IN a tenacious and keenly contested battle at Towns Park, Midleton’s greater ability to convert chances into scores saw them maintain their Energia AIL status.
There was a large vocal crowd cheering on both teams with tries in the final quarter by Mark Corby and Ryan Lehane sealing a vital win for the East Cork club.
Midleton head coach Ken Murphy was both thrilled and relieved that his side managed to snatch the win. “We were a bit lucky in the end. Richmond came at us, but we stuck at our task after Richmond came back at us and I thought we may be in trouble. I felt that we started the game well but credit to Richmond.
“They are a quality outfit, and they didn’t lie down after we got the two tries. They came at us hard, and it was looking dodgy at 17-17. The momentum switched and we got a couple of breaks and just managed to make it at the end.
“That game almost looked like it would reflect the story of our season. We missed out on being safe by just one point. We got there in the end, and we are very happy with that.”
With half an eye towards next season; Murphy felt there were many positives that could be taken from this campaign.
"The division itself was very tight this season – especially if you took Instonians out of it. You could throw a blanket over the teams in ninth to fifth; there was so little between them. A lot of the teams are very evenly matched.
“We changed a few things this year with our game plan and the fellas are starting to adjust to it. Hopefully, we have set up a strong base and with this vital win we can kick on ahead for next season. It should give them a bit of confidence and hopefully, we can drive on."
Stuart Lee missed an early tricky penalty that rebounded off the crossbar. Jack Colbert gathered the attempted clearance to set up the first major attack of the game. After building up pressure, space opened up on the right with Lee racing in for a try that he also converted.
Richmond dominated possession and territory for long spells of the first half. Tadgh Bennett kicked a penalty, but they couldn’t make any further impact on the scoreboard. Their scrum was particularly powerful, while their backs made several decent breaks. The one area Midleton crucially dominated was the line-out with David Broderick and Rob Hickey dominating on both throw-ins.
A rare Midleton attack saw the East Cork make full use of their chance when Mark Stanton glided through with Lee’s conversion making the half-time score 14-3.
Lee increased the gap with an early penalty in the second half, but the game seemed to turn when a dangerous tackle by Broderick saw him yellow-carded. Richmond took full advantage of this period; with tries by Brian Mullins and Shane Halpin and two great conversions from Bennett levelling the game.
The hosts regrouped and utilised their line-out dominance and powerful mauls to set up an attack that led up to Mark Corby powering over. This was followed up in the closing minutes by a similar effort from Lehane; with Lee adding the extras.
It was 25 years ago when Midleton secured their place in the AIL. Aidan McCarthy was a vital member of that team and with the extended 23-man squad he was called on.
Fittingly he had the last major say of the game; as Richmond immediately got within metres of the Midleton line; threatening a late comeback. McCarthy put his body in at the ruck and won the penalty that effectively sealed Midleton’s vital victory.
: S Lee try, pen, 3 cons; M Stanton, M Corby, R Lehane tries.
B Mullins, S Halpin tries; T Bennett pen, 2 cons.
A Malone; J Deady, R Daly, J Colbert, J Power; S Lee (c), K Read; M Corby, D O’Sullivan, D O’Keeffe; R Lehane, D Broderick; M Stanton, F McCarthy, R Hickey.
C Smiddy; F O’Connell, G McIntyre, A McCarthy, M O’Driscoll, G Collins, C Lynch, T Sheehan.
R Meagher, S Halpin, K Stephenson, B Mullins, J McNamara; T Bennett, T O’Brien; N Clancy, D Joyce, J Reeves; C McMahon, B Laffan; G Kirwan, A Somers, E Hanley.
E Daly, S Bennett, S O’Connell, L Bennett, C Carew, J Dillon, D Cotter, R Kelleher.
S Kierans (IRFU).