Cathal Cregan's perfect match after Barbados honeymoon

Just 24 hours earlier he'd been relaxing on a Barbados beach, enjoying the last few hours of his honeymoon with new wife, Kelly.

City of Derry's Cathal Cregan
City of Derry's Cathal Cregan

Yet one 12 hour flight, a 7am landing and a quick dash to Judges Road and Cathal Cregan was ready to play a starring role as City of Derry produced a potentially season defining over Bruff.

Going in to Saturday's crucial 31-24 victory against the Limerick men, Derry were facing a front row crisis with no recognised hooker available for a game in which defeat could have seen Derry all but condemned to the relegation play-off.

Cregan wasn't prepared to allow that and his coach Richard McCarter had nothing but praise for the Judges Road stalwart who produced a vintage display as Derry leapfrogged both Sunday's Well and Clonmel to go eighth in Division 2C.

"Cathal only flew in this morning from Barbados at 7.00am and he was straight on and I thought he was unbelievable," said McCarter whose side face Bangor next weekend.

"It is the type of character the you need. Our commitment has been questioned a few times this year but boys like 'Caks' are coming off a plane from their honeymoon and there was not one ounce of not wanting to play. He was all in today and I can only take my hat off to him."

Derry's character was evident in abundance in a hard fought victory secured thanks to three second half tries from David Browne and substitutes CJ Cregan and Darragh Gill which capped a superb fightback after Derry found themselves 17-10 down at half-time after Callum O'Hagan's early try had initially see them lead.

McCarter admitted afterwards he'd been through the emotional mill along he touchline during a game in which he admitted there was no room for error.

City of Derry’s Craig Huey is tackled by Bruff’s John Cleary and Dylan Purvis at Judges Road on Saturday afternoon last. Photo: George Sweeney.

"I genuinely think that had we lost today then we were dead and buried,," he conceded, "This was our last chance saloon, a home game against a bottom four team, we simply had to win it.

"Again, confidence is a massive thing but you don't just can't wake up on a Saturday morning and decide that your going to be confident. I hope that result and that performance gives us some confidence because we played some god stuff."

McCarter said he feel aggrieved at times with how the referee was interpreting some of the set-pieces, notably the scrums, but said he was delighted to see his players maintain their discipline and finally find the breakthrough thanks to Gill's 79th minute winning try.

"It was a bit of a roller coaster, that's for sure. I thought the referee was going to blow us out of it at a stage but to the boys' credit, we asked for them to be all in for 80 minutes today and they were that and a lot more. We played scintillating rugby at times and defended for our lives and thoroughly deserved the five points.

"(Darragh's) was brilliant try because we had gone through lots of phases and we were patient but when I saw Neil coming around on the blindside I knew the extra man would be crucial if we could execute it. Neil went through a nice hole and then gave a good pass to Tiernan and an unbelievable off-load then to Darragh who was doing his job in support.

"I didn't think we were getting the rub of the green throughout the game if I'm honest but we rose above that. There were times it was frustrating for the players, it was frustrating for us along the sidelines and tensions were starting to boil over a bit but we just let the rugby do the talking in the end."

Next up for Derry is an intriguing Ulster derby away to Bangor with McCarter warning his player they must build on Saturday's victory if they are to maintain their climb out of danger.

"That's the last thing we said there in the huddle, we can't go to Bangor and let this go out the window," he added, "We have to go up and try to get something out of that game, we are more than capable of doing that.

"Today is a building block. We have to see these last four matches as a mini league for us and if we can win more games than we lose then we will stay up.

"Consistency is the key going forward, it is what we have been craving all season, consistency and trying to build momentum. I hope we can build on this result and be consistent. If we can get a good start next week you never know where that could take us."

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