05.02.2010 1st XV v Old Belvedere (A - Donnybrook)
St Mary’s College RFRC V Old Belvedere RFC
5th February 2010
An evening of real joy, of sporting interactions, excitement, fear, hope and realisation; that is what it was for St Mary’s College RFC. For Old Belvedere RFC it was a night to be proud, yet sad of course, and together for both teams, it was a credit to the club game. When you walk into Donnybrook you can feel history, feel great memories of past games and past players; you can feel its age and its renewed youth and vigour, its history and its future optimism; and no two teams deserved more to be part of all that than St Marys College RFC and Old Belvedere RFC, both team, strewn with players who had cut their competitive rugby teeth on Donnybrook’s gritty field and now it was a trembling to return. The evening was dry and calm, the temperature untesting and the small, intense crowd was expectant as they waited for the kick off. The brilliant lights seemed to add an almost eerie mystique, as we waited.
At 7.30 PM, the game got underway and from kick off to final whistle, it was an exciting encounter of absolute endeavour and a high degree of skill, between two totally committed teams, who gave not nor asked for favour. In the end, it may have been the slightly better organisation and decision making that shaded it for us and there was blue hunger beneath in the Marys’ team. Two incidents too may have had a bearing on the outcome, a penalty ten minutes from the end and a decisive cover tackle soon afterwards. It was a deserved triumph not only for the team but for the iconic Peter Smyth; Ciaran Potts and Shaun Mc Carthy; also for the management of Terry, Ian and Dave who labour long and hard and especially for our president, Niall Rynne, who, emotionally, felt every tackle and pass.
It really was a team effort and it had to be, for Belvo were up for game with a strong impressive fullback, fast wings, fine halves, good defence and a tough pack. Our front row has improved steadily and that continued, with no one more so than Chunky (Kevin) Carroll, once again Robert Sweeney was highly and positively engaged and Gavin Hickie gave an exuberant and accurate performance. The second row of Gareth Logan and Robin Copeland was steaming with power and push and from 6 to 9, Damian Hall, Paul Nash, Hugh Hogan and Conor Mc Phillips, the work rate, commitment, skill and bravery was exemplary, nothing moved towards them that did not hit the ground, any one of those four could have claimed man of the match but for his added audacity and adventure it had to go to Conor Mc Phillips at 9. Conor also linked well with Shaun Mc Carthy who was at ease at the Donnybrook fare. The mid field had an intriguing tussle with their counterparts from Belvo and came out on top with both Mark Sexton and Stephen Grissing playing really well, their defensive and attacking alignment, tackling and distribution were good. Our wings, Darragh Fanning and Ronan Doherty, posed a major threat and worked tirelessly, probing and covering while Gavin Dunne was confident and comfortable under a barrage of high balls and scored two penalties before having to retire at half time with suspected concussion. The substitutes also did well, when they come on, to make it a concerted squad effort and a real credit to all involved. It was sad for Phillip Brophy and Richard Sweeney, reluctantly sitting it out with injury, having played important roles on the way to the final.
From kick off it was up and at it, with both sides hitting rucks and moving ball at every opportunity. Fortunes swayed for the entire first half, both sides showing adventure and verve and Darragh almost scored from a good move but the last pass was deemed to be forward. They too came close when their flying left wing, Mongan, had a good break along the touchline. They put up a number of high balls but they were mainly too long and were dealt with easily. Gavin scored a penalty after 18 minutes and another before half time.
The second half continued as the first ended, with both sides probing and soon they had a penalty converted by outhalf and captain, Dunne, to make it 6 – 3. It was 19 minutes when we got a penalty for a late tackle on Stuart O’Flanagan, on for Gavin Dunne, he groggily picked himself up, steadied himself and did very well to make it 9 – 3. With ten minutes to go Belvo were awarded a penalty in a very kickable position, they went to the corner instead and although they won their lineout and put on pressure, our adamantine defence held, so denying them the chance of a late drop goal to force extra time. Having raised the siege we put on some consistent pressure and when we forced them into the corner they held their line-out and ran the ball behind the line to Kennedy who broke out and ran almost the length of the field, then one saw, as Kennedy whizzed along the touch line, a blue blur closing on him; it was Conor Mc Philips, who using his venomous velocity, he took him down and saved the day. We had won 9 – 3 and the LSLC was coming back to Templeville Road.
After the cup and medal presentation ceremony, many Marys’ followers, and later the team and management, went back home to Templeville Road where lively celebrations went on for a considerable time. Later in the night, the president made a very nice speech, thanking the team for their commitment, skill and sportsmanship in bringing back this coveted trophy, which has strong nostalgic and historic significance for us. He also pointed out the value to the team of the win in terms of re-igniting the hunger and confidence ahead of vital AIL games to come. He thanked the coaching and management group and particularly Peter Smyth who he said had demonstrated his wonderful character and ability. The captain replied most eloquently and thanked the club for the support in all regards and he thanked his team for their dedication and endeavour, the coaches and management. He praised the supporters for their loyalty; he said this was truly appreciated and indeed needed by the players who empathised totally with the supporters and the general club membership. The president then allowed the piano to be brought down to the main bar where a singsong took place for a considerable time with Ronnie Douglas patiently playing away and accompanying the singers. It was a night to remember and to add to the many great ones associated with the LSC, LSL and more recently the LSLC.
Team:- 15 G Dunne (S O’Flanagan), 14 R Doherty, 13 S Grissing, 12 M Sexton, 11 D Fanning, 10 S Mc Carthy, 9 C Mc Phillips, 8 H Hogan (Capt), 7 P Nash, 6 D Hall (B O’Flanagan), 5 R Copeland, 4 G Logan (S Bradshaw), 3 Rob Sweeney, 2 G Hickie (D Kilbride), 1 K Carroll (C Mc Mahon).