Battling Bruff’s comeback falls short as Crescent hold out

“MEMO to self,” said a rueful Crescent captain Mark Ryan after this entertaining Munster Senior Cup semi-final in Dooradoyle on Saturday — “never again try to kick the ball dead at the end of a close game!”

With a penalty awarded to his side and his team ahead by four points, Ryan enquired of referee Colgan, “How much time remaining?”, to be told that the game was over the next time the ball went dead.

Ryan booted the ball for the sideline — only to watch in horror as the ball having screwed off his foot, and boosted by the strong breeze, instead headed 40m down field.

Fortunately for Crescent it was one of their own who caught the ball and put the ball out. The right result on the balance of play, Old Crescent looked the better side for most of this one, but it was a close-run thing.

The first half was dominated by Crescent and though dogged defending kept the Bruff line intact, the half-time scoreline of 12-3 wasn’t at all flattering for the city side. Out-half Mark Woods had an impeccable four from four from penalties while replacement David Maw was on target for Bruff with the last action of the half.

Less than two minutes after the restart the Bruff line was finally breached, a flick pass from Billy Leahy giving O’Carroll a little extra time and space. A deft chip and chase over the last line of defence saw him beat the cover to the bouncing ball and get the touchdown. Woods was off target for the first time with the attempted conversion, but at 17-3, Crescent were now in control.

That was it for them, however, as Bruff gradually worked their way into this game and piled on the pressure. Eventually that pressure told, and with experienced prop PJ Loughlin in the sin-bin, winger John Moore crossed the line in the right corner. That score came in the 76th minute of normal time, but with many minutes of injury-time to play, it gave Bruff hope. Nine minutes later that hope was increased when they again touched down, this time through outstanding full-back Paul O’Brien, taking advantage of good handling by Stephen Foster, John Malone and Brendan Deady.

A nervous final few minutes for the Crescent support, but eventually justice was done, leaving Ryan the most relieved man on the park. Crescent coach John Broderick wasn’t surprised by the Bruff fightback.

“You’re never going to dominate a game for 80 minutes against a team like Bruff, they’re a fabulous club. Both teams were down a lot of first-choice players, which made for a fantastic game, in a way. It was great to see lads who have been on the fringes all year coming in and doing so well. Then you have an old-timer like PJ McLoughlin, in probably his last year, and the Munster Senior Cup means so much to him. He remembers when this was still a very serious competition. He really built the lads up all week, built them up again in the dressing-room before the match. But we were lucky.”

As for Bruff coach Micheál Leahy, consolation at least in the display of his depleted side. “Before the injuries we’d have really targeted this, we wanted to get to the final, we wanted to win it, but because of the injuries our plans changed. It was an entertaining finish, a few decisions we didn’t like but sure that’s how it goes, swings and roundabouts. But this is still a great competition, and we respect that. It was a great fightback, we showed how honest we are, the people who came in really stood up and were counted today, in the last 15 minutes especially. We can only go on from here, take a break over Christmas and then bring it up a gear again.”

OLD CRESCENT: R Moloney; A O’Carroll (try), B Leahy, D Grace, E Dalton; M Woods (4 pens), D Ryan; J Cullinane, P Humphries, E McGovern; C McNamara, P Breen; L Viapula, J O’Neill, M Ryan (c).

Replacements: PJ McLoughlin (McGovern 30); B O’Shea (Ryan, inj 71); K Ellis (Woods 74); S Malone (Humphries 80+2). Temp: McGovern (McNamara 65/75).

BRUFF: P O’Brien (try); F Hogan, J Malone, B Deady, J Moore; J Carroll, G Bolger; S Foster, M O’Donnell, G Ryan, A Laffan, M O’Connell; A Bourke, M Carroll, P Malone.

Replacements: D Maw (Hogan 39); E Maher (Bolger 56); C O’Regan (O’Donnell 59); L O’Herlihy (Ryan 78); D Keogh (O’Connell 80). Blood subs: D Maw (O’Brien 31/39); L O’Herlihy (Foster 37/40).

Referee: L Colgan (MAR).

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