that opening half, pegging Strabane back time after time and his kicking game was peerless, in the Ronan O’Gara class.
The pundits along the sideline were warning Anthony ‘Waddle’ Coughlan from early on to be disciplined and while he did give away a couple of penalties, his willingness to not take a step back was probably one of the deciding factors in the game.
It was a ‘Waddle’ infringement that gave Strabane the opening penalty on 17 minutes, but a similar Strabane infringement saw Anthony Boyle level matters on 31 minutes. The infringement came after a great break through the middle by prop David Hoey.
Two minutes later ‘Shannon were denied the first try of the game when Mark Rooney broke clear and kicked on. In the run for the touchdown he seemed to be impeded by the Strabane full-back but the referee blew for a ‘22’ drop out.
Deep in added time at the end of the opening half, Strabane did have a chance to get the lead back but their outhalf was off target from a penalty inside the ‘22’.
However, the Strabane side showed that they were up for the battle in the opening minutes of the second half as they drove Ballyshannon back and prop Mal Finlay burrowed his way over after they took a ‘tap’ penalty. The conversion was missed, however.
Ballyshannon were back on terms on 50 minutes when Anthony ‘Waddle’ Coughlan forced a turnover and fed the ball to Mark Rooney, who found a gap in the centre of the Strabane defence and weaved his way through to touch down. He could have made the conversion easier but Anthony Boyle was just off target and the score remained level.
The conditions played a big part in the next 24 minutes being scoreless although the game was mostly played in the Strabane half.
Then six minutes from the end of normal time David Tyrell made a great break and Strabane were penalised in front of the posts and ‘Gandhi’ was never going to miss to send a huge cheer up from the Ballyshannon support.
There were a couple of anxious moments until the referee blew the final whistle, some seven minutes into added time, but ‘Shannon were not going to be denied with James O’Donnell leading by example in the final minutes.
It was a great display in the conditions with some wonderful displays, not least from Mark Rooney, Anthony Boyle, Raymond Gallagher, David Tyrell and ‘Waddle’. Young Christian Carroll came in for the last ten minutes and also made a great impression.
Ballyshannon: David Hoey, Alan Prendergast, Brian Killilea, Darren Gillespie, Anthony Coughlin, James O’Donnell, Dara Keown, David Tyrell, Evan McGloin, Raymond Gallagher, Dominic Gillespie, Mark Rooney, Richard Gillespie, Paul Connolly, Anthony Boyle. Replacements: Christian Carroll for Darren Gillespie; Paul Cassidy for Hoey; Daniel Grimes for Connolly.
Strabane: M Finley, J Kee, J Blair, W Black, W FInlay, M Young, C Hamilton, J Mitchell, D Smyth, S Maxwell, A Gore, S Hamilton, M McIlwaine, P Pattison, S Mowbray.
“We deserved win” - O’Donnell
Ballyshannon captain James O’Donnell was a happy man at the end.
“We knew the game plan Strabane would play, very tight, plenty of rucking and mauling and killing the ball. Just slowing the whole play down. We had better backs than them, but they were cute. They were one of the best teams we played all year.
“Fair play to Strabane, they are putting out two teams and that’s not easy. There wasn’t much in it. We played all the rugby in the second half and only for some silly mistakes, we would have put a few more points on the board.
“They had a great start to the second half. They put on a spurt and got a try. But the boys always looked dangerous.
“I’m just delighted for all the boys. There’s ten or twelve of them boys training for the last nine months now. We were hoping to have the final in Ravenhill, but it doesn’t matter where we play as long as we win the cup. That’s the double we’re after doing now,” said James.
“It was very hard with the wind. Poor old Alan (Prendergast), it was very hard in the lineout. It was tough conditions but I’m just delighted to come away with the win,” said James.