27.03.2010 1st XV v Cork Constitution (H)
St Mary’s College RFC V Cork Constitution FC
AIB AIL Division 1 A
Saturday 27th March 2010
Last home game of the league schedule
There have been few if any better performances than this one over the past decade, since we last won the AIL and if we can continue at the same level we can have truly realistic aspirations of doing so again. We have generally agreed that Cork Constitution rugby club has had the finest club team in the country over the past few years and today they were as good as they could be and still we prevailed. It was a fine sporting joust with no rancour or spite and as ever the Con players and alickadoos were warm in their greetings and congratulations afterwards. Any person who follows AIL rugby would be foolish in the extreme to downgrade or write off Con and they will be a formidable foe in the playoffs.
The St Marys team performance was one of high competence, confidence and commitment and it must be reported that there was not one weak link within the 20 St Marys players that took the field. There was venomous velocity in the game that made it compellingly enjoyable to watch and of high quality. The performance must be considered a great credit to the team, the coaches and management and is the culmination of long-term development and dedication. Once again, our scrum was strong and controlled, the lineout was excellent and our defence, with one lapse of concentration, was unyielding and decisive. The most encouraging things were the fast offloading back up play and the rapid rucking that bound players so close there was no way through. Our lines of running have improved over the season and the variation and unpredictability of our points of attack are crucial to our success. The one area of concern was the high number of penalties conceded. In the front row to a man, Jack Mc Grath, Richie Sweeney and Rob Sweeny were gargantuan and almost unstoppable, putting on pressure at every scrum and late on Gavin Hickie and Colm Mc Mahon showed their talents too, in the row Gareth Logan, and his replacement on 65 minutes Steve Bradshaw, were secure at the lineout, blocked well and worked hard throughout, Robin Copeland was top class in all aspects of his play and although watched closely got away several times and may be considering changing his name to Robin Hood, for in addition to taking all his own balls, he stole two of theirs and somehow and crucially he clandestinely smuggled the ball from Con when they were mauling right on our line just before half time. As ever the back row were superb, Damian Hall, just recovered from bronchitis, worked hard and was always in the right place and will be happy with a fine game, Paul Nash has added to his formidable array of talents and unquenchable spirit, a real understanding of number seven play and was a thorn in their side throughout, Barry O’Flanagan, when he came in, lent his undoubted talent too. And Hugh Hogan was astonishing in his work rate, skill and leadership. Today he was awesome, taking on ball from scrum, in the lineout and the loose, demolishing men in the tackle and reading the game to perfection; a true captain’s performance.
Behind the scrum, Conor Mc Phillips revels in the physical and he was busy and daring throughout in attack and defence, varying his play well and keeping up the pace of the game whenever there was a danger it might drop. Shaun read the game well today and his marshalling of the line ensured that Con were under pressure all game, a few of his tackles showed his appetite. For some time it has been clear that Mark Sexton has a lot of talent and potential, today he showed it. He broke the gain line every time he took on ball, he broke beautifully on several occasions and was involved in scores and scored a lovely individual try his tackling was strong and his passing was top class. He has seldom looked as comfortable or as happy in his game; and he was my man of the match.
It is astounding to realise that we have a player of Phillip Brophy’s superlative ability on the bench ready to release when time is right, and again, when he came on after 65 minutes he was right up to his usual best. Stephen Grissing’s acceleration and reading of the game are so important to the team and today he had a fine game and was involved in a lot that was good out wide and showed superb handling ability on occasions. The back three are our piece de resistance, Gavin Dunne had his best game of the season, he was flawless under the high ball or chipped ball or grubbered ball and he ran back with conviction, was secure in defence and generally he kicked well. Ronan Doherty is achieving his full potential now and ran threateningly and intelligently and Darragh Fanning as ever bristles with menace with ball in hand and it takes a number of tacklers to ground him if at all, he took his try excellently and was involved in two others. It appears farcical that he has not played in both Club Internationals this season.
A super season so far. It looks almost certain that we shall be in the top three for the play offs, although to be absolutely certain of a home semi final we want to win at Clontarf on 10th April. Bet you won’t miss that!
On what was dry blustery day we kicked off with the N W wind and incline and immediately made our intentions clear, putting pressure on their line, running the ball and playing it down in their half. After 9 minutes we had a fast ruck and when the ball went right out to left wing Darragh (over on the right), he beat two men, passed to Mark who timed his offload to perfection to Hugh Hogan thundering up on his inside and he went over in Carvill Corner. Gavin hit it perfectly from far out and it was 7 – 0. On 25 minutes we got a penalty near the half way on the clubhouse side and Conor Mc Phillips took a quick tap and made good ground to the 22 we got quick ruck ball again and the ball was fed to Mark who stepped to his right and slalomed through beautifully, to score under the posts and Gavin added the two points to make it 14 – 0. It was 34 minutes when Con got a fine penalty against the wind by Deasy and it was 14 – 3 and on half time after they got a penalty to the corner and were menacingly mauling on our line, Robin rustled the ball and broke out we took it on but were penalised and they made it 14 – 6 and they were looking forward to having a strong wind in the second half.
The second half started with our showing intent to continue the running rucking game and after only four minutes we took a shortened line out from a penalty and Mark again made good ground, we rucked quickly and the ball came out along the line through hands, with Rob Sweeney crashing over wide out, top end on the clubhouse side. So we were now 19 6 up and we went further ahead on 14 minutes, when after five phases we went blind on the left with Shaun Mc Carthy breaking well, he gave the ball to Darragh who fairly skimmed along leaving all in his wake as he scored out wide on the left. 24 – 6.
Con started to increase their intensity of play and when near our line they took a quick line out, caught us off guard and broke through the middle to score under the posts and convert and within a few minutes they were pressing again and when they were illegally impeded going for the line the referee fairly awarded a penalty try which of course they converted so suddenly it was 24 – 20 and we were under a little pressure, but to the team’s credit there was no panic and Marys defended when necessary with width and poise and never were in extremis, although there was a slight sigh when the whistle went after a superb game.
Earlier and Later
In addition to the senior game the Under 20 All Ireland quarter finals were held at Templeville Road at 5.00 PM, with a high quality St Marys Side taking on Cork Con and coming out commendable winners 18 – 5 and will play Lansdowne next Saturday 3rd April at Templeville Road in the semi final.
Being as it was the last day of the league programme (Play-offs to come) and Ladies Day, there was much to be done inside too, there was a sell out lunch with great excitement, especially with many in the pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness and President Niall Rynne in a substantial and entertaining speech, after lunch welcomed this. He wanted particularly to thank the club sponsors, Investec, for ten wonderful years of the most generous and dedicated sponsorship and he presented Michael Cullen MD, with a memento and Michael gave a highly amusing and nostalgic address in reply; Niall then thanked other sponsors including Topline Umbro and Paul and Lorraine Dean and also those who sponsored tables including hirsute Brendan Spring of FBD, sprouting a Sean Connery like beard. Rynner thanked the caterers, Hanlons, for outstanding service all year and of course his wife Claire and family for their unstinting support. He praised all those who work in the club especially Marie Hammond and those who organise the lunches, man the gates, Car Parks, etc. He made a presentation also to Eileen Fanning for her work and special association with Breast Cancer Awareness (she also supplied our left wing). He had a bouquet of flowers for long time supporter Mrs Kitty Fogarty. He had a welcome too for members of the St Mary’s College SCT cup winning team of 1966 present, including Robin Bailey, organiser, also Henry Murphy, Billy Hooper and George Saab, he also welcomed some of the class of 1975 there, organised by Michael Fanagan. Finally, he spoke of the regard that Cork Constitution are held in at Marys and the close bonds of friendship between the clubs and made a small presentation to Pat O’Keefe President of Cork Con, who reciprocated with good words and a generous presentation.
Meanwhile, and more so after the game, Ladies Day, organised by John (Killer) Kilbride, was generating colour excitement and happiness with dozens of ladies dressed in pink as were the team after the game, enjoying surprise gift boxes, drinks, chats (even chat-ups), balloons and later music, song and dance. With the two wins, the super excitement and the happiness, the day and the night were memorable and part of a super season. Well done to all involved.
Team: - 15 G Dunne, 14 R Doherty, 13 S Grissing, 12 M Sexton (P Brophy), 11 D Fanning, 10 S Mc Carthy, 9 C Mc Phillips, 8 H Hogan (Capt), 7 P Nash (B O’Flanagan), 6 D Hall, 5 R Copeland, 4 G Logan (S Bradshaw), 3 Robert Sweeney, 2 Richard Sweeney (G Hickie), 1 J Mc Grath (C Mc Mahon).