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Dalriada defence stand firm to seal Shield glory


By Ronnie Ingram

Dalriada, whose best Schools' Cup result was when they finished as losing finalists in 1993, defeated Ballymena Academy in the final of the Schools' Shield to lift the trophy for a second time at Shaw's Bridge yesterday.

It was a game of two halves, with the Ballymoney team having the wind advantage in the first period. However, they only turned around with a five points lead.

They did create a number of scoring opportunities with Robert Hunter making ground on three occasions, but a lack of quality finishing prevented tries.

"Our pack dictated the pattern of play with rolling forwards and they created good possession," commented Dalriada coach David Dougherty.

"Unfortunately, we squandered too many chances.

"We tried everything to breach the Ballymena line but they managed to hold us out for long spells. The first try came from a maul, the ball being shifted wide for fifth former Matthew Lockhart to cross for his first score for the team."

After the restart, it was the turn of Ballymena to gain the upper hand. However, the defence that have only conceded 14 points in their Cup campaigns stood firm and continually denied their opponents.

They were finally breached by an Andrew Magrath penalty but the score remained 5-3. Dalriada were battling against the elements but Christie opened the play and took the short side for Hunter to carry on. He burst through and found full-back Michael Finnerty, who ran under the posts for Emerson to goal.

Ballymena coach Gavin Murray thought Dalriada deserved their victory. He said: "You cannot be expected to win if you keep making mistakes. We had trouble getting out of our territory in the first half and they could well have scored another couple of tries.

"When it came to our turn, several good try scoring opportunities were missed but I thought Joe Thompson and Jonny McKeown were excellent in defence.

"We have 10 of the team back next year so this will be a good learning experience," he concluded.

Dalriada: S Love, C Anderson, S Glenn, M Christie, A Montgomery, D McKeeman, H Loan, S Malcolmson, M Steele, T Emerson, M Lockhart, R Malcolmson, P Dunlop, R Hunter, M Finnery

Ballymena Academy: M Gillen, J McNabney, P Stevenson, J Thompson, J Jolly, J Bill, J McKeown, D Maguire (c), J Archer, A Magrath, J Rosborough, G Small, M Rea, D Reynolds, C Hanna

Referee: P Martin.

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