By Conor Kelly, Date: 19/8/12
In what was a nail biting affair under the hot sun in Ashbourne the Country Cowboys made history by securing their first ever All Ireland Championship with a 28-24 victory over the Ballynahinch Rabbitohs.
The Cowboys preparations were disrupted after their bus broke down on route to the game but this didnâ€™t hamper their start when within four minutes Ireland â€˜Aâ€™ International Brendan Bourke broke through the Rabbitohs defence to give his side a 6-0 lead after a successful conversion.
With the Rabbitohs looking to fight back the Cowboy defence held solid with strong hits from Stephen Oâ€™Shea among others stopping hard runs from Graham Taylor, and Daryl Rooney.
The men from Limerick extended their lead when Ireland international Wayne Kerr broke through three tackles to go in under the sticks and make the score 12-0.
This didnâ€™t last for long however, when Rooney made a bullocking run towards the Cowboys line and proved unstoppable as he grabbed the Ulster Champions first try of the day. James McBriar bagged the conversion to bring them to within a converted try of the Cowboys.
It wasnâ€™t long before the Munster Champions extended their lead as they bagged two more converted scores in the half while the Rabbitohs bagged a second through Rooney to make the score 24-10 at the break in favour of the Country Cowboys.
The second period saw the Rabbitohs come out on top form as they looked to peg back the fourteen point difference.
McBriar made the first in road into the score when he bagged a try but missed the conversion before full back Adam Craig exploded into the game by bagging a quick fire brace of which McBriar converted to bring the scores level with twenty minutes to go.
Many would have put the Rabbitohs as favourites from this position given the whirlwind second half performance including a starring role from Robbie Stewart.
The game wasnâ€™t level for long as Cowboys found their way back over the line when quick hands put Ken Oâ€™Kane over in the corner to push them just four points in front.
With twelve minutes left in the game the Rabbitohs were handed a lifeline when Cowboys captain Stephen Oâ€™Shea was sent to the sin bin after an indiscretion at the ruck area.
It did look like the men in green were back level when they sliced open the Cowboys defence with a swift attacking move but the final pass was judged to be forward and play was called back.
The Rabbitohs piled on the pressure as they looked to at least force the game into extra time but solid tackling from the Cowboys meant they just held onto their narrow lead and with moments left broke out of their own twenty yard line to finish the game on the front foot.
With the final whistle came massive celebrations from the Cowboys who grabbed their first ever All Ireland title with a 28-24 victory while the Rabbitohs could feel very unlucky having pushed their opponents all the way.
It was a fitting finish to the season with the spectators present treated to a fantastic game of rugby from both sides played in the best spirit possible.
Half Time: Ballynahinch Rabbitohs 10-24 Country Cowboys
Full Time: Ballynahinch Rabbitohs 24-28 Country Cowboys
Niall Cantrell Trophy Winner (Man of the Match): Daryl Rooney (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs)
Ballynahinch Rabbitohs: Adam Craig, Paddy James, Mark McCormick, David McGuigan, Aaron Ferris, Jonny Cullen, James McBriar, Lee Barlow, Robert McBriar, Daryl Rooney, Kenny Calladine, Graham Taylor, Robbie Stewart Interchange: Gareth Gill, Conor Philips, Aaron Samuels, David Gunson, Frazer Bowsie, Danny Ansell, Matty McClelland
Country Cowboys: Robert Rea, Aaron Spring, Brendan Bourke, Eoin Cahill, Kenneth Oâ€™Kane, Barry Enright, Kenneth Savage, Stephen Oâ€™Shea, Martin Casey, Tony Clancy, Patrick Lynch, Wayne Ker Interchange: Mike Lynch, William Oâ€™Connor, Michael Collins, Guntautas Reklys, Stephen Melbourne, Barry Laffan
Match Officials: Simon Owens (Referee), Ray Brennan, Fiona McConn (Assistant Referees), Brendan Guilfoyle (4th Official)