Thirteen-man Under-18s dig deep to gain revenge win
IT was always going to be a war of attrition between Dundalk/ Ardee and North Meath after the previous outing saw the combination side annihilated by a strong Royal county outfit.
The Dundalk/Ardee players had a lot to prove, but although buoyed by their recent win against Terenure they started this game with only 14 men.
It was no surprise when the confident North Meath side were the first to cross the whitewash, but they couldn’t have anticipated the rapid response from Dundalk/Ardee who registered 36 points on the scoreboard to lead 36-5 by the half-time whistle.
Indeed, they were unlucky not to be further ahead, with a number of runs by their inside centre David Murdock just held up short of the line.
A number of excellently executed offloads led to tries for Gavin Farrell, Cathal Purcell, Dean Conway, David Murdock and Emmett Byrne.
The North Meath players came out fighting in the second half when Dundalk/Ardee appeared to relax and lose their focus.
Remarkably, North Meath got back to within five points, by which time Dundalk/Ardee were reduced to 13 men following the loss of inside centre Gavin Farrell to injury.
The Dundalk/Ardee supporters became more vocal, urging on the players, who responded with strong tackling, attacking rugby and incredible defensive play.
The next score would be crucial and in his own inimitable style David Murdock took off at speed when he saw the opportunity and side-stepped a number of the North Meath players before crossing over the try line, giving his team renewed belief.
As the clock ticked down Cathal Purcell, the Dundalk/Ardee captain, tapped and passed to Murdock who made no mistake in touching down and pushing the lead further away from North Meath’s reach.
Coming into the final moments of the game full back Emmett Byrne, having just returned from injury, flicked the ball single-handedly behind him wide to winger Dean Conway who touched down effortlessly under the posts.
This was an example of teamwork at its best, of every man putting their bodies and souls on the line for each other - and of belief and determination to succeed despite the odds being stacked against them.
This was a day that these Dundalk/Ardee lads stood up and were counted, where their in-depth skill and talent shone through, where their backline performed flawlessly and where their forwards’ workrate and ball-carrying was exemplary.
This was a team performance which this fine group of players and their coaches can be proud of.