Donegal Town RFC players stopping off in Pettigo after game against Instonians
A day which will be etched into the memory of all involved, a day where a players, and a clubs true character was unveiled, despite a defeat.
The events of the day could not be more dramatic even if Shakespeare himself had written them with plenty of ‘what if’ questions doing the rounds on the bus journey home. For various reasons the 1xv had to travel to the heart of Belfast to play with depleted numbers playing the entire game with 13 players.
A well organised outfit Donegal got off the bus hoping to save face and fulfil a fixture however they set a furious pace in the opening minutes pinning the opposition into their 22. The game plan was simple keep the ball and recycle and Donegal done this to a tee, with unconfirmed reports that a number of pack members have since woken in the dead of night hearing voices shouting ‘run straight’.
Following some good ball carrying from the Donegal pack, David Giblin crossed the whitewash in the opening minutes only to be adjudged to knock the ball on before grounding, captain Ernan Cassidy has since recommended his hands be checked for holes before the next game.
Within minutes Donegal opened the scoring with a penalty from out half Hugh Morrow. From the restart Donegal continued to make yards keeping the ball tight, flankers Adrian Herrety and Stephen Pearson revelling in their new found positions. Following good support play from Reece Fury Brogan his second row partner Shane McNulty crashed over from close range for 5 points, Morrow with the conversion.
The shell shocked home side started to come into the game as Donegal were reduced to 12 men, Alan Bushell taking a knock. On the 25th minute Donegal gained another penalty converted by Morrow. Leaving the score 0-13 to the visitors. However the visiting side were starting to fatigue.
Donegal continued to defend everything thrown at them with Shane ‘Speedy’ McGlinchy playing true to his name and making a number of last ditch tackles. Donegal did concede two unconverted tries following a period of sustained pressure however Instonians had to work for every inch gained. Half time 10-13.
The second half started with Donegal continuing to keep ball in hand, scrum half Gareth Mcmurray using every available body to carry. Front row of Alan Bushell Kevin McGinty and Keith Anderson were solid in the scrum with number 8 Ernan Cassidy as always was playing on the edge. Donegal did concede 2 tries midway through the half with the score on the 60th minute 22-13.
The Donegal heads did not drop with centres David Giblin and Gareth Marias making themselves available to carry ball and take pressure off the tiring pack. With one carry Giblin made a break deep into opposition territory, with would be tacklers distracted by his Tom Selleck like moustache, he managed to off load to McMurray who touched down under the posts, converted. 22-20.
With Donegal now tiring badly the home side emptied their bench and managed to get another try on the 75th minute to leave the score 27-20. Again the Donegal heads did not drop, each man battered and bruised, but not beaten. Following a series of up to 15 phases Donegal were inside the opposition 22. Scrum half Mcmurray waited for the right moment to find his half back partner Morrow, who crossed the line under pressure in the final minute. Morrow’s conversion wiped its feet of each post and the crossbar before landing on the right side of the bar and the Donegal boys were sure they had secured a dramatic draw. Score 27-27.
The referee had different ideas allowing the restart. In a cruel twist of fate, ecstasy turned to despair as Donegal out on their feet lost possession and Instonians with a three man overlap touched down under the posts with the last play of the game. Final score 34-27.