On Sunday last, the 18th of September, the Westmeath Minotaurs Youth Team played host to the South Kildare Soldiers and the Craigavon Cowboys in Mullingar Rugby Club. The weather made conditions difficult in the Minotaurs’ first ever games at home, but through some introspection the Minotaurs players emerged with a steely determination to emerge victorious against the 2015 IAFA Junior Champions, the Craigavon Cowboys.
Westmeath Minotaurs 6 South Kildare Soldiers 12
The first game of the day left the Minotaurs team frustrated following a narrow loss to local rivals, the South Kildare Soldiers. A strong wind and heavy showers disrupted both teams passing game and made the football difficult to handle in the running game. Rafael Monteiro, a second year player, was imperious in the running game. His power running, coupled with powerful blocking by the Minotaurs’ offensive line, caused trouble for the Soldiers’ defense and handed the Minotaurs the momentum during the first and second quarters. The weather hampered the Minotaurs’ progress at crucial times and a slippery football, along with a soft surface underfoot, caused irregular turnover of possession which would not happen in ‘ideal’ footballing conditions.
The South Kildare Soldiers employed a mixture of passing and running and capitalised early on a turnover in possession to score the opening touchdown following a scramble for a loose ball in the Kildare half. The Soldiers lead by eight points after this touchdown and two-point conversion. A sense of frustration began to creep into the Minotaurs team following a number of fumbles and loss of possession caused by a wet ball. While the Minotaurs increased the pressure on the Soldiers they were unable to prevent a rushing touchdown by the Soldiers late into the second quarter; the Minotaurs went into the half time break down 0-16.
The team rallied, led by a dominant offensive line, and scored both a touchdown and the two point conversion to bring the score back to within a touchdown, 8-16 to the Soldiers. This occurred when Quarterback Joseph Kinahan defied a strong gale to connect with Jack Lynch, who was making his first start at Youth level. Despite causing havoc among the Soldiers offensive line and skilled players, the Minotaurs’ defensive players were unable to build momentum and win the ball back. The Minotaurs’ offense received the ball deep within their own territory with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Through a combination of strong running by Rafael Monteiro and crucial catches by Jason Owens and Jack Lynch, the Minotaurs were advancing down the field with the intent to draw the game. Unfortunately the Minotaurs were unable to clinch a draw due to a key play made by the Soldiers’ defense.
Westmeath Minotaurs 22 Craigavon Cowboys 8
With a game between the South Kildare Soldiers and the Craigavon Cowboys (which finished 22-0 to the Soldiers) separating the Minotaurs from their second game of the day, it was crucial for both playing and coaching staff to alter the mind-set following a frustrating first game. Both coaches and players spoke openly about individual mistakes and miscommunication between team members on crucial plays. The players then relaxed and set about focussing on the second game. The weather cleared up and the Minotaurs dominated the opening possession with both sets of linemen from the Minotaurs controlling the line-of-scrimmage. The Minotaurs’ defensive linemen swarmed the Cowboys Quarterback and forced a fumble in Cowboys territory and set up the Minotaurs’ Offense to score following some bullish running by Running Back Rafael Monteiro. The Minotaurs’ offensive line were faultless in their pass protection and set up a comfortable passing pocket for several pin point passes from Quarterback Joseph Kinahan to receiver Jack Lynch, to put the Minotuars up 16-8 with two to three minutes left. With the game clock ticking down to the final two minutes the Minotaurs were again on the attack. A collision between Rafael Monteiro and a Cowboys defender brought an early end to two fine displays from the Minotaurs second year captain. The Minotaurs depth of talent was displayed when Jason Owens took up the mantle and jinked his way through two or three tacklers to score the Minotaurs third touchdown for the game.
Following the youth team’s first ever victory, several of the players were delighted to put on a series of performances to build upon. Second year player Conor Dougherty spoke of the growth of team spirit following the youth teams first ever victory; “It’s a feeling you don’t forget, that feeling of pride on your face and on your teammate’s faces. I’m looking forward to feeling it again in the next games.” Dean Johnston, who has also played for the clubs seniors, reflected on the progress made by the players as a competitive force, “It’s nothing less than an honour to have gotten the first youth win with these great lads. It’s only onwards from here and we’re ready to take home this tournament!” Daniel Honan summarised the ecstatic atmosphere as he reflected on a victory that was two years in the making “It felt amazing, truly a memorable day for the team after all the hard work and a huge result following a frustrating first game.”
It is phenomenal to see a group of young men band together following a frustrating first display. While the coaching staff stoked the fires for an improved second performance, it was the players themselves that took it upon themselves to right the wrongs of the first game and to put in a resolute performance to emerge victorious and to record the clubs first ever victory at youth level.
It is no doubt that people in Mullingar, Pennsylvania, Rochfortbridge, Clara, Kinnegad, and Streete have a team to be proud of…
Joseph Kinahan: A solid and composed series of games from our second year QB. (QB)
Jason Owens: Calmness personified. A born leader and experience told throughout the two games. (One TD/ One Int) (LB/WR)
Rafael Monteiro: Solid running throughout the series. Excellent performance while playing both sides of the ball. (LB/RB)
Ros McAdden: Excellent performance at Nose Tackle catching the eye of all in attendance. (NT/TE)
Matthew Flynn: Excellent pressure throughout the series. (NT)
Jack Lynch: Fine displays on both sides of the ball (Caught three touchdowns and one 2 Point Score)
Conor Coates: Great display in delivery of the ball to QB despite the awful weather. Composed in blocking and lead the O-Line well. Tackled well when called upon. (Center)
Liam Dougherty: Consistently improving and made several bursts to cause havoc in the opponents backfield (Several Tackles For Losses) (DE)
Conor Dougherty: Solid performer on the O-Line, growing into his role on the line and excellent blocking. (O-Line)
David Walsh: Great performances again from second year lineman ‘DW’. (O-Line)
Dean Johnston: Energetic and a constant nuisance to opposing offensive linemen. Developing with every game; thrives in competition. (DE)
Niall Brennan: A constant source of motivation for those around him and a solid performance in the first series of the year. (LB)
Daniel Honan: Energetic and composed performances. Ever present to prevent the running game of opponents when passing option had passed. Consistent and improving all the time. (CB)
Mark Finnerty: Promising performances; a threat while blitzing and composed in the tackle. (DE)
Carl Briscoe: Great display by the ‘rookie’ on the panel. Enthusiastic to engage and promising for future series of games.