IT Carlow 25
DCU Force 17
At IT Carlow
There are no amount of adjectives, regardless how complimentary, that numb the pain of defeat but the Force took bravery and intensity to new levels, particularly in the second half, losing this All Ireland semi-final where the odds were against them from the get go.
DCU were without six first choice players and two of these omissions were only apparent to the coaching staff twenty four hours before kick- off. This was compounded by the unenviable task of turning over the tournament favorites on their own patch.
The Force, however, did themselves no favours; their first half display, while gallant, was strewn with errors. Indiscipline at the breakdown coupled with Carlow out half Brian Croke’s accurate kicking from resulting penalties kept much of the play inside Force territory.
The Carlow lineout was the platform for everything they did right in the first half. Their 8-9-10 axis functioned optimally, allowing them to play with real width. In truth, was it not for resolute defending, the game could have been all but over inside the opening thirty minutes.
Carlow were the first to draw blood. Fullback Robbie Waters cut through the DCU midfield, and after fielding a relieving kick from Paul O’Loughlin, he found centre Martin O’Neill with a terrific pass, who had two men to beat before going under the posts.
Despite considerable possession around the fringes, the Force struggled to put any meaningful offensive moves together. An aggressive Carlow defensive line can claim some credit for this, but a litany of wayward passes and a misfiring lineout was the real problem. Killian McDonagh slotted over a penalty for the Force’s only score of the half.
The lax passing also cost the Force on the score board which allowed the hosts to turn the ball over inside their own twenty two. Winger Alan Kenny made fifty yards down the blindside channel and after three quick passes inside, Martin O’Neill was over for his second. Consequently, the hosts enjoyed an eleven point cushion into the break.
Within five minutes of the restart Carlow were another eight points to the good, all stemming from DCU’s indiscipline at the breakdown. First Brian Croke sent over a penalty. Thereafter, he found touch with another and the ensuing lineout set up some superb interplay between backs and forwards allowing fullback Robbie Waters to touch down.
From that moment there was a seismic shift in momentum and the Force, with the rain teaming down, grabbed the game by the scruff and made it a dog fight. Carlow were not ready for this and their error count multiplied rapidly. The visitors put the ball up the jumper, attacking the gain line with a palpable ferocity. No one typified this effort more than No. 8 Isaac Porter, playing with zero regard for his own physical well -being.
DCU had ten minutes of unanswered possession when tight head Killian Byrne burrowed over. From the restart, the Force found themselves inside the twenty two and after turning the screw on Carlow in three consecutive scrums, they won a penalty. Hooker Cathal O’Connor found his man with the subsequent lineout, the Force mauled on ten yards before O’Connor went over.
With two minutes remaining, it was a one score game. Carlow, however, were visibly relieved when the referee awarded them a penalty inside the DCU twenty two which Croke nailed and in the process, quelled any remaining hope of a Force revival.