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Donaghadee stay positive after cup loss

By Jonathan Bradley

Donaghadee 10 Dundalk 12: Donaghadee failed to celebrate their inaugural All-Ireland Junior Cup tie at Donaldson Park with a victory as they suffered a narrow reverse at the hands of Dundalk on Saturday afternoon.

With the visitors from Leinster unbeaten in their domestic league and the Co Down side currently sitting eighth in Kukri Qualifying 1, few would have expected the team from north of the border to progress to the quarter-final stage when the draw was made last month.

However, having won the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup as recently as 2011, Donagahdee have proven pedigree in knock-out competitions and they almost produced an unlikely upset with a performance befitting the occasion.

Dee dominated the first 40 minutes and, after deservedly taking the lead just before the turn, seemed in control of proceedings until a trio of injuries – Nigel Barker, Chris Good and Chris Hamilton were all forced to leave the field – curtailed their momentum and allowed Dundalk's Ultan Murphy to kick a pair of second-half penalties to edge his side into the last eight.

Despite the defeat, Donaghadee captain Alaistair Lockhart felt his side could take pride in their improved showing following three consecutive league defeats.

"It's frustating to lose a game like that, especially after we had worked so hard in the first-half when we really took it to them. I think we were unlucky in the end not to pull it off.

"We gave away some silly penalties right in front of the posts that allowed them back into the game and we lost a lot of leadership when an influential prop went off injured.

"That's a very good side that came up here though and we ran them very close, so we can take a lot of positives from it going ahead," said the scrum-half.

It was Dundalk who scored the first points of the day, Murphy with the first of his four penalties after five minutes.

Despite Donaghadee enjoying long spells of possession, the full-back added another three-pointer in the 23rd minute after the touch-judge spotted crossing from lock Richard Martindale.

The home side continued to press and a series of punishing scrums advanced them to the brink of a score but, after a string of infringements from Dundalk must have had the referee on the verge of awarding a penalty try, Donaghadee were whistled at the next put-in to extinguish the threat.

With half an hour gone, the pressure finally yielded points and, after James McConon had been sent to the sin-bin for repeated infractions at the breakdown, Nigel Barker made no mistake with the penalty.

Dee took the lead 10 minutes later when they were awarded another scrum in the shadow of the opposition's posts which this time did lead to a penalty try after Dundalk's front-row again brought it to the ground.

Barker's conversion gave his side a four points lead at the break.

His afternoon would end soon after, however, as he appeared to injure a calf muscle shortly after the restart.

And there was further injury woe when the impressive Chris Good had to be helped from the field, depriving the Ulster side of the cornerstone of a dominant scrum.

As a result, Dundalk came into the game more and, while the conditions hardly gave much opportunity for running rugby, the clinical boot of Murphy pulled the visitors to within a point with considerable time left on the clock.

It proved more than enough to overturn that deficit, again courtesy of a Murphy penalty, and determined defending kept their opponents at bay for the remainder of the contest.

There will be Ulster representation in the next round, however, after Portadown overcame Monivea and Clogher Valley beat Kanturk, although CIYMS lost to Enniscorthy.

Belfast Telegraph

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