All Ireland League Division 2B
City of Derry 8, Sunday’s Well 11
City of Derry Head coach Terry McMaster claims there is no confidence of crisis at Judges Road despite seeing his patched up team slip to a fourth successive AIL Division 2B defeat in Saturday’s top of the table clash with Sunday’s Well.
Derry’s lead of the Cork side has now been cut to four points with third placed Highfield six points back but crucially with a game in hand. Yet McMaster, who lost captain and tight-head prop David Ferguson to a suspected broken arm on Saturday alongside fellow front row injury victims Sam Duffy and Cathal Cregan, believes his players can bounce back to claim the title back.
“We are certainly not doubting our selves in the changing room or at training,” explained the Derry coach, “That’s rugby. Rugby titles are not won in the first half of any season, it’s they’re won over the course of 18 games and we will have that conversation at the end of the Barnhall game but I’m pretty confident we will be there or thereabouts.
“There is no confidence crisis. We might have a bit of an injury crisis and we have to take stock of that but I have said before, it is not over until the rotund lady sings and I haven’t even heard her clear her throat yet. We won’t be too far away.”
McMaster’s point is backed up by a run-in that, on paper at least, looks more difficult for Derry’s two rivals who meet in Cork on March 25th. The Munster men’s final game is another tricky encounter away to fourth placed Greystones while Highfield have home fixtures against Rainey and Bective either side of that clash in Cork.
“We have analysed what has to happen. Highfield and Sunday’s Well are near neighbours and they have to play each other. Highfield also have to go to Greystones so it is not over by any means.”Terry McMaster
Derry’s remaining fixtures see them travel to Bective before finishing with a home game against Barnhall and despite Saturday’s defeat the scenario is strikingly straightforward - two bonus point victories and win the title.
The problem with that is Derry’s form. On closer examination, each of the Judges Road side’s five league defeats has yielded a losing bonus point which proves they are not far away despite going off the boil.
“It has been like that, every defeat has been a defensive bonus point but we were disrupted from the off,” added McMaster, “We lost our tight head prop and our hooker, both in the first half.
“It then went to uncontested scrums because we lost our replacement front row so that is disruptive. We took the elements in the first half and they freshened up a bit in the second. That’s the context of the game but look, we are bitterly disappointed but you have never heard me at any stage saying the league was done and dusted. I have always said we have to keep going.
“We will take stock, regroup and address those ‘work ons’ we pick out when we watch the video.”
John Burn’s ninth minute try was the game’s solitary first half score although David Graham was unlucky after seeming to touch down in the 34th minute only for the touch judge to controversially decide the ball hadn’t been grounded. Stephen Corr was also unlucky to cross the visitors line but Sunday Well always looked dangerous.
The loss of Cathal Cregan saw the second half scrum go uncontested. Shane O’Riordan’s penalty cut the deficit before a rush of blood from Derry’s Richard Baird handed the visitors the initiative.
Baird’s needless late tackle brought not only a deserved yellow card but also O’Riordan’s second penalty and a 5-6 lead. A man up, the Munster side then took full advantage with centre 64 minutes with centre Eoin Greary was the spare man on the outside to get in around the back of the Derry defence and score an unconverted try for a match-winning 11-5 lead.
After passing up a penalty they should have kicked in the narrow defeat to Dungannon, Neil Burns kicked a 70th minute penalty which the home side probably should have run, especially given the uncontested nature of the scrums.
All in all a frustrating afternoon for the league leaders.
“I wanted to take the uncontested scrum and go at them because we hadn’t had any position in the second half and that was out first time up in our 22,” admitted McMaster
“I wanted a penalty to be kicked against Dungannon and it wasn’t; I wanted the penalty to be run aginst Sunday’s Well and it wasn’t but that’s the learning process for our decision makers.
“We have analysed what has to happen. Highfield and Sunday’s Well are near neighbours and they have to play each other. Highfield also have to go to Greystones so it is not over by any means.”
City of Derry: Rory Squires, David Ferguson, Sam Duffy, David Hoston, Adam Bratton, Steven Dickey, John Burns, Stephen Corr, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, Johnny Kennedy, Stuart Simpson, David Graham, Neil Brown, Simon Logue. (Replacements) Cathal Cregan, Chris Cooper, Richard Baird, Neil Burns, David Funston.
Sunday’s Well: Michael Moynihan, John Moynihan, Francis Moynihan, Owen Glynn, Steve Kelly, Kieran Stokes, Cyprion Jouve, James Murphy, Peter Arigho, Shane O’Riordan, Josh Neilson, Mark Chandler, Eoin Greary, Ross O’Mahoney, Greg Higgins. (Replacements) Neville O’Donoghue, John Barry, Ethan Ackland,Shane Desmond, Eoin Hurley.
Referee: Pay Haycock (IRFU).