Anti-climax as Skibb have to share cup after All-Ireland final draw
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
SKIBBEREEN backs coach John Hayes described it as a weird feeling at the end of the All-Ireland U18 Cup final against Navan at Mullingar on Saturday last.
Skibb didn’t lose. But they didn’t win it either. The game finished level, 10 points apiece.
A directive from the IRFU meant that the game ended there. There was no extra time and it wasn’t decided on the first try scored rule (Navan would have won on that count). Instead, the cup was shared.
There was initial confusion amongst both sets of fans before the final result was delivered by the referee: Skibb and Navan are joint All-Ireland champions.
‘The IRFU had sent out an email the previous week so we knew that a draw meant a shared cup,’ John Hayes explains.
‘We had discussed it the week before but we didn’t think it would come up.
‘It was very much an anti-climax at the end. People were walking around and they didn’t know what was going on or what to do.
‘I don’t know why it’s the rule they used. The first try scorer rule is a harsh way to lose an All-Ireland final, if you persisted with that. This is something they need to look at. You need to have someway to separate the teams and to have a result, even a penalty shoot-out.
‘Our lads wanted to play on. They wanted extra time and they wanted there to be a winner. I think Navan did as well. That’s what’s disappointing about that type of a rule, you need to have someway to finish a game.
‘We’d love to be going away this week to play in a replay. To have two winners is definitely strange.’
There was a toss of a coin after the game that Skibb won and that means they get to keep the trophy for the for the first six months before Navan get it for the six months after. Having the cup to bring back home from Mullingar was important, Hayes says.
‘If we didn’t get the cup for the first half of the year I think it would have been very disappointing to come down home without it. At least we had it coming into the clubhouse and into Skibbereen,’ says Hayes who was keen to praise this talented young team that went undefeated on their way to winning the Pan Munster and now share an All-Ireland.
‘They are a fantastic bunch and they are very driven. They didn’t lose the game, they dominated and they were still trying to win at the finish and it was Navan who were clinging on. On the day our lads were better,’ he says.
‘We were camped on their line at the end, we felt we should have had a penalty at the end when the touch judge came in with his flag but it was too late because the referee had blown the final whistle.
‘Our fellas were very disappointed afterwards.’
With the team deadlocked at 10-10, Jonathan Benn’s late try for Skibbereen wasn’t given for a knock-on. During that attack the linesman on the opposite side of the pitch had his flag up for a penalty to Skibb after a high tackle – and a kick to possibly win the game. But the ref had blown the final whistle before he was made aware of the infringement.
‘It was a weird, weird feeling at the end but we are so proud of these young fellas,’ Hayes said.
‘The goal at the start of the year was to win the Pan Munster. It was bonus territory after that and to get to an All-Ireland final was fantastic. They acquitted themselves very well. They played well in the final and they didn’t let the occasion get to them.
‘They are winners in all our eyes down here. They have been a massive credit to the club, to their parents and families, and themselves.’
Gary Faulkner’s try for Navan handed his side a 7-0 half-time lead but back came Skibb in the second half with an Adam O’Regan try converted by Jamie Shanahan. Even when Navan went 10-7 ahead after a penalty, back came Skibb with a Shanahan penalty to level again. And it was Skibbereen pushing at the end for the winning score.
‘They did what they had done all year. When they went behind they dug in and got the next score and they did the same when Navan went ahead again. They have a great mentality and they don’t give up. In every game this year they keep going right to the end and they finish games well and attacking,’ Hayes says.
In a team full of heroes number eight Mike Veale, scrum half Matthew Sheehan, captain Jamie O’Driscoll and outhalf Jamie Shanahan were some of the many stars on the day.
Skibbereen: Jason Murphy, Joseph Griffiths, Daniel Cullinane, Jack O’Sullivan, Oisin Lucey, Jamie O’Driscoll, Jonathan Benn, Michael Veale, Matthew Sheehan, Jamie Shanahan, Keith Whelton, Gavin Foley, Jordi O’Brien, Liam Hodnett, David Regan.
Replacements: Euan O’Donovan, Asa Curran, Killian O’Sullivan.