McCambley Cup First Round
Letterkenny 2’s 12 Ballynahinch 6’s 29
Hugh Thoroughbred reports from the Dave Gallaher Memorial Park
AS the Kairos community transport bus pulled out of Ballymacarn Park on the stroke of half past eleven, there was a sense of quiet anticipation amongst the thirteen brave souls, who had taken a giant leap of faith that Ritchie ‘Kruger’ Morrison could get them up to the outer limits of Ulster, in time for kick off in this first round fixture in the McCambley Cup.
The Temple: Enter stage left, Lee Jordan: “Richie what’s that dripping down from under the radiator”. Richie, “Well Lee, I think that’s what’s known in the trade as radiator coolant”. Lee “Geeeeez, does this compromise our ability to arrive in time for the match”. “It sure as hell does boy” retorted Richie, spitting out a three day old piece of biltong.
Enter stage right, Ali McElwaine: “Well boys, there’s only one thing for it, a Saturday afternoon shopping excursion to Halfords”. And so it was that the clapped out old charabanc pootled up to the Boucher Road. Not before an impromptu stop at Sphinx on the Stranmillis Road for some utterly unsuitable pre-match carbohydrate. A dash of coolant and Radweld tops and off Spiers men went with a growing sense that this wasn’t to be there day. A quick butchers at the radiator and further carbohydrate intake at the bottom of the Glenshane and off Richie drove with one beady eye permanently on the thermometer gauge.
Navigation took a turn for the worse in the City of Culture when Ali McElwaine decided that all the information at his finger tips on his Sat Nav was for his eyes only and wasn’t for the greater good. Thankfully Richy Neill had brought his pocket sextant with him and after a bit of arithmetic it was ‘Into the West’. Time to Letterkenny 45 minutes, time to Kick-off 30 minutes. Forty-five into thirty doesn’t go. Ballynahinch were facing an early exit from the cup on a technicality, this couldn’t possibly be allowed to happen.
However with the prospect of Cairnduff and Chambers being sacrificed by the opposition before the whistle, Morrison floored it to the Dave Gallagher Ground arriving just fifteen minutes after scheduled kick-off. A rapid shedding of clothes in the black hole of Calcutta and Hinch managed to affect a token gesture at a warm up. However, team spirit was lifted with the arrival of Jimmy Shaw and his wife and the Men in Green soon got into the swing of things from the off.
Letterkenny played with the wind on their backs and as is so often the case wind and slope advantage seem to go hand in hand. Against the elements and with the Donegal men having gone through a boil up rather than a warm up it was no surprise that Hinch found themselves doing a lot of defending early doors.
Truesdale upped the anti running back into contact and Darryl Carson rampaged all over the park. The visitors managed to get a reasonable amount of ball particularly from a solid set piece where Cairnduff proved to be the immovable object, just as well given the combined age in the boiler room was closer to four score and ten than three and ten! Line out ball proved to be particularly fertile, aided and abetted by some sensible refereeing where giving the benefit of the doubt was the motto of the day.
Half way through the half after a very even contest Hinch uncharacteristically missed a sequence of tackles, which let Letterkenny’s impressive inside centre go in for a score. The try was converted and Ballynahinch were left contemplating a miserably long journey back to the east. Some good attacking ball was unfortunately squandered when Lee Jordan had to deal with a hard pass at his head when one in the bread basket would have given him a chance to pass out to the overlap. Overlaps were wasted again when Ali McElwaine opted to go for a double movement squared with pike and twist, en route to the whitewash instead of getting the ball to the back of the ruck. However reliable line kicking by Matthew Shields kept the pressure off and maintained good field position and Hinch were finally rewarded when Shields slotted over a penalty in front of the posts. 7-3 to Letterkenny at half time.
Oh what a difference a break at half time can make. Knowing you are about to run downhill even if the gradient is less than one in a hundred and knowing the wind is on your back gives a side a significant bost. Ballynahinch had the oil change and blew out the filters and stormed into the second half.
An early score by captain Ritchie Spiers gave the Hinch a massive psychological boost and although it left Letterkenny only three points adrift the home side visibly wilted. Wave after wave of green shirts flooded the Letterkenny twenty-two and it wasn’t long before McElwaine added a second try, bulldozing his way over at the head of a driving maul. Kiwi Warn followed suit for his first try of the season and when Chambers crashed through and deftly dotted the ball down on the line through a ruck of bodies it was game over for Letterkenny.
Warn’s time lapsed dive on the ball in a cynical attempt to bag his brace went unrewarded! Hinch continued to press but defences were breached by a fine solo effort by the home sides outside centre, rounding Hinch’s rear gunner Mark Magowan after evading a multitude of missed tackles down field. When the flood lights failed, to reveal an early onset of dimity and with just four minutes on the clock the referee decided to call full time not before Brendan Warn in moment of charitable madness offered Letterkenny a draw! Fortunately captain Richy Spiers screeched at Warn to button it and a re-match was averted.
Hot water failure in the Long Kesh showers was thankfully offset by a tasty sweet and sour chicken in The Down Town. The journey home was predictably littered with a catalogue of obnoxious behaviour safe to say what goes on on tour stays on tour! However it would be remiss not to mention three stand out moments, the first, Brendan Warn’s unbelievably rapid assimilation into an eighteenth birthday party tour from Draperstown at the Ponderosa. The second Richy Spiers remarkable incarceration in solitary again at the Ponderosa and the third, and you’ve guessed it the Ponderosa once again features, this time in what must be a first for Ballynahinch RFC the successful abduction of the solitary member of bar staff, the gorgeous Helen, into the mini-bus. In light of this the Ponderosa may have to look into it’s lone workers policy!
Readers will be relieved to hear that Helen was safely escorted off the bus in Maghera leaving the remaining conscious members of the party inconsolable. Finally an OBE is on it’s way to Richy Morrison who capably drove the minibus through over ten hours of testosterone filled madness, without one word of complaint, guaranteeing him a place in the starting line up in round two! By popular demand the Archie Farquharson Man of the Match Award went to William Trusedale.