14.04.2012 1st XV v Clontarf (A)
Clontarf FC V St Mary's College RFC
AIL Division 1 A
14th. April 2012.
Today we celebrate an historic win, born of bravery and bold belief. Its significance is enormous and yet we must wait for a week for the chance to solemnise the league title. We are not there yet but we must walk with great heart in our hopes. In reporting to you, I will wait until next week before exploring the depth and enormity of the season and its players, but today must be recorded as a magnificent day in the club's history. It is of course completely impossible for me to describe or capture the fluctuating feelings or the final rapture. The game itself, was broadcast live and will be well reported, so minimal will be this report in that regard.
Before the game the atmosphere gradually grew, glancing up at the TV gantry one started to feel the nervous nausea of the great occasion and looking around the ground, as trickling throngs slowly filtered around the pitch perimeter; you could spot the stalwart Potts brothers heroes of a little while ago and more recent heroes in Malcolm O'Kelly and Denis Hickie, with his dad Tony (a hero of old) and mum Grace. It was good also to see current Marys' international players, Rhys Ruddock and Kevin Mc Loughhlin. Of course, there was that comfortable feeling of togetherness in spotting the usual regulars, among them the Coveney Brothers, long time friends, Bill Fagan and Matt Gilsenan, JB (mustering the troops), Liam Birkett (inventive as ever), Jimmy Smyth (minding everyone), the Fanning family, pal PPs Rynner, Quinner, Spike, John Carvill and Pyner (with the flag), Dr Michael Farrell (trembling), Frank Dowling (composed) Ossie Fogarty (reading), David Ryan (smiling) and Paul Davy (talking), Patrick Crawford, Derry O'Connell, Eugene Brophy, garrulous Jim Murray, Victor O'Connor and Bobby Coen down from Dundalk. Our PRO, Keith Mc Carthy, who does a fine job, was looking dapper. There also was the executive, including former president, exceptional club worker and now Hon Sec, the indefatigable John Cunningham and dedicated and extra bright Hon Treasurer, Liam Byrne, while a large group of younger members led by Marc Aboud, who made a great clamour in support during the game, were amassing. The RC, under Kevin Conboy and Frank Kennedy, was to the fore.
It was particularly poignant to see Paul Nash, who so unfortunately had to give up the game, preparing for his support duties and Gareth Logan, standing lonesome, out injured for the past two games with a broken ankle, having made a particularly important contribution as part of the team throughout the campaign.
Hugh Hogan's mum, Lesley, an intensely committed supporter and most personable and genteel woman, had gone to the long painstaking trouble of making dozens of handsome St Marys' scarves, for the mothers and other supporters, even taking the trouble to embroider names on some. This epitomised the empathy that exists all season between the players (and families), management and supporters.
Soon the lunchers/breakfasters poured out of the clubhouse and the two presidents, close friends, our own most popular John Gilsenan and Tarf's amiable John Glackin, strain and tension drawn onto their faces and carried through their gaits. It was nearly time and soon the teams arrived and the cameras whirred, stomachs tightened and bladders strained it was time for the joust.
This surely was a gargantuan struggle. Played in the true spirit of rugby, between two well trained but contrasting teams, teams that knew there was everything at stake. Overall Tarf held slight sway in the forward battle while Marys were superior in the back division and in the scrum. Tarf, with their structured game, fought to control the fast innovative one of St Marys and it was intriguing. The first of Darren Hudson's two tries, early in the second half put Marys in a strong position and, although lashed against the line for the last quarter, the line held fast. It was then that that the indomitable spirit, the leadership and innate understanding of each other's actions and intentions shone and saved the day. Then there were some terrifying tackles when the defenders' existence seemed in doubt, when as waves of attacks came on, there were double tackles, hold up tackles (four vital ones), there were forwards flinging themselves into the fray, backs battering rucks and tackling titans and there was the Skipper, Hugh, hurtling through the air sometimes almost vertical in great efforts to stem the tide and bringing with him his troops to a man. He was, in the real meaning of the word, heroic, and had to be man of the match, all the game he worked in all areas of the game, breaking through, starting moves, sailing up to take the ball in the loose and in the lineout, effodient at the rucks and he was hammering men back, while exhorting his men to more.
It would be better not to single out any other player, as it might seem to demean the incomprehensible efforts of others, when everyone was magnificent and each played a vital role in the victory. They all deserve the highest accolades.
Next Saturday, Marys play Young Munster and we will expect no favours nor get any, but with this great team, their record and their superb coaching group, they must have the resources and confidence to complete the task, and if they do, what a great result it will be, not only for the players who will gain greatly in the achievement, but also it will have a monumental effect on the club's psyche, future security and progress.
The game started with Tarf playing towards the road with a cold strong easterly wind whipping across the pitch. We fielded and the game was in flow. We remained in our own half for much of first fifteen minutes and then after Richie Lane missed a penalty for Tarf, Marys went 0- 3 up with a Gavin Dunne penalty, but on 28 minutes Clontarf scored a good Lett try converted by Lane. Marys then put on good pressure and it were rewarded when Phillip Brophy fielded a high ball, swept it on to Gavin who gave a fine skip ball to Conor Hogan on the wing he did what he does so well, weaved his way at great pace through the defence, chipped ahead re-gathered and went between two to tap down, a lovely try, it then was 7 - 8 and just at a most propitious time, soon it was half time.
The second half seemed to bring a fresh wave of pace to the game for it was only three minutes old when, Darren Hudson put up a high kick, he followed up fast and when the defender fluffed it Darren scooped up the ball again and hit the turbo, along the line using pace and power to beat three men and he scored a truly fine try. 7 - 13. It was eight minutes.
When defending, Hugh Hogan took on the ball and went on a dazzling, swashbuckling run right down the centre of the field, a ruck formed, quick ball and out the line and big Damien Hall timed his pass to Darren flawlessly, and he knew where the line was, taking off at Mach 11 he zoomed in a for superb try and we were looking good, but it was only 8 minutes gone. Second half, Clontarf made Herculean efforts and we had to defend hard and after a period of pressure they scored a forward try on 20 minutes, to make it 12 18. Nervous times were ahead.
From then, really it was a gruelling, wearing struggle, as Tarf strove manfully to mount attack after attack, finding their most productive mode to be via their forwards, so the heavy artillery was out and we responded magnificently and although they came near on a few occasions and we had a sin binning in the last few minutes, cool heads prevailed and we made it.
It ended 12 -18 and the ground sparkled with delight, the team, the coaches and management, the supporters went into delirium, yet were not offensive nor triumphalist and there was respect and sympathy for Clontarf after a great battle but not one ever showing sourness, foul play or gamesmanship. Long live Club Rugby.
Team (Rolling Substitutions) 15 G Dunne, 14 D Hudson, 13 S Grissing, 12 M O'Driscoll, 11 C Hogan, 10 P Brophy, 9 M D'Arcy, 8 H Hogan (Capt) 7 G Austen, 6 B O'Flanagan, 5 S Bradshaw, 4 D Hall, 3 Robert Sweeney, 2 Richard Sweeney, 1 C Mc Mahon, C Lilly, C Ruddock, D Kilbride, M Sexton, R Brosnan.