Tir Chonaill Rugby Club I XV Senior Team Debut: What A Day! So Many Years Work: Report & Pictures

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A large crowd gathered in scenic and sunny Carrickfin on Saturday last to witness the debut of the Tir Chonaill rugby club senior team in their first game.
The club played host to Finn Valley RFC, and these two clubs are the newest rugby clubs in Ireland. Finn Valley have only recently begun playing with their senior side and the Tir Chonaill coaches decided it was time to seek a game for our players who have been training hard since the season begun. It was a step into the unknown, as many of the Tir Chonaill players had never played a game in anger before. Finn Valley are at a similar stage of development, and so it was a great opportunity for both clubs to come together in a friendly game. As the game was to be held on a Saturday at 1pm, it was decided to make a real occasion and also invite the Finn Valley mini players for challenge matches against the Tir Chonaill minis. The Under 10s and the Under 12 teams played out two very entertaining matches, with some great skill on view from both clubs young players. The standard of passing and tackling was superb, and some fantastic runs and tries Brian O’Driscoll would be proud of !! Refreshments were available pitchside for the kids, and thanks to Donegal Airport for the use of their toilet facilities.
Seniors Game

Tir Chonaill had a team made up of young players mostly new to rugby and a few of the clubs coaches with a few more miles on the clock and some rugby experience which helped to settle the younger players. The squad also included two fathers and sons. The game began cautiously and it was quickly apparent that all the hard and wet Wednesday nights training had paid off. The Tir Chonaill set piece in particular was working well with the scrum holding firm and at times driving on. Shaun Doogan secured all his own lineouts with some excellent darts from Luke Ryan. Tir Chonaill scored two tries in the first half and were well pleased at the break. Finn Valley to their credit rallied at the beginning of the second half, and scored two consecutive tries following several Tir Chonaill substitutions which broke the momentum of the side. The score thus was close going into the final quarter. Wholesale substitutions then once again handed Tir Chonaill the upper hand and they finished incredibly strongly with four unanswered tries to finish an impressive 38 – 10 winners. To be fair to Finn Valley, Tir Chonaill had many more subs and were able to freshen the team when required.
This was a magnificent effort from the fledgling team. Adrian O’Colla and Shane McDyer were impressive at prop, the lineouts as mentioned worked like a dream with good lifting by Adam Croke and Joe McCann, and the fitness and speed of our backs was a joy to behold, with great running by Paddy O’Donnell, Conor McDonald, Adam Lafferty, Calum Boyle, Paul Gallagher and Ciaran McCann who unfortunately was injured early on. Scrum half Aidan Bonner was also prominent and right there when needed, as were Conor Gallagher in the back row and James Doogan in at lock. Some good performances also from our veterans Dave Geoghegan, Joe McCann, Paul Bathgate, Joe McConnell, Paul McCann, Martin Bonner, Tommy Boyle, Eugene Doogan and Ben Colangelo. Tries were scored by Paddy O’Donnell (2), Conor McDonald, Dave Geoghegan (2) and Adrian O’Colla. Four of the six tries were converted by kickers Paddy O’Donnell and Paul Gallagher. Two Men of the Match were chosen Paddy O’Donnell from the young players and Dave Geoghegan from the vets with a mention for Shaun Doogan.
And since it was a Social Game!
Both teams and the Finn Valley kids then adjourned to Caislin Or hotel in nearby Annagry for some much needed food and a few even more needed beers! The hosts and Finn Valley players mingled in the sporting way that rugby promotes and cherishes, and we all sat down to watch Irelands impressive if fruitless game against the All Blacks. Great craic was had by all with Head Coach and Team Captain Joe McCann thanking the supporters who turned out in large numbers, and praising the enthusiasm of our young players. Many thanks to Finn Valley for helping to make this such a memorable occasion, and a return match is already in the planning. Thanks also to Supervalu Dungloe for providing snacks and drinks for the kids, and Caislin Or for being such generous hosts after the game. Also thanks to Niamh Mhuire GAA club for the use of their changing rooms. Special thanks to the Tir Chonaill coaches who have put in such excellent work to mould a team from the raw but talented youth of the area. Thanks also to Darren McGuigan from the Ulster Branch for refereeing the game and CRO Chris Slevin for refereeing the Under 12 match.

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