25.10.2008 1st XV v Cork Constitution (H)
St Mary’s College RFC V Cork Constitution FC
Saturday 25th October 2008
One thing today, no matter what we might say about the game and the atmosphere and the result it will not be hyperbole or exaggeration for it would be impossible to exaggerate the commitment bravery and skill shown by our lads today and the fair tough opposition of Cork Con. It was an exipotic performance after last week at Clontarf. On a day when that one man would be arrested by the DSPCA for cruelty having the dog out, it was clear from the start it was not going to be a Cork con and that we would fight every centimetre of the pitch for a result that we ultimately got and deserved. Every man that stood on that field today deserves admiration and every one of the Marys players were stars for us, so it is hard to single out players. The backrow was relentless in effort and skill and Nasher, Hugh Hogan and Shiner were all heroic, the front row was strong and firm, with Mattie Duggan again showing his understated value and a new star was born in the murky depths of the tunnel, Jack Mc Grath a 19 year old JCB, his strength ability and maturity are staggering. Outside the scrum the half backs on a day made for mud wrestling not rugby, coped so well with all the exigencies of the game, the midfield was secure, the back three eager and brave, Conor Mc Phillips showed his professionalism and athleticism so often during the game, but when it really was needed in the last quarter, he was quite remarkable in his judgement, fielding and running/kicking. There had to be a man of the match and for me it had to be big Macker, Conor Mc Inerney, who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, with thrilling fingertip takes in the lineout, critical interventions in the loose and a high work rate that was incessant. His leadership, astute calls and decisions were vital on occasions. Logie, last year’s captain, was not far behind and he put in an hour of heavyweight graft. The substitutions judiciously made by Peter and Pottsy were inspired and all had major impacts on the game. Steven Keogh, playing his first AIL game for St Marys on his introduction, with Jack Mc Grath and Richie Sweeney, early in the second half, was like a released catapult as he took on ball, hurtled into hits and showed he was no professional parachutist who cared not for the club; a masterful incision. The other crucial ingredient was the crowd, led by Rynner at his most animated, giving voice and lifting their team to the end. The team afterwards said that it was the catalyst that picked them up and carried them over the line and said thank you all, please do it again, every game, we need it.
The lunch was a sell out with almost 200 sitting. If you never have been to one of these, you must treat yourself, for it is the epitome of rugby club sociability, from the time you enter the large bar, take in the many faces, to clattering down the stairs in a line and entering our fine hall; it is like a kaleidoscope, with people in different colours, sizes and heights flashing in front of your eyes. There is a rumbling noise of friendship, hands are shaken, shoulders clasped and good to see you echoes everywhere, as the-in-cliché. People find their seats pausing on the way to share a smile or greeting or to hear a very well worn joke from Spike. The expectancy rises and today it rises a lot more than usual as we have special guests and lots of yesterday’s heroes with tables taken. Our faithful and most important sponsors, Investec our main sponsors, and Topline and Tulfarris House have, as ever, tables taken as have Aspects Systems and today’s Match Ball sponsor Grafton Digital Print. And it really was good to see Dennis Hickie’s table with greats such as Mal O’Kelly, Victor Costello, Steve Jameson, Mickey (The Fish) Corcoran, Dr Jim Mc Shane and Greg Maher. Others spotted around were the Kennedys, the Fannings, Paul O’Reilly with Gerry Maher, Professor Kieran Sheahan (Kevin’s father), Dave and Linda Gardner, our hard working PRO Keith Mc Carthy, Smythy’s and Mal’s parents Jimmy and Pamela and Colm and Mary respectively, Greg Murphy, father of Ruairi, many past presidents under the care of Matt, Bill and JB, tables of junior players and many women members and friends. The top table sat our gregarious and most popular president Eoin Quinn’s guests including the Cork Constitution president Brian Ludgate and his committee, Quinner’s own officers, also Finbar Crowley and our own Kevin Potts from IRFU, our Leinster Branch representative John Doddy, Kevin Conboy of RC and Phillip Brophy our club captain, unfortunately unable to play today due to injury, among many others. John Cunningham, the Hon Sec, begged silence and Fr Jim Mc Nulty, happily recovering from serious illness, said grace and the lunch began.
After lunch Dr Shay Forde and Mr Brian Roantree received awards for their invaluable service to the club over a number of years Quinner then, after an entertaining speech, announced the re-launch of our top quality website, which had been put together by Rynner, Keith Mc Carthy and himself and then we were in for a wonderful treat, the guests of honour, club members and renowned internationals, Dennis Hickie and Keith Gleeson, the main reason for the maximum crowd, who have recently retired from the game, took part in a questions and answers session with RTE presenter Michael Corcoran (the other Michael Corcoran). This was compelling entertainment with Michael masterfully crafting amusing and informative questions and the two guests entering the repartee with gusto. They ended by thanking the club and Keith sadly saying goodbye to Ireland as he soon sets out to Australia to take over his family business. All hope that Dennis, who has ever been unstintingly generous to the club and schools with his time, may have some involvement in Marys in the future.
We looked out at the cold wind and driven rain, at Noel Keegan directing cars and Robin Bailey manning the gate (both doing some of that vital unnoticed work) and thought, there is a lot to be said for table tennis. Anyway we shook ourselves and headed for the terraces.
The first half started with our playing with an excoriating wind and slanted swirling rain and down hill, it was clear it was going to be tough. However the work done all week by Smythy, Pottsy and Shaun was evident right away with a feeling of confidence and concentration evident, which augured well. Shaun put the ball down when he could, the chase was high powered and effective and we tried to play it in their half. The Cork Con forwards when in possession picked a drove well, but our backrow were at them all the time and our big men counter rucked with ferocity, taking the ball often in turn overs and keeping the ball in hand. It was obviously not a day for delicate flicks or neat tricks but bread and butter work and we were doing that and adding the odd spice. They conceded a penalty for going off their feet (the new ref craze) and Shaun kicked a penalty after five minutes. Both sides were playing at a pace that ensured they would not be cold, as players exploded into action and against the opposition. On 28 minutes they kicked out of defence and we won the ball on the 10 metre line, we rucked and the ball came to Mattie Duggan who ran an arc, straightened and took out three. Placed the ball which was fed to Conor Donohue, he cleaved their mid field and kept his line, not killing space, he drew a man and gave the ball to the celeripedean Conor Mc Phillips who scorched by the defence and scored out wide. We did not convert, but it was 8 – 0 and we added to it with a penalty on 35 minutes to make it 11 – 0. We increased the pressure and hammered on their line with drives and mauls and scrums and their defence held. We had a few close calls and good tackling saw us safe, our crowd was staring to find its voice with Marys-Marys, then with 42 minutes showing, we had a scrum seven metres out and Hugh Hogan broke wide and went for the line, he was tackled, stumbled, got up and went again was half brought down, regained his feet and launched himself; it was a vital try close in. The wind caught the conversion which hit the post, but it was 16 – 0 and half time. Would it be enough?
The second half was not for the faint hearted, for the weather was atrocious and there was 40+ minutes to go against the vicious wind and hill and a Cork Con side which is the AIL title holder and the most impressive club side in recent years. For a moment it appeared that the supporters had disappeared into the heat of the bars and halls, but it was only to get their breaths for as we defended they re-appeared responding to the exhortation of Rynner and Marys-Marys _Marys rang out again and again louder and ever louder. They pumped the ball down we fielded, we drove and probed and held on to he ball, cleverly going in twos and threes, when ready, with patience and precision, however we went off our feet on 7 minutes and it was 16 – 3, We had a few fine efforts through Conor Hogan and Darragh Fanning breaking up the field but they continued to push us back with kicks. The team never flinched even when two more penalties put the jitters up many a supporters the players continued with deadly concentration and resolve, dragging themselves off the ground from tackles, throwing themselves into the fray once more, and still louder went the chant Marys-Marys-Marys, Fresh legs with Richie Sweeney making a welcome and positive return, Jack Mc Grath and Steven Keogh coming on to great effect. Within a minute Jack had flattened Dave Kelly their big 8 and then Steve had burst through several tackles to make 30 metres. We worked and worked and then Robert, Chops, Sweeney, who had made some big carries, had to join fellow prop Ruairi Murphy on the sidelines both with back spasm, so Louis Bourke that wise and committed backrower came on and it had to be non-contested scrums; he also as ever made a telling contribution. We got more control, working the ball up the sidelines, Conor Mc Phillips handling all they threw at him and still the clamour grew Marys-Marys-Marys the team responded beyond the expected and fought every effort Con made, We did drop one ball almost at the end and it looked as though they might steal a draw or worse, but with Herculean effort we got a turn over and fought our way out of trouble. The clock showed 43 minutes and we put the ball into touch under pressure…. The crowd rose to the occasion again Mary’s-Marys-Marys and the ref looked around and blew the whistle. The end of a memorable game. 16 – 9
After the Ball game was over the president needed minor surgery to get rid of the enormous smile, the team sang “We are Marys Boys”, the crowd drank in the atmosphere of happy conquest, without gloat or goad, worthy opponents had been overcome on this occasion, and all knew there have been many other jousts going the other way and indeed Con know they will be revisiting us again next Saturday for the AIB AIL Cup, 2nd round. However they would not begrudge us our celebrations and we enjoyed them. Pyner was floating around, John Ayling looked bemused as did Mossy, Conor Mc Phillips enjoyed the moment with his Mother Collette and grandad Gus Pidgeon, while Nasher beamed beside big Pat, his Dad, and Eileen, his mother. Pat O’Brien from Naas, involved for many years at St Marys, had got his first chance to see his club play in a long time and was charmed with the performance. The halls reverberated with cheering joy when Conor Mc Inerney received his well deserved Investec Man of the Match award and he spoke most eloquently, expressing how much it meant to the team to do well for the club. The songs flowed and all blasted out Jerusalem (a sort of second club anthem) in memory of Dick Blake a popular deceased member; and in happy celebration of today. We have a long campaign ahead but after their hard work Peter, Pottsy, Shaun, Will and Dougal and Terry, Ian and Dave will be happy with the position we are in after phase 1. Steady as she goes.
Next Saturday we face Cork Con at Templeville again in the AIB AIC and it is to be hoped that the same enthusiasm will flow from the supporters. It may be on at 3.00 or 3.30 PM to facilitate Con, so keep an eye on Keith’s messages. It is a major all Ireland competition, pitting all the teams of the three divisions and we will be hoping to do well in it and the coaching team may employ some variation of combinations for this and the LSC games which follow. As you may know the next AIL game is in Cork against Dolphin and the next home game is on 6th December. Meantime once more we wish our USA Eagle, Kevin Sheehan, good luck, as he heads off as a member of the US Eagles autumn international tour.
Team 15 D Fanning, 14 Paddy Brophy, 13 C Mc Phillips, 12 C Donohoe, 11 C Hogan, 10 S Mc Carthy (Capt), 9 M D’Arcy, 8 K Sheehan, 7 H Hogan, 6 P Nash, 5 C Mc Inerney, G Logan (S Keogh 50 mins), 3 R Murphy (P Mc Grath 50 mins) 2 M Duggan (Richie Sweeney 50 mins) 1 Rob Sweeney (L Bourke 65 mins).