POST-MATCH REACTION: NEWBRIDGE COLLEGE COACH NIALL SMULLEN
Second half showing pleases Smullen
By Daire Walsh
NEWBRIDGE College coach Niall Smullen cut a satisfied figure at Templeville Road last Wednesday (January 30), following his side’s opening round triumph over St Gerard’s, Bray in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup. This was the second year in succession that the south Kildare outfit opened their campaign against a Bray school, having put Presentation College to the sword 12 months ago. While Newbridge emerged with a comprehensive 36-0 victory on that occasion, this was always likely to be a tighter affair.
Gerard’s almost shocked eventual champions Blackrock College at the quarter-final stage in 2018 and Smullen was thrilled to get over the line in their 2019 bow.
“Big second half. It was always going to be a battle against Gerard’s, they’re a fantastic team. They play a fantastic style of rugby. I’d say if the game was in Donnybrook it actually might have suited them more, on the quicker pitch,” Smullen acknowledged.
“We battled, we got through. It’s cup rugby, I would have taken a 3-0 before the game. We got through, thankfully.”
It had been a difficult opening to the contest for Newbridge, who fell six points behind to a brace of Ben Watson penalties. A Donal Conroy in the closing moments subsequently reduced their deficit to a bare minimum, bringing them back on the right path to glory.
“We missed a few penalties and stuff like that. But to get a score before half-time, and to stop them scoring again before half-time, was vital. We had a bit of a hill and a bit of a wind in the second half, so that led to hopefully our performance, I think.”
Although Jordan Nolan’s converted try swung the pendulum in Newbridge’s favour after the break, a spectacular James Kennedy subsequently left the tie in the melting pot. This was the signal for the cavalry to arrive, as Smullen thrust a quartet of replacements into battle.
This also saw the aforementioned Conroy moving from the right-wing to inside centre – and it was his incision that led to substitute Donough Lawlor’s match-clinching score.
“We did make changes. This time last year we lost to Belvo and we saw the importance of having impacts from the bench. Our big goals from that day was to make sure when we made changes it added impact,” Smullen proclaimed.
“Donal is a fantastic winger, he’s a fantastic full-back, he’s a fantastic centre. It’s about us just trying to put him on the team somewhere, that we get the best out of him.”
The last-eight of the competition will see Newbridge renewing acquaintances with Belvedere College, their conquerors at the same juncture in 2018. Though he wasn’t aware of who they’d face at the time, Smullen was already looking forward to the challenge that awaited his charges.
“It’s 15 guys v 15 guys. You’re going to need a little bit of luck, things to go your way. Maybe the opposition to make mistakes, but you just don’t know. We’ll prepare as best we can, see what happens,” Smullen added.