On a recent Saturday morning the prayers of the Inishowen rugby club were answered as the day dawned bright and clear. An enthusiastic group of the senior players under the direction of John Merritt met at 8am to mark out seven pitches for the Mini Rugby Blitz. This had been postponed twice due to the weather but things went according to plan on March 1.
Five other rugby clubs sent teams and about 200 boys and girls plus coaches, parents, siblings and grand-parents had descended on the Carndonagh Community School by 10.30am.The teams were from Ballyshannon, Tir Chonnaill, Donegal Town, Letterkenny and City of Derry rugby clubs and were warmly welcomed.
The games got underway about 10.45 with each club hoping to play every other club. The Inishowen Under 8s had a good day and were full of enthusiasm and energy. Coach Anne Scott realises that some more work needs to be done on securing loose ball but mentioned that in defence the standard of tackling was superb. In this department Gary Gillen, Conal Diss, Kieran Cunningham and Brendan O’Carroll were super and some crunching tackles were made which certainly prevented tries. Jack Moore is always a speed merchant and made lots of ground ably followed by Adam Boggs, Conor Cleary and Euan McFeely. The boys were a credit to the club and the Man of the Match was Brendan O’Carroll.
The U10s had a large squad of 14 players to choose from and all the boys showed great skills and effort when involved ,practising what they have learned from senior players Neil Gillespie and Dermot McGonagle at training in recent weeks. The first game of the morning was against a well drilled City of Derry, Inishowen put in a good defensive effort with strong tackling from the likes of Oisin Mclaughlin and Dinny Gillespie. The boys showed they could attack as well as defend and the Callaghan twins proved difficult to stop when in full flow; the only try of the game came through Oliver McCaffrey. The next match was against Tir Chonnaill with both teams racking up plenty of tries. Kyran Cantwell and Taylor Bonner showed good speed to break through tackles but it was Stephen Callaghan who tormented the opposition scoring almost every time he received the ball.The last game of the day was against Ballyshannon and both teams played a forwards game with plenty of mauls, Inishowen had a good lead at half time but were unlucky to be beaten 4 tries to 3 at the end.
Neil Gillespie was very pleased with the way his team played and named Stephen Callaghan as his Man of the Match.
The Under 12s played four matches winning two and drawing two. They impressed all who watched them and the improvement in the skills and confidence of these young players was fantastic to watch. The players rose to the occasion and it must be noted that some other players were missing due to other commitments so therefore competition for places will be tough in the future. Tries came from many members of the team and it was great to see so much effort being put in by some like Gareth McCandless to set up a try for another player to score. This is the essence of rugby and the players who scored were Gareth, Dean McEleney, Andrew Cunningham, James Kelly and Mark Scott. Coach Brian McNally was delighted with the way his lads played and had a difficult job in naming his Man of the Match but for his all round game it is James Kelly, a player who is growing in confidence by the week.
Following the matches all adjourned to the school canteen where there was a mountain of food. The visitors expressed their appreciation for the wonderful Inishowen welcome and the club would like to take this opportunity to thank all who helped in any way to make the day so successful, particularly the management and the staff of Carndonagh Community School.