23.10.2010 1st XV v Shannon (H)
St Mary’s College RFC V Shannon RFC
AIL Division 1 A
Saturday 23rd October 2010.
This may well go down in St Marys’ history as a “Where were you that day” day, to match the Moon Landing and such. If a game of rugby can be perfect bliss this was it and was for me amongst the greatest games we have ever played. It was an almost perfect performance, full of skill, pace urgency, confidence and concentration, a delight to watch. However, it is a game and it is important not to gloat and we must remember we have had some forgettable days ourselves. Yet we are entitled to savour and enjoy the day and its marvellous memories. The head coach, Ciaran Potts, the captain, Paul Nash and his team, knew this was a defining day and prepared for it as such. They can all be justly proud and happy. It would be hard to put together a better team or performance, from the entire AIL, they were sublime. It is clear that we can play at professional pace and when we do, no club team can successfully compete with us.
From the start, the team was at one, with high-speed skill, fast offload and recycle, space appreciation and diabrotic defence. The set pieces were synchronistic which gave attackers time and space, with demonstrative results and the fitness and concentration levels were admirable. Only for a short time early in the second half did intensity drop a little and Shannon look to be on the pitch. To the credit of the Limerick team, as would be expected of one with nine AIL Division 1 titles, they never considered dedition and they tried to the end.
Seldom does every player deserve attention, but today was one of those times. Every player made an indelible contribution, and together, the complementary sum was an irresistible incatenation of power, pace, precision and talent. If you missed it, you missed it.
Jack Mc Grath at number 1 was, in many ways, number 1, he has never played better for St Marys and it is clear why Leinster and IRFU have such great optimism for his future. He was crushing in the tight, scrummaging, lineout lifting and to fore in so many rucks and mauls, his hits were heavy and often and his carrying was thunderous, he was a happy heaver. A breath taking performance.
At 2, Richard (Chips) Sweeney is an aristocrat of Hookers, who contributes impressively to all aspects of the game and his trajectories would put Cupid to shame. He made an immense contribution, everywhere, all the time, on the field today; a true leader.
Brother, Robert (Chops) Sweeney, a big man in everyway at number 3, was close to the action and worked hard in the tight and loose, carrying often with destructive effect; a thorn in their side. The entire front row was granite. Top class.
Ciaran Ruddock at 4 found his form and fused fully with the team today, with high work rate and intelligent foraging, his work in close was selfless and unflinching, he also took a few important lineout balls; he had his most impressive and productive game, he had a hand (or a foot) in the second try, a real team player.
Every game, Damian Hall’s value becomes more apparent, whether at 5 or 6 and today he showed his fitness and resolve, for he did a lot of the work of a six, while carrying out his second row duties to perfection, his lineout takes were invaluable giving hot clean ball to his scrumhalf, which led to many crucial breaks; and still he found energy to make ramrod raids, hit rucks rapidly and manage mauls.
The backrow was peerless and it is hard to find words to describe their importance and their contribution. Rhys Ruddock at 6, showed why he is an international player, his conditioning and athleticism are remarkable and his intelligent use of space (both making and cutting down) and the ball is admirable. Many a would-be tackler will be sore tonight after tackling this man of teak.
Number 7, Captain Courageous, (the only suitable name for Paul Nash the skipper), worked outrageously hard all game, he knows no limit, no fear and no surrender. He is happy in the trenches fighting off invaders, he is happy on the ground foraging, happy in the air as the tail gunner, taking and giving excellent lineout ball and he is happy on the run with ball or as support; he is happy playing rugby. He is a superb leader and I still contend, as from the start, he will lead us there.
Hugh Hogan our 8 is the consummate 8, he knows where every square metre of pitch is and where and when the ball will be there, he seems uncanny in his anticipation and his use of the ball even from bad scrums or in tight spots is faultless and near baffling. His experience as a leader and player is invaluable. Today, he was waiting almost every kick ahead, and still was there to scoop up every other loose ball or to crush someone in the tackle. His lineout management is accomplished and on his take, the understanding between Richie and him is sublime and is vital to our game.
The engine of our incredible victory was the pack and the ignition spark of that victory was our 9/10 axis. Matthew D’Arcy at 9 is the curse of any defence for he is as unpredictable as he is effective. Yesterday the pack, and especially the backrow, were in perfect synchrony with him, so every sparkling break or quick touch was followed and backed. The speed of his service meant that the ball was in space often before the opposition knew it was gone. This was a key aspect to our success. Duracell!
All the talk of party wallabies brings me to our own Roo, Shaun Mc Carthy at 10 and for me today’s man of the match, for his sparkling, daring and comprehensive game. Matt’s service and the lovely autumnal weather (with a little competitive thrust from below?) were perfect allies to his talent. Almost every fluent movement involved Shaun; his kicking was sparing and effective, his tackling brave and his probes precise, sometimes outlandish. He had a memorable game and allowed those outside him thrive and show their torrential talents.
In the mid field, Mark Sexton at 12, used his abilities as well as he ever has, his passing is excellent and those hands made vital extra space, he had a number of telling incisions and his defence was exact, he had a fine game and combined easily with Stephen Grissing who was devastating at 13, he had the defence in a spin, as he sliced through, his deliveries were likewise exquisite on occasions, as he made gaps or chinks for those around him and he dealt with all other duties easily.
A star was born, or at least materialised in front of our eyes, in the form of Darren Hudson. Another who is being groomed at LB level and today he was a star as he romped in for four tries, all excellent. The last was a winger’s dream as he used his pace and power to score from over 60 metres. Not too far behind was Ronan Doherty who has been finding form again recently and Saturday he was at his best, his defence was good and early on he put a lot of pressure on their defence following everything and rushing them. He ran well from deep, as is his wont, and he scored a really fine try.
At 15, Paul Gillespie was not too taxed in his defensive duties but what was asked of him he did with aplomb and made two superb cover tackles; he was always ready to run in support and to set up attacks when possible. Another who is improving with each appearance.
The replacements too added their own magic to a spectacular display. Young Ian Mc Kinley showed his quality and talent as he swept passes and probed and he made a dazzling break which lead to a try; he is a lad with a real future. David Campbell is also a highly talented player and added much including a try and late on managed the defence as he urged and cajoled and we kept our lines intact. Kevin (Chunky) Carroll caused no loss in front row power and was avid in his pursuit of work and made a most positive contribution, as did Gareth Logan, he fitted into the backrow and enforced effectively, he still has much to give. Tommy Meredith is another with much to give for the future; last year’s U21’s captain did a fine job during his time on the field, he is full of intelligent energy and his throwing in is making good progress.
The first half. From the start we put pressure on Shannon causing them to make mistakes from kick-offs and kicks ahead and after seven minutes they were found offside by Allain Rolland and Shaun started the scoreboard rolling. A minute later, a fast first phase ball from the lineout on their 10-metre line on the terrace side, saw Shaun give a flat ball to Stephen who sliced through and sent it on to Darren who was stopped just short of the line at the road end. We continued our attack and an almost identical lineout ball on 10 minutes, hit Mark from Shaun, and he slipped thorough a slight gap and sent it on to Darren who did the rest in the gate corner. It was 8 – 0. Then on 12 minutes a loose ball in mid field was hacked on and Ciaran Ruddock followed up fast and used his power to get to the ball ahead of three defenders and tap it on, Darren who was following up fast, kicked on over the line an beat all defenders to the ball for a try which Shaun converted and it was 15 – 0. They had a prop sin-binned on 28 minutes and from the penalty, we went to the corner and set up a controlled maul, which crabbed out, and when near centre Chops chose his time perfectly to peel off and dive urgently through three tacklers to score. Shaun brought the score to 22 – 0. It was 35 minutes, when from a ruck, Shaun got the ball and put a fine cross field kick to Carvill corner where rangy Ronan eagerly awaited it, he rose to collect but their cover winger got a hand to it and illegally directed it into touch; penalty given 15 metres out, we took the scrum, we took control and Hugh picked perfectly and crashed over; with Shaun’s conversion it was 29 – 0. Then on 40 minutes, a wonderful interplay of quick passes between Matt, Shaun, Darren and finally from Darren’s outside flick Ronan used his pace and skipped two defenders to score in Carvill Corner and this left the score at an incredible 34 – 0 at half time.
The second half, understandably saw our pressure play drop a little for the first ten minutes, but we cranked it up again and soon were running fluid lines and back to our quick rucking game. After some loose play in the centre of the field, on 18 minutes, Ian Mc Kinley who had by now come on, sold a dummy, cut through a gap and slalomed thirty metres through several tacklers, off loaded to Stephen who, near the line, handed on to the fast following David Campbell who scored close in. Ian converted. The score had gone to 41 – 0. The next score came on 34 minutes, when Shaun got a loose ball inside his own half and scorched past a tackler, cut through two men, accelerated on past the defenders and was free, the cover got close and he sent it on to scintillating Darren who zoomed away from all to score a lovely try, Ian made it 48 – 0. Finally on 38 minutes Shaun picked up a ball in his own 22 he was going to kick to touch of course; of course he was not, he made the most delicate of feints, showed the ball and eased through two men he made ground and when faced with two defenders he went to go inside drawing them both to him, he gave a lovely ball inside to the supporting Darren and he just shot forward chased all the time by the cover but he had the pace and poise to make it all the way. That meant we had won 53 – 0 for although they tried everything to register a score our lads were not going to concede and when Allain blew the final whistle our lads were elated and Shannon shattered, but there was nothing only sporting hand shakes; for these two teams have good history and will have much more in the future. Many spectators of long membership were delightedly dazed; Steve Treacy Snr, in the company of son Glenn, ran the length of the pitch to photograph the scoreboard for posterity. Kevin Conboy was seen just standing staring incredulously and dreamily at it.
Everyone was overjoyed for President Ronnie Mc Brien, getting his first AIL win, he could have replaced the sun with the glow on his face and he mingled merrily with his team and the contented coaches and management and supporters, while we are Marys Boys was blasted out. Not a bad day’s work. Next week we have a joust with Dolphin, which has recently proved a difficult one, so all who can must come to Cork. You will all have read the marvellous message from the captain Nasher, last week and so know the importance of your support.
Team 15 P Gillespie, 14 R Doherty, 13 S Grissing, 12 M Sexton, 11 D Hudson, 10 S Mc Carthy, 9 M D’Arcy, 8 H Hogan, 7 P Nash (Capt), 6 R Ruddock, 5 D Hall, 4 C Ruddock, 3 Robert Sweeney, 2 Richie Sweeney, J Mc Grath.
Subs. D Campbell, T Meredith, K Carroll, G Logan, I Mc Kinley.