Last week we felt that the Waterpark players would have to stand tall and proud to avoid relegation to junior status next season and they did just that in Ballinakill on Saturday last.
They simply had to defeat City of Derry to avoid the horrible drop and they did what was required. The fight however is not over just yet for the famous Waterford club. They will now have to play the runners-up in the junior round robin series. It would appear that Portadown will bounce back art the first time of asking, following the games in that section. They have won their two games to date, so Waterpark will play either Monivea of Galway or Cill Dara (Kildare) in the play-off game on Saturday, April 19th.
The game against City of Derry was in doubt right up until the kick-off time. The game was due to start at 2.30pm but the torrential overnight rain, allied to the hail storm at 1pm, made the pitch a quagmire and it took a lot of manpower to get the pitch playable.
The game eventually got underway at 3pm. Gary Jones, the Waterpark out-half (who only passed a fitness test on his ankle at 2.40pm) gave Waterpark the lead with a penalty after 7 minutes. He struck with another penalty from just inside the halfway line 8 minutes later. He had the chance to make it three from three on 21 minutes but he was off target with his third effort.
Three minutes later however right winger Dave Copeland dived over for a try and the Waterpark tails were now up in a big way. Gary Jones missed the conversion and at half time the question being asked was would the home club rue the missed five points from the boot of Jones because the Derry side had the advantage of the wind in the second half.
It was no surprise that Derry piled forward after the restart and their right winger Gareth Tucker went over for a try 12 minutes into the second half and now the fat was really in the fire but two minutes after that score, Waterpark knocked the stuffing out of the Northern Ireland team when Gary Jones finished off a sweeping move by charging over the Derry line and he then added the two points with his right boot.
To their credit, the City of Derry side refused to lie down, and that was not surprising because the losers of this game would say goodbye to the All Ireland League for at least a year. The Waterpark players dug deep and to a man they held firm as attack after attack followed. They did not even concede a penalty. This was the Red and Blacks at their very best.
After the game the Waterpark coach Gerry Walsh paid tribute to his players. “A lot was made of the fact that the history of the club was at stake in this game and that was true, but the players wanted to go out and prove that they are much better than the league position shows. They went out determined to do themselves proud and that is what they did.
“I am proud of every one of them today. Gary Jones only passed a fitness test 20 minutes before the game and look at what he did out there. When I came in I told them that if they cut out silly mistakes they are as good as any team in this league. We were under pressure for long periods in the second half but they did not give away one penalty and that proves that their discipline was superb today.
“We lost Dermot Kiely early on with a leg injury but his replacement did equally well, but I fell really sorry for Dermot because he has been great all season for us. The crowd got behind us today and we are very grateful to them for that. We will need them all again when we play on April 19th because our work is not finished yet.
“All of our underage teams are doing well, winning leagues and in play-off’s for titles so we will have to complete our work as well. This is a day when we are all proud to be member of Waterpark RFC so bring on the play-off and let’s get the job finished,” concluded Gerry. So say all of us.
Waterpark: Pat Murphy, Rory Kavanagh, Mark Southern, Mark Murphy, Brendan Kelly, Dermot Kiely, Mick McCarthy, John Phelan, Ricchard Jones, Gary Jones, Dave Copeland, Craig Doyle, Gerry Miller, Colm Brady, Kieran Howlan. Replacements: Declan Brady, Brendan O’Meara, Shane Kavanagh, Mark Daly, Philip Cronin, Ned Gahan, Anthony Walsh., Conor Phelan.
City of Derry: Stephen Ruthridge, Jason Mitchell, Sam Duffy, Bob McKillop, David Heuston, Gareth Tucker, Stephen Ferguson, Andrew Semple, Steven Smith, Ryan Brace, Greg Mitchell, Gary Boyle, Ian Orr, David Funston. Replacements: Cathal Creegan, Chris Cooper, Phil Brady, Colm Mitcchell, Steven Brennan.