THERE was disappointment all round after referee Sam Holt pulled the plug late on the UCC-Old Belvedere energia All-Ireland League Division 1B game at the Mardyke on Saturday.
Overnight frost in sub-zero temperatures forced the official’s hand on player safety grounds and a back-up plan for the game to be switched to The Farm also had to be shelved for the same reason.
The area of the pitch in front of the old stand remained shaded from the low-lying sun and was considered too dangerous to risk playing on another wise fine afternoon for football.
“There were many other areas affected, too,” Holt told. “We checked the alternative venue, as well, but couldn’t play there either.”
The decision was made about half an hour before the 2.30pm scheduled kick-off time, when both teams were undergoing their usual pre-match warm-up regimes and there was little indication of what lay in store.
The Dublin side took the opportunity to showcase their soccer skills instead, passing away the time with an impromptu game using tackle backs as posts before hopping back on the bus for the journey home. They were quickly into the spirit of it all.
It was particularly frustrating for College, who had the likes of Cian Whooley, Joe O’Leary and Killian Coughlan back from injury as they were keen to arrest a four-match losing sequence.
UCC Head Coach Michael Bradley said College tried their best to get the game played, but fully supported the referee’s decision.
“I checked the Dyke about 1.30pm on Friday and again at 4pm. It was touch and go alright, but I also inspected The Farm at around 4.30 and that was playable,” he said.
“The problem was the frost doubled up overnight and the pitch at The Farm was definitely harder than on Friday.
“That part of the pitch in front of the stand was the issue and player welfare has to be the overriding concern for all of us. There’s no point in being wise after the event.
“We back the decision 100% and of course, both teams would have liked to have played, but it wasn’t to be,” Bradley added.
Old Belvedere Director of Rugby, Quentin O’Neale, outlined his team’s day. “We left by road at 8am on Saturday and it was sunny all the way to Cork.
“We knew there had been a pitch inspection on Friday and everything was fine, so it’s very disappointing not to have a game.
“It’s the referee’s call in something like this and you have to respect that. Player safety is everything in these circumstances,” he said.
Only 10 of the 25 games across all five divisions in the league managed to survive the bitter weather though Cork Constitution and Highfield were spared a fruitless trip to the capital.
Their games against Trinity College and St Mary’s in Divisions 1A and 1B respectively were postponed on Friday afternoon.
Musgrave Park’s 4G pitch came in handy for Dolphin’s game with Old Crescent in Division 2A to be given the green light, but Midleton’s home tie with Bruff in Division 2C wasn’t as fortunate and became another casualty, 15 games in all postponed.
According to the IRFU website, the reserve weekend for postponed games is next Saturday, but there are already major issues with that date.
Both Con and Highfield are listed for Munster Senior Cup semi-final action away to Young Munster and Nenagh Ormond, respectively, so something has to give there.
And College could be very depleted due to a planned Irish Universities game and an Ireland U20 camp in Dublin.
The picture is further clouded because the next scheduled games on January 14 are the reverse fixtures of this round’s matches.
L Bruce (c); S Condon, K Coghlan, D Squires, J O’Leary; C Whooley, A O’Mahony; R Duggan, L McAuliffe, D McCarthy; S O’Sullivan, A Brien; P Hyland, J O’Sullivan, J Sheahan.
D Sheehan, C Hanlon, D O’Halloran, P McBarron, A Walsh, J Murphy.
J White; A Robles, J Beckett, J McAleese, J Pyper; D Wilkinson, C Bird; J Bollard, captain, C Dowling, R Foxe; P Dowling, F McWey; W McDonald, K Thatcher, E O’Boyle.
J Horan, B Dooley, H Flood, O O’Brien, B Leonard, J Leonard.
S Holt (IRFU).