Relentless is a word that can be used to describe this Letterkenny u18 squad.
Letterkenny u18s 22
Virginia u18s 10.
Relentless not only in the quest for silverware but also in the pursuit of excellence in terms of their performance.
A very talented and well coached Virginia team arrived at the Glebe on Saturday determined to finish their season on a high by qualifying for the cup final but yet again this Letterkenny team upped their performance to another level.
An excellent 9th minute try created by team captain Daniel Faulkner and finished off at speed by his mid field accomplice Matthew Faulkner looked to have set the home side up for an easy day at the office, but Virginia were not about to roll over.
Their very impressive pack tried to dominate the smaller home forwards but to no avail. The Letterkenny rucking and support of the ball carrier was exceptional with Joseph Dunleavy, David Ward and Chris Green to the fore.
All the while no.10 Peter Scott was controlling his backline to make sure that the forwards were not being left to toil alone. Forwards Dunleavy and Stephen Holmes were making great inroads through their ball carries as was first centre Daniel Faulkner. In one memorable foray he seemed to be unstoppable and made 20 metres with numerous Virginia players unable to bring him to ground.
Despite this territorial dominance Virginia would end the half level by scoring a try just before the break. So 5-5 at half time with the normally reliable Scott having a poor return in the half from a penalty as well as the conversion attempt.
The second half began as the first had with an early try for the home team. On the 43 rd minute mark a good line-out take by Roulston led to a rolling maul which had the visitors scrambling to defend and eventually they were forced to concede a penalty try for dragging down the maul. 12-5 to the home team but they were still having to work hard with the tackle count soaring.
Diarmuid Gallagher, Martin Molloy, James Roulston and Lewi Carson were busy making sure that the visitors pack were not gaining superiority but having to work hard for every inch of ground made.
This hard work began to wear the visitors and on the 50 minute mark Scott added a penalty from distance to give the home team a little more breathing space.
On 58 minutes a great break from the very impressive Oisin Toal was halted just short of the try line by a dangerous high tackle resulting in a yellow card and penalty. Virginia did very well to defend the subsequent lineout drive but the home team were still working at a high level. Great credit to the visitors who seemed to find another gear with only 14 men and mounted a great series of attacks. The home defence held firm with one particular tackle from D. Gallagher bringing gasps from the crowd. On 65mins the home team finally sealed the win thanks to a well practiced move from no.8 Dunleavy.
Picking the ball from the back of a scrum he chipped in behind the defence, as any good number 8 should, which allowed Daniel Faulkner to win the race and use his soccer skills to control the ball before a well deserved touchdown. With the conversion added the score was now 22-5 but Virginia were to have the last say with a forward try at the death to leave the final score 22-10.
Letterkenny can now look forward to another crack at the Brian McLaughlin coached Armagh team in Ravenhill on May 7th. Armagh will go into this game as very strong favourites as they defeated Letterkenny in the league final in March. Their team is full of experienced provincial and national players who believe that the cup is there for the taking. The absence of top scorer Kevin Grant through long term injury and the ongoing battle that team captain Faulkner has with a shoulder injury means that Armagh hold all the advantages.
Letterkenny team A Boal-Quinn, D Toal, M Faulkner, D Faulkner, O Toal, P Scott, B Khavia, J Dunleavy, M Molloy, L Carson, J Roulston, D Gallagher, C Green, S Holmes, D Ward, A O Neill, S Gibson, C Cannon, W Douglas, J Smeaton, J Lafferty, E Henry.