Dungannon made it a winning start on the opening day of the All Ireland League when they beat Skerries 28-25 at Stevenson Park. The hosts led 28-6 after an hour but then had to endure a late Skerries rally that produced 3 tries and sent the Leinster team away with a deserved losing bonus point. However, a win is a win even though the home support was expecting Dungannon to kick on for a 4th try and hence a bonus. Skerries kicked off with breeze advantage but it was Dungannon who made the brighter start. John Russell and John Buckley kept the ball on the move and there was some delightful backline running. No try was scored but the visitors were pinged at a set scrum and Lucca Avelli made no mistake on three minutes. Skerries retorted before David Leyburn was harshly penalised for a tackle. Dungannon with Glen Sinnamon, Daniel Maxwell and Sean O’Hagan to the fore continued to dominate the set scrums and midway through the half Avelli stepped up to double the lead with a second penalty. The same player added a third when the visitors were caught offside on 27 minutes. Dungannon were looking good at 9-0 but Skerries stepped up their game to make amends before the break. Out-half, Billy Mulcahy, grandson of the legendary Bill who played for Ireland and the Lions, popped over a penalty on 36 minutes. That, not only cut the deficit but gave the visitors a much needed boost. In the loose the forwards took advantage before Michael Turvey was held up over the line. However, the ensuing 5 metre scrum was lost and the hosts were able to clear the danger albeit temporarily as Mulcahy struck another penalty right on the whistle as the half ended, 9-6 The third quarter belonged to Dungannon and the progress of the hosts was aided by the constant indiscipline by the visitors. On 43 minutes Skerries lost their loose head prop to the ‘bin’ and 2 minutes later the alert Matthew Montgomery latched onto an intercept before going all the way to the posts. Avelli converted to make it 16-6. The latter then went close with a penalty but a superb counter attack at the drop out saw Skerries lose a second player via a yellow card. Dungannon were now well on top and when Jonah Mau’u pressed forward to score at the posts frustration boiled over before Avelli added the extras to make it 23-6. Five minutes later Avelli poked through a neat grubber kick for Montgomery to win the chase to the line. As Avelli prepared to convert a touch judge intervened and the try was disallowed. Undaunted, Dungannon kept the momentum going and justice was done when Jordan McIlwaine swooped for a try in the left hand corner. At 28-6 Dungannon appeared to be cruising but then came that Skerries surge in the final quarter. First up it was flanker, Barry Murphy with a try on 66 minutes. Winger, Kevin McGrath then punished a charge down when he darted away for another. Four minutes from time McGrath completed his brace and with Mulcahy converting both the visitors closed the gap to 3 points. Dungannon sweated to the finish but deservedly held on to take the spoils.
Dungannon:- Andrew McGregor, Matthew Montgomery, Mervyn Brown, Lucca Avelli, Jordan McIlwaine, John Buckley, John Russell, Glen Sinnamon, Daniel Maxwell, Sean O’Hagan, Stephen Todd, Guilhem Lopez, Mark Riddell, David Leyburn, Jonah Mau’u, Peter Doran, James Gamble, Alex Gormley, Jamie McNeill, Jack Ravey.
Skerries:- Lorcan Jones, Davi Goodman, Ross Dempsey, Michael Sherlock, Kevin McGrath, Billy Mulcahy, Eoghan Carron, Cormac Marrey, Kieran Leonard, Neil Martin, Aidan Sherlock, Thomas O’Hare, Michael Turvey, Barry Murphy, Ross McAuley, Conn Marrey, Vince Watson, Ben Jenkinson, Ruairi Woods, Paul Devitt.