The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV progressed to the semi-finals of the Junior Cup with a 23 points to 15 away victory over Portadown on Saturday 9th November. In a game played in cold and wet conditions, the much changed -because of injuries and player unavailability) -Carrick side out-thought their opponents with a game plan well adapted to the conditions and which for two thirds of the match kept their opponents playing inside their own half. For this much credit must go to stand-in scrum half Shane Kelly for the excellence of his kicking and in the aerial game he was was well backed up by full-back David Carse and out-half Adam White. The kicking was well supported by the quality of the kick chasing. The pack played a major part in the conditions and out-played the home side at the break-down for the most part and ball retention was much better than it has been in recent matches.Despite an unfortunate red card (because of two yellows, the second of which looked highly questionable) early in the second half, Carrick were never at a numerical disadvantage because of a Portadown yellow card and their inability to replace an injured player as the only substitute available was also injured. The Carrick defensive effort in the third quarter as Portadown strove to get back into the match was immense with everyone playing their part .
For Carrick, you could take your pick for man of the match from Shane Kelly, tight-head Gareth McKeown who had a great game in tight and loose and open-side Jack Millar who was everywhere in defence and attack. There were also strong performances from the versatile Mattie Hadden (not many can play in the centre one week and fill in as a more than competent second row the next), Andy McKeen at No 8 and centre Fionn McCormack who had a good day with the boot off the kicking tee.
Carrick got off to a great start forcing an early penalty and then, following a strong run by Mattie Hadden ,won another penalty which they put into touch on the 5-metre line and were awarded a free kick at the line-out; the quick-thinking Shane Kelly then tapped and went over the line unopposed. Fionn McCormack added the conversion and Carrick led by 7 points to nil after six minutes. The home side then mounted a series of attacks of their own and following a couple of penalties went over for a ry from a line-out catch and drive. The try was not converted and Carrick remained in front. From this point on Portadown were penned back inside their own half and the visitors extended their lead after eighteen minutes with an excellent kick by Fionn McCormack when the home side were penalised on their 10-metre line. Ten minutes later McCormack added another penalty goal from a similar position to give Carrick a 13 points to 5 lead. Portadown did manage a lengthy period of possession inside the Carrick half as half-time approached and were rewarded with a penalty goal of their own to make the half-time score 13 points to 8 in Carrick’s favour.
Carrick started the second half as they had the first, setting up camp in the home side’s 22 with an excellent kick which Portadown were forced to scramble into touch. Following the line-out the visitors went through a number of phases and, following a strong run by Gareth McKeown, Scott Carse drove over from close range. Fionn McCormack added the conversion points to give Carrick a 20 points to 8 lead. Then ,in the fiftieth minute ,McCormack was called into action once again when Carrick won a penalty following a line-out catch and drive and the centre put the kick over to extend Carrick’s lead to 23 points to 8. The home side hit back almost immediately when, from a penalty kick to touch in the Carrick 22, they went through multiple phases close in and scored near the posts. The try was converted to reduce the deficit to 8 points, with Carrick leading by 23 points to 15. There then followed a long period in which Portadown managed to play most of the game in the visitors’ half of the field. However, the Carrick defence was solid and they were aided by some bad decision-making by their opponents. When they were awarded a penalty close in, and needing two scores to take the lead, they opted to tap instead of going for goal and lost the ball forward in the tackle. Carrick continued to hold firm in defence and then finished the game strongly with a period of pressure in and around the Portadown 22.THey came close to scoring a third try when strong scrummaging allowed Shane Kelly to break and feed Johnny Sheriff who nearly got clear down the left wing. The game finished as it had started with Carrick camped in Portadown territory and worthy winners by 23 points to 15.
This was a much better Carrick performance than in recent weeks despite the number of enforced changes and reflects well on the squad depth. Next Saturday, Carrick return to League action with a trip to Shaw’s Bridge to face Cooke who sit immediately below them in eighth place in the table.
The Carrick team at Portadown was:-
D. Carse; C. Wilson, F. McCormack, J. Sheriff (Capt), B. Alexander; A. White, S. Kelly; J. Bell, A. Whitley, G. McKeown (J. McIlwaine), C. Taylor (M. Ferris), M. Hadden, S. Carse, J. Millar, A. McKeen.