28.11.2009 1st XV v Clontarf (A)
Clontarf FC V St Mary’s College RFC
Castle Avenue, Saturday 28th November 2009.
Leinster Senior League Cup
This was a satisfying visit across the Liffey on an International Day morning. Morning games tend to be dull, uninspiring events often not welcomed by players, however this was not the case today and having one of their club mates, Jonathan Sexton, starting for Ireland later in the day may have added extra inspiration to the team. On a chilly, smoggy day, it ended a with an emphatic win, but in fact for a good part of the first half, Clontarf had by far the more territorial and ball possession when we had to defend sharply, had they managed to put more width on the ball we could have had a lot more difficulty. However, once we got ahead we gained in confidence and adventure and ended up worthy winners and are now in the final of the LSC awaiting the winners of Old Belvedere and Lansdowne; an appetising prospective final in a competition soaked in tradition and significance for our club.
There was strong commitment by both backs and forwards, with Mark Sexton doing especially well at centre and courageous Cormac Quinn working hard at scrumhalf and, as is now the wont, Darragh Fanning had a top class game and scored two excellent tries, one a stunner. In the forwards, Steve Bradshaw and Robert Sweeney were prominent and the backrow industrious, with captain Hugh Hogan in superb form tackling, winning ball, organising, his positional sense was signal and he was ichneutic all game. He was my Man of the Match.
Stephen Grissing, Phillip Brophy, Richard Sweeney and Conor Mc Phillips are still out injured, but expect to be back shortly. In the second half Gavin Dunne, Conor Quinn, Joe Burns, Mark Donnellan, Gareth Logan, David Kilbride and Kevin Carroll (who had to withdraw from the starting team just before kick off with illness) all came on late in the second half.
Clontarf played with the hill and noticeable wind, in the first half, as the small band of St Marys supporters shivered in the gloomy fog and cold and cheered loudly, in imitation of their clarion voiced president, to keep warm. Almost from the kick off we were penalised for holding on and were lucky the shot at goal was wide. Clontarf mounted a series of attacks and we were then defending hard for some time, in fact it was 32 minutes before Ronan Doherty, who looked dangerous with the ball, set up a ruck well and when the ball came out Damian Hall looped a nice pass out to the left wing and Darragh skimmed along the touch line, beating his man; and with a sway, slipped their player coach Bernard Jackman and beat two cover men to score out wide. Stuart O’Flanagan just missed the conversion with a fine effort. With that score our confidence went up further and we continued to press. On half time they were caught offside and Stuart converted from 35 metres to ensure we turned over 0- 8.
The second half saw an increase in team intensity and after 13 minutes Stuart, again with a well struck penalty, put us further ahead to make it 0 – 11. Shortly after that we were penalised and they made it 3 – 11. When there was twenty five minutes gone in the second half, Darragh following up fast, a kick ahead, cleverly held up the fielder and forced a penalty which Stuart put to the corner and when we won the lineout and drove twice in towards the posts, the ball came back to Shaun who drew in the cover and timed his pass well, right to left, to Darragh, however there was still a blockade of players in front of him; mystifyingly and with precise prestidigitation he somehow wove his way through the lot and scored a try. The conversion was missed but we were now 3 – 16. With 35 minutes passed Gavin Dunne who had come on scored a penalty to bring the score to 3 – 19. Finally we had a scrum just outside their 22 and Hugh picked beautifully sashayed through the cover and sprinted over for a fine try which Gavin converted and so it ended 3 – 26.
The game today was important in itself and also as build up to the table top match next week against Rock; and the coaches and management will be happy to have had the game and come through successfully and relatively injury free. The president too was delighted for the club to be in a final. Next week promises to be a special game between two rivals with strong rivalry and bonds and shared friendships. More than ever, at this critical stage of the AIL, your support is needed so forget Harvey Norman or Harvey Nichols or Santa Claus visits or whatever and turn up to Templeville Road in good voice and cheer.
Team: - 15 S O’Flanagan (G Dunne), 14 R Doherty (Conor Quinn), 13 R Hudson, 12 M Sexton, 11 D Fanning, 10 S Mc Carthy, 9 Cormac Quinn (J Burns), 8 H Hogan (Capt.), 7 P Nash, 6 D Hall, 5 R Copeland, 4 S Bradshaw (G Logan), 3 Robert Sweeney, 2 G Hickie (D Kilbride), 1 C Mc Mahon (K Carroll).