This year marks eleven years since winger David Doherty scored one of the most important tries in the club’s history and the Leeds-born flyer is hoping his team can make more happy memories this Sunday in the British & Irish Cup semi final against Jersey at Headingley Carnegie, kick off 3pm.
Doherty was just 18 when he crossed for the winning try against London Irish at Headingley Carnegie in 2005, less than a year after becoming the youngest ever player to make his debut in the Premiership.
Looking back on that clash with Irish, Doherty has fond memories. He revealed, “I remember it being a fantastic day. As a young man, I remember we just went out to play and I think that is the reason we got the result. Irish had a lot of internationals, I was opposite Michael Horak, but it epitomised how the team played that we never gave in and we scored the tries.
“It was about six months after making my debut, so to be included in a semi final was amazing. The trust from Phil Davies was a great boost and Stuart Lancaster in the Academy gave us a good grounding. It was nice that the players had your respect and trusted you to deliver, we were very close knit and that was a factor in why we got the result; because we trusted each other,” added Doherty.
Like Sunday’s game against Jersey, that 2005 semi final was also at Headingley and Doherty says that will help Yorkshire Carnegie. He added, “Being at home is a big factor. The facility at Headingley is unbelievable, the pitch is fantastic for this time of year and you know the home support is behind you. The fans will be really excited and hopefully they will be the 16th man on the sidelines,” added Doherty.
After leaving Leeds, Doherty endured injury plagued moves to Wasps and Sale before a spell at Sunday’s opponents reignited his career. He commented, “I had a fantastic time in Jersey and got back the love of playing rugby again there. They will be coming here with a lot of passion, they will make sure they put everything into the performance and we need to make sure that we match that and more if we are going to win.”
A victory for Yorkshire Carnegie on Sunday would give Bryan Redpath’s side a chance to play at home again in the final against the winners of the other semi final between London Welsh and Cornish Pirates. Doherty believes, just as in 2005, that a good run in the Cup would aid the team’s momentum in the league and play offs. He added, “The chance to play in the final at home would be incredible. We know we face a big challenge in Jersey but as soon as the draw was made for the quarter final and we knew there was a possibility that we could do that, it has been a big motivator for us. There has been a lot of money invested in the pitch and it is perfect, hopefully that will go in our favour.
“I am a big believer that experiencing winning big games is always something that does you good. We want to continue the momentum we have had recently, we know we have been indifferent but if we can get a run going into the play offs, like London Welsh in recent years, we can begin to believe in each other. The big thing though is to trust each other in those big games, we can gain that experience in the Cup and that could be vital in the play offs and the run in to that.”
Doherty also appeared in a British & Irish Cup semi final having also scored in the win at Bristol two years ago. Doherty recalls, “That was a brilliant game under Jimmy. We knew that Bristol were a great set piece team, a bit like Jersey this week, but we wanted to move them around and play some rugby. I remember there being a bit of space behind the winger, Glyn Hughes put a nudge in behind the winger and I backed myself to get there. We chucked the ball around and we trusted people to do their jobs and we knew that if we were put in space the outside backs would score.”
Despite his semi final heroics, Doherty is yet to taste glory on the final day. Two years ago, Carnegie were beaten in Dublin and RFU rules prevented Doherty from playing at Twickenham 11 years ago. He remains disappointed with the decision, he added, “It still hurts that I didn’t’ get to play in the final. The RFU wouldn’t release me from the junior World Cup squad. I was man of match in the semi final but they wouldn’t let me play in the final because we flew out to Durban the next day. We had fantastic players in that Leeds team who got through and did the job but it would have been nice to play. I am very proud of my part in massive day for the club and I don’t have regrets because the decision was out of my control, but who knows.”