The Cowboys hit the road for their regular season opener to Co. Westmeath to take on the Minotaurs in Mullingar, the trip seemed to effect the Cowboys as they got off to a slow start on defence. The hosts got good starting field position with a weaving kick-off return before some steady running (including a 4th & 1 conversion) and a 15 yard pass got the Minotaurs to the 3 yard line before punching it in. The PAT was missed after pressure from Jakub Kowalczyk. The Cowboys were still mentally on the bus and turned over the ball straight away on their first offensive play but the defence where able to stuff any potential extension of the score.
The game then turned on an interception by Peter Loughran as he read and jumped a route but could only advance the ball 10 yards before being tackled. It then started to click for the Cowboys in the 2nd quarter and they opened the scoring with a 25 yard pass as Josh Marchbanks found Loughran in the back corner of the end zone with a catch over his shoulder. PAT was converted by Conrad Smith to give the Cowboys the lead at 6-7. The Cowboys where back on the march and extended their lead through Marchbanks' arm again, this time finding debutant Ben Fallon on an in route before evading a tackler and running the ball in for a 65 yard TD. PAT was missed to close out the half 6-13 to the visitors.
The second half started and it didn't take long for the Cowboys to assert their dominance again with some hard hitting defence through tacklers like Jo Buchanan and Shayne Mone, along with some key pass break ups from Kowalczyk & Thomas Pollock on the outside. The Cowboys offence stalled on the host’s 36 yard line and where facing a 4th and 4, they decided to risk it and go for it which seen Loughran run untouched into the end zone from 36 yards out. The PAT was missed, leaving the game at 6-19.
Cowboys went on the march again with some great elusiveness from Andy Herron gave Marchbanks to chance to find some joy through the air and he did again finding Fallon in the end zone. 2PAT was missed leaving the score at 6-25. The Cowboys were able to turn over the ball again after a QB sack from debutant Jason Duddy and interception from Pollock, after some inside pressure from Anthony McArdle. Pollock returned the ball 8 yards before being grounded. Loughran would then find a deep pass that bobbled through three sets of hands before finding a grateful Fallon who stiff armed a tackler before beating another for pace. 6-31 to the Cowboys and the full time whistle went.
A scintillating debut from Fallon with three receiving TDs and Marchbanks with 3 passing TDs, but the Cowboys will be happy in general with their opening game to the 2017 season. Still plenty to work on for the ‘Boys from Craigavon and some big hurdles to overcome but this start is exactly what was wanted. Next up for the 'Boys is a few home games starting off with the Wexford Eagles visiting People's Park, Portadown on 23rd April!