Rugby coach upbeat despite victory slipping away
BALLYMENA Rugby Club coach John Andrews believes his side in heading in the right direction for All-Ireland League Division 1B survival - despite letting a vital victory slip through their fingers on Saturday.
The Braidmen were 9-3 ahead going into the closing stages after fellow relegation battlers Dungannon but conceded two late penalties as a scrappy Ulster ‘derby’ ended in a 9-9 stalemate.
Three penalties from Timmy Small looked set to give Ballymena back-to-back AIL victories after a dreadful first half of their league campaign but Stuart McCloskey kicked two penalties, one in injury time, to earn a share of the spoils in dreadful weather conditions.
There was drama for the Braid men before kick-off when veteran lock forward Darrell O’Kane, having completed his warm up and getting ready to run out with the rest of the team, got a phone call to say his wife had just gone into labour!
That meant a quick reshuffle in the pack and the evergreen Andy Graham was called up from his management role into the 19 shirt on the bench.
“We did not predict Darrell having to go to the labour ward,” smiled Andrews.
“It was a game in which we did so much right and even looked comfortable but in the last 10 minutes we fell away.
“It came down to two mistakes at the end a dropped ball and a poor decision.
“I thought the first half we were not clinical enough, created two glorious chances and butchered both of them.
“If we had turned around 10-11 points up we would have been hard to hold in the second half.
“We were disappointed not to have won.
“We had been building well and we really only feel that we are starting the All Ireland League now because of all the rebuilding that has gone on.
“We stuck to our game plan well, put ourselves in good positions. We were just a little bit inaccurate and just did not finish some of those opportunities which is a little disappointing.
“I was pleased with the defensive aspect, our recent run has been built around defence.
“We are not a free flowing scoring side and when that is the case, your defence always has to be tight to give yourself a chance to win in the game.
“It’s back to the Ulster Senior League this week and then an AIL Senior Cup against Cork Constitution. We want to be back up there with the best and we feel we are now heading in the right direction again.
“Yes, there’s plenty of work to do, but we are starting to show more of what we are capable of.
“An All Ireland Senior Cup semi-final is exciting to have coming to the club, big day for a very young team and hopefully we can give them a bit of a shock,” added Andrews.
Ballymena: Timothy Small; Alan Smyth, Tom Hughes, Peter Budina, Nicholas Stirling; Martin Iwin, Scott Gibson; Andrew Warwick, John Burns, Simon Shawe, David Whann, Ian Caldwell, Conor Smyth, Matthew Harkness, Stephen Mulholland. Replacements: James Carson, John Andrew, Matty Rea, Andy Graham, Rory Drysdale.
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Weather for Ballymena
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 8 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west