Paul O’Kane has challenged his City of Derry players to use Saturday’s hard fought AIL victory over Clonmel as a spring board for a promotion play-off push.
O’Kane was full of praise for a superb defensive display from his under-strength side who battled back from the concession of an early try to hold the Tipperary men scoreless for over 73 minutes as tries from Callum O’Hagan and Rico Schneider secured a 12-5 victory.
“Grit, determination, relief - I’m delighted for the lads,” admitted O’Kane, “I asked them for a real shift today because preparations haven’t been exactly how we would have wanted so finesse was never going to be there but I thought our heart, our tenacity, our defence - bar that one slip - was from another planet.
”We didn’t handle missing players last week, that was abundantly clear. We just did not handle missing the bulk and size we had up front. It’s the old adage that you cannot do anything without a pack. I wouldn’t say we had the same cutting edge in our backs to day but guys like Dennis Posternak had a fantastic game at 12 and to a degree the day suited him.
”It was a day for no nonsense rugby, getting across the gain line and he did that time and time again.
“I thought Callum O’Hagan was outstanding and, for a little cameo at the end, Neil Forester’s couple of tackles that he put in, for a guy a couple of years ago that was playing third level rugby, he’s bought in massively and it’s great to see that coming through in the club.
”I thought our rucking was super aggressive, really nice and clean, we worked quite a lot on the contact area this week and it all worked very well. Clonmel didn’t commit anyone to the breakdown, they were just filling to pitch and it was hard to break them down.
“I know the line-out didn’t tick along 100% but I will take that improvement from the last match to this. I think it was one from 14 last week and I counted six from around 15 today so we are getting there slowly but surely.
“I have said to the boys, they need to commit to each other and they need to make sure we step forward from this. We need to get the training hours in together and all those inaccuracies will go. They will leave.”
O’Kane admitted he was worried that, with Derry camped five metres from their own line and Clonmel winning a series of scrum penalties, a late penalty try could cost them victory.
“I found some of the referee’s decisions strange,” he admitted, “I hoped a penalty try wasn’t coming but you never know in these situations though it could have flipped around at the scrum. I wouldn’t say they were completely dominant but they had that edge, possibly because we weren’t able to rotate our front row.
“We were, at best, holding the scrum but we lost Corrsy (Stephen Corr) who is massive in there; we lost Fergie (David Ferguson) who is the best scrummaging hooker in the club. Harky is coming on leaps and bounds but I thought the boys stuck in really well.
”We will get a couple of days to enjoy the result but our focus has to turn quickly to Tullamore. If we can get a run of results, or anybody can get a run of results in this league, four or five wins in a row, then you’re going to be in a good position.”