21.04.2012 1st XV v Young Munster (H)
ST Mary’s College RFC V Young Munster RFC
Ulster Bank AIL Final.
21st April 2012.
To say this success ishistoric is a true understatement, for what happened today has the most profound significance for the club in terms of rugby, finances even social psychology and culture, but of course now it is rightly a delirium and even the most curmudgeonly cacogen could not possibly begrudge St Mary’s College RFC the pleasure of success, earned by its handsome team and awaited long and longingly. No one either, could but be extremely happy for our president John Gilsenan, he has been working sodiligently and hard all year and has built a close relationship with all the teams including the senior one with which he has a great rapport. Indeed, it could not be more fitting than John being president, given his family’s importance to the club. His dad, Matt, is universally admired and loved throughout the club, he has bequeath an invaluable legacy to it; marvellous it was to see both Matt and Breda, his wife, so well and happy today. Matt, is a true St Marys legend, having captained the club in 1950s, led his team on the first overseas tour made by the club to Italy in 1954. Matt was then for over 50 years a trustee and club archivist, later president and a primemover in the developments at the most important period of the club’s history, from the late fifties to recently, including relocation from Kimmage Grove to College Drive and then to Templeville Road.
There is something truly special about this squad that makes it extra loved by the membership, it is endogenous, most of the squad has been developed within the club, nurtured by those in the U21s and upwards, a true St Marys win. This success was earned, not just today or even last week, but over the complete tough season. It entailed long, hard work, done not only by the 20 players on view today but the entire squad of 35+ players, who played in games and/or spent long hours of training and working with and for each other, since last July. Well do all of them deserve to celebrate and for some who may feel a little left out, it is they who may well be next up to enjoy the harvest of their labour; for labour is needed, nothing comes without effort. Newton’s third law says to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and so it is. However, not only did the team have to work hard for this colossal success, so too had the coaches, management and back up groups. It meant long hard hours, evenings without dinner or getting home from work at 10.00PM instead of 6.00PM. The media notes done for the last two games are incorporated, below, to allow those who may not be totally familiar with the abilities of all of this group, but one thing they all have in common an unsullied and emphatic love of rugby and St Marys.
This seed of this success was fertilized at and nurtured from the time we were relegated in 2003-04, then Steve Hennessy stepped up and started putting together players and attitudes and systems that have been developed and enhanced by him, Peter Smyth, and Ciaran Potts and Shaun Mc Carthy and James Norton ever since, culminating in becoming AIL 2011-12 champions. Of course their managers have had vital roles to play too, Brian Roantree, Brian Grimson and later Terry Tierney, helped by Ian Grimson, David Lyons, Paul Nash and J1 managers, including recently, Pat Crawford and Paudge Mc Gill who have done much in support of the senior group.
Often forgotten, is rugby administration, Rugby Council, which organises and puts in place all the structures, personnel and budget for rugby and there, outstanding has been Kevin Conboy, so long involved at all levels of rugby both as a player and later administrator and is the current director of rugby. He is helped greatly by having with him, onfield and off field legend, Frank Kennedy, Reggie Foley, John Muldoon and incoming president Michael Fanagan, who does vital and difficult work in fixture player arrangement and of course ground manager and player registration organiser, John Carvill. We must not forget either David Donohue, in Rugby Council, who had to take time out due to a serious illness, which he overcame with superb courage he has been a great warrior on the field too, today in great form, he was looking hale. All of these and many more, including all those in junior rugby who devote their time freely, over the past ten years are due great gratitude and admiration. Great assistance on match days is Ian Bloomer, who looks after the referees and smoothes things for them.
The Great Day
For a few days beforehand, there had been great activity, with television units being erected and other preparations made around the grounds, by Frank Doyle and John Carvill while inside administrator, Marie Hammond, was her usual busy and highly organised self as she adorned the clubhouse ready for all the forthcoming activity and Brian Corrigan ensured that the bars were well stocked just in case someone fancied a drink.
The air seemed to shiver when the day arrived and bees buzzed busier in gardens around Templeville Road, yes, the air was humming with anticipation. The players followed routine under the paternal guidance of Tireless Terry, while Smythy let his dad Jimmy do the worrying for him; and he did. There was a feeling of coming home for many of the members of old and some of the great players of other years, some smiling with happy nostalgia. Many of those who came (and whom I happened to see), made contributions to the development of rugby and/or the club itself. From the fifties of course we had the usual faithful group of Tom Browne, Paddy Bolger, Bill Fagan, Joe Fanagan and of course Matt Gilsenan, all of whom made a serious contribution to every form of development of the club, from the sixties it was especially evocative to see one of the greatest and truest Marys’ players (and multi captain) of all time, Sean Cooke, with battling winger Noel Kenny, also former captain Dermot Moloughney, ever present heart of the club JB Sweeney (father of Robert and Richard) who brought the first Leinster league to Marys (and the artesian well), Paul O’Reilly was there, as was Tony Hickie, peerless fullback.
From the seventies was the incredible athlete and scrumhalf, Lion Johnny Moloney, International, Marys and Leinster legend Declan Fanning, the Kennedys (both of course), Dr Tom Feighery, international prop, Liam Grissing (father of Stephen) and wife of Mary who is an avid Marys supporter, going forward towards the eighties Tony Ward, and Rodney O’Donnell, then Dr Jim McShane, and further along in time I saw, amongst the throngs which were now flooding the grounds, Mickey the Fish Corcoran, the Potts brothers, Kevin, Colin and Brian who have all contributed greatly to the club’s team development as of course has Ciaran (below) and the entire family have supported Marys in many ways since the early 90s. Another Lion and son of John, Vinny Cunningham was there, another Lion Mal O’Kelly was in great form, though even he may have been a little nervous (never!). Ronan Lynch was present; Peter O’Kelly and Del Boy McCabe were also there as was Mick O’Flaherty who now does so much on Youth Rugby, a vital part of player development. Others like that who are putting it back into the club through our mini rugby, is Karl Jennings along with Colin and Brian Potts, Stephen Treacy, and (Steve Snr player of the 60s was also there) Arthur Mc Evoy and Mark Mc Inerney these are just a few of the well known Marys’ men.
The president of IRFU, our own John Hussey, who was on holidays in the Canaries, broke his holiday and came home especially for the game, returning afterwards. Well done John. Fr John Flavin CSSp, who developed many of these players while at school at St Mary’s College, also made a special effort, just out of hospital after a hip replacement operation; he came to the game and managed to get a chair onto the packed terrace, not bad?
Charlie Chawke, another who contributes much to rugby and to our club (a sponsor), was, as he frequently is, present at the club for the lunch and the game. Charlie has invited the team, the president and supporters his pub, The Dropping Well, for complimentary drinks, food and entertainment all day. That is a remarkably generous gesture and knowing players, he will have to have a full stock.
By the time the lunch was over and kick off time near at hand, there were over 2000 in the grounds and RTE were filming, time to tremble.
Munsters won the toss andchose to play with the strong wind towards the road on a dry firm pitch and straight away they put on the pressure with their hard rucking game, they were very well prepared and coached and came, as the occasion and the competition deserved, toplay to their utmost and their utmost was remarkably good. Their pack dominated the opening part of the game as they tried to prevent our bringing our potent backline into action. In fact, overall until late in the first half Munsters looked slightly stronger. After only four minutes, their winger was sent off for a tip tackle and they had to manage their team using a Seven, a swing, in defence. Ten minutes saw apenalty for Munsters converted 0 -3 and we had a sinbinning on 14 minutes for a block and it was 0-6 from the penalty. On 22 minutes, from a lineout, Munsters' impressive maul carried them over the line for a try, converted and it was 0 –13, but when attacking Munsters had a sin binning for not rolling on 39 minutes and Gavin made it 3 – 13 at half time.
The second half started more promisingly for Marys within creased pace and the scrum began to get the upper hand, however, we might have used the strong wind more effectively, but over all we started to look good, although on ten minutes they increased the score to 3 – 16. After three phases and from a ruck, Mark Sexton who had just come on, received a ball going from right to left fifteen metres out, he saw a gap and went for it, burst the tackle and went through two more to score and Gavin converted, so the heat was rising, 10 – 16, on 19 minutes they made it 10 – 19 and then we really started working. Gavin got a penalty on 20 minutes and then on 26 minutes Gavin struck again 16 – 19, inexorably we were drawing closer and closer, but Munsters are fighters to the last; they gave nothing. We were starting to worry and Rynner got the terrace chanting and then Darren Hudson took a ball in the middle of the field and hoisted it, it bounced in 22 and the covering winger hesitated and then passed to the support player who tried to dummy and was caught. We then subjected the Munsters’ line to a barrage of power attack. Ruck after ruck, drive after drive and still thy held out, but just when we were near desperation Duracell D’Arce saw Mark coming blind and he gave him the ball at full tilt, over he went, in Carvill Corner to the absolute delirium of the crowd who were let abund.
Although, the game not over for another few minutes and Munsters did try to come back, it was effectively the end and you could feel the explosion of happy feelings, elation, as the supporters ran onto the field to celebrate. This was a game of bravery and character where belief and team spirit won the day. During the entire match there was commitment and although it may not have been the most complete performance it certainly was the most important and every man did the club proud and none more so than Richard (Chips) Sweeney who made a major contribution in every facet of the game, from kick off to game off; he is a truly committed and skilful player; he was my man of the match. The captain can feel overjoyed for he never flagged all season and led like a true titan. Well done to all.
Presentation of the Ulster Bank, AIL trophy and the league winners medals was, fortunately, due to the way the league unfolded, possible to have immediately after the game and it was a marvellous event, in very kind sunny weather, with the big crowd and the joy all round; everyone luxuriating in rapture. John Gilsenan with his dad, Matt, beside him and the president of the IRFU John Hussey nearby, announced the names and most affable IRFU Domestic Games manager Gordon Black delivered the goods to all the players to the cheers of all. The party went on all night and then some; History.
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.
Needless to say although now is time to celebrate, however, for the club in a short while, thoughts must be given to the next season and the changes and recruitment necessary, for rugby is a seasonal game and one leads into the next. Systems have to be put in place, but now let us all be happy. We are the champions.
Below, if you wish to read it, there are pieces of information and profiles of the senior set up personnel, that I penned, which you may find interesting
Peter (Smythy) Smyth, Head Coach, has been involved for 14 years at St Marys firstly as player having won an AIL medal himself, as hooker, in 2000, he was a highly regarded Leinster player and later, having recovered from a serious illness in 2001-02 that ended his high level playing career, he continued his club rugby until 2007. He coached Marys’ U20s and then the senior team along with Steven Hennessy, then over past four seasons has been Head Coach. His strongest points are his attention to detail and his ability analyse players, teams and games, he is an inspirational motivator. Married to effervescent Gillian and he is teaching at Blackrock College where he also coaches the senior schools team. He is very sociable and good-natured and a strong leader; he is an outstanding after dinner speaker. He is considered an invaluable asset to the club and his family, including his highly popular father, Jimmy, (once Bagman for Leinster) are all involved in club life.
Ciaran (Pottsy) Potts, Forwards Coach, one of four brothers all Marys men (including Kevin who is a legend at Marys), Ciaran had to cut short a most promising professional playing career due to a serious back injury and since he has become involved in coaching at St Marys. He played his last game for Leinster in 2005-06 seasons. This is his fourth year coaching at St Marys and he has worked hard with the players on organisation, set moves and defence. Being a back row forward he is particularly good at reading game situations and layouts. He is very popular with the players but is clearly in command. Deep thinking and incisive. It is sad to note that Ciaran due to work commitments has to take a break (it is temporary) from coaching but the club is greatly indebted to him and his entire family for the outstanding contribution they made and continue to make to Irish rugby and particularly to St Marys. He will be a big loss, even if temporary.
James (Jimmy) Norton, backs coach, he has played at school at St Mary’s College (as did his father) and later at UCD and then Marys and has been coaching for a number of years now, having concentrated on U21 rugby up to last season. He has added a dimension to the back play and introduced width and exceptional defensive patterns. He still togs out for J1s and as he was a champion sprinter while at school, he still has the pace and has added guile. He is a very sociable and high-spirited young man who gives a nice blend of levity, without facetiousness, to the proceedings
Steven (Hen) Hennessey, coach, Steven adds great sagacity and experience to the coaching team. He acts as an active coaching analyst. He was a player at St Marys for many years (he was renowned place kicker) and captained the club in 1989-90 and won LSC and LSL medals in 1987 and 1989. He later coached at Naas and when he returned to Marys he was involved at several levels being successful at under aged and senior rugby, as senior coach in the late 90s he got the team to the AIL division 1 semi finals twice; and when the club was relegated in 2003-04, it was Steve that the club turned to and he brought it back to division 1 the following season. He is currently the junior vice president of the club, while also coaching and advising and of course, he coaches the place kickers. He is an astute game and player analyst and has the ability to change a match by tactical or personnel re-organisation. He is greatly admired throughout the club.
Terry (Tireless Terry) Tierney, Manager. Terry is an accountant and so is careful and prudent, he looks after all the social, travel and logistical organisation. He is extremely well respected and liked by all the players and coaches and he has a calm patient approach, which is perfect for a big game. His preparation is precise and painstaking and he is ever-present even on the coldest January night, looking after the needs of the players or coaches and ensuring everything they need for rugby is available to them. They never have to ask. He works long and hard for all the squad. He is like an extra parent to the players and is so approachable is in great demand as soothsayer, advisor and comforter. He is very popular, why wouldn’t he be?
David (Penguin) Lyons and Paul (Nasher) Nash are the two assistant Managers, both are former players at the club and highly enthusiastic, cooperative and popular with the players. Dave recently got married. Paul, who captained St Mary’s College SCT in 2002-03 and later was a star player at under aged and senior level. He was club captain in 2010-11 and sadly, last season had to retire from the game due to a serious back injury and is an inestimable loss He has great endurance and was a fearless leader with unquenchable spirit.
Colm (Chief) Mc Mahon (1) has shown great potential since underage time at the club and has been a renowned loose play forward but now has added a formidable ability to prop and plays loose head, although there is nothing loose about Colm’s head. He says eventually his dad won’t have to drive him around any more and he will learn how to drive.
Richie (Chips) Sweeney (2) Formerly Leinster academy player and Colleges International. Richie is big for a hooker and has played loose head, he is fast and often switches to flanker as required he is a strong carrier and intense defender. His Father, James (JB) Sweeney, is a former captain and president of the club. He is a most likeable lad and like his brother is extremely popular.
Robert (Chops) Sweeney (3) Elder brother of Richard Sweeney also former Leinster player 2006-08 and spent a season at Rotherham in England and up to this season at Connaught. Like Richie, he won a Leinster senior Schools’ cup medal. He has matured into a very serious scrummager and his rampaging style of ball carrying is awe-inspiring, especially as this rather, large gentleman comes hurtling towards you. He is a senior leader and organiser/enforcer. Irish selectors might think again about Robert, not too many tight heads around. Keep away from him, we need him!
Damian (Daymo) Hall (4) came from Bective three years ago and has become highly popular and a most esteemed player, he is both a back row forward (usually 6) or second row, where he plays today. He is a big strong man with great power and pace. He is a current a club international player; has just returned from injury and has really started to hit his very best form. His stature makes him a great asset in the lineout but his real strength is in defence or ball in hand where is most effective. Sadly Damian is retiring from rugby, but what a way to go. Well done to him.
Stephen (Brads) Bradshaw (5) (has been with the club for seven years, having come from Garryowen. His father Steve Snr played at St Marys in the 70s. Steve went to Australia for a season and played for Sunny Bank Dragons, this put power and gloss on his game and since returning last season he has further improved his skills, his Lineout work is top quality and he is now a formidable player and genial gentleman.
Barry O’ Flanagan (6), who is a natural 7 but has adapted very well to 6. He is another who is a past pupil of St Mary’s College and indeed is third generation Marys, with his grand uncle Kevin being a famous rugby and football international. He won a Mc Corry cup medal in 2006. He is a superb forager and has an innate appreciation of play progression and spatial awareness, is a useful lineout option as well as a very good forager.
Gareth (Garry) Austin (7), having left the High School in 2008 he won a JP Fanagan league medal in 2010 and has made rocket progress since, to become a true quality 7, possessing pace, perception and high skill levels both in attack and defence and like his backrow colleagues is a top rate turnover man (well Bread!). He maintains a high pace level all game. He has a big future.
Hugh (Sir) Hogan (8) (C) had been captain of The High School and TCD before coming to Marys in 2006, he captained the club in 2009-10, reaching the AIL Division 1 A final, as well as this season, he also captained the Club international side and is a current club international. In addition to his playing ability, he is a highly rated coach, is the current club U21 coach and has coached the Marys’ U21 team to a JP Fanagan title in 2009-10. He is an inspirational leader and outstanding player, he is very fast and has unshatterable defence, a strong clever break from the scrum, takes on ball well and is an excellent lineout option. He has total dedication to his team and to his own personal rugby development. He is highly athletic, with impressive strength and conditioning. He is son of Bosco Hogan the celebrated actor.
David (Killer) Kilbride, now almost a veteran player, David is a dedicated rugby player and a fine hooker. His throwing in is excellent and he is a useful loose forward. He a quiet man who is exceptionally admired and a real sportsman.
Rory (Broz) Brosnan, Rory is a Cork man having played at Dolphin and then went to Limerick and played with Garryowen from where he came to Marys. While at Garryowen he won an AIL division 1 league and an A I Cup medal. He hope to join a short elite group of those with AIL medals for two clubs He can play either side of the scrum and as a hooker and is a hard scrummager and determined tackler.
Ciaran (Rudds) Ruddock (Ciaran, son of famous international Welsh player and coach and brother of international backrower Rhys, also a member of St Marys), Ciaran was born, and went to school in Ghent, Wales. He is a current Leinster A and Academy player. He played a season for UCD before coming to St Marys and since arriving in 2010 has had a major impact as a backrow and second row player. He has been injured for much of this season and is only returning to fitness now. He is immensely strong and his defence is adamantine, tackling like a torpedo and with the ball, he takes clever vectors with pulverising power.
Jack McGrath former St Mary's College schoolboy international currently has a Leinster contract. Highly regarded and thought to have international future and be one of those who will fill the gap in the Irish prop cupboard. He has made a strong contribution to the Marys’ team this year and was ever willing to help when permitted by Leinster.
Mark (Donno) Donnellan, a really great club man and has been a so since he left St Marys a dozen years ago. He is highly athletic with good pace and great hands, he plays 8 and in the row if required. He has won several J1 league and cup matches, captained the J1s and has played a number of games, impressively, on the senior team this year.
Darragh Keller, a promising back row forward, he has just come up from the U21s. He is powerful and brave, a strong tackler with a good engine and he reads the game in a mature manner. He will soon be a permanent senior player
Kevin (Chunky) Carroll, he was unfortunate to be out injured for a long period this season. He is one of the most popular players in the club and is also a fine prop; he is mainly a tight head. Being a former Templeogue boy, he has been at the club since school and already he has contributed well to the club.
Matthew (Duracell) D’Arcy (9), another former pupil of the High School. Matt played scrumhalf for UCD before coming to St Marys and he left for two seasons (08-10) to play professional rugby at Doncaster. Since his return he shows that professionalism each time he plays with a fast pass, an incisive break, shrewd game reading, good box kicking and sharp defence he has neutrino like acceleration and his greatest asset is intense concentration which never drops nor does his game pace; hence, Duracell Bunny.
Philip (Marvel Man) Brophy (10), Phillip is an extraordinary man, considered by many to be one of the greatest club players ever to have played for Marys. He knows no fear, no defeat and no surrender, yet he is a gentleman and a great sportsman. He went to school at St Mary’s College and has been at the club for 12 years. He has been blighted by injury as he plays without concern for himself, yet he has never given up. He captained the club in 2008-09. He has played scrumhalf, centre, wing, fullback and at present, outhalf, all to a high level. Being a natural athlete, he does everything well and given that he never compromises, he always gives high-level performance and is natural leader who keeps all around him animated and committed.
Conor (Hogie) Hogan (11), Conor is another who went to St Mary’s College and like his school team-mate, Barry O’Flanagan; he won a Mc Corry cup medal in 2006. He is possessed of great natural pace and balance and can play fullback and wing, favouring the eleven sides. His running from broken play is a feature of his game and is there very dangerous. He has good hands and kicks well from hand.
Marcus O’ Driscoll (12), who is natural 12 can also play wing. Although a Dubliner he played his rugby prior to coming to St Marys this season, with Shannon, having been to school at Rockwell College. He has won a AIL Division 1 A, an AI Cup and a Munster Senior Cup medal with Shannon and hopes, like Rory Brosnan, to add to his collection this season. He has very good feet, is elusive and is strong in defence; he liberates players around him, which is a strong attribute.
Stephen (Grisso) Grissing (13), schoolboy international at St Marys College his father Liam also played at school and club. Liam joined Marys and was at the Leinster academy and then played professionally at Rotherham for season 2006-07 before returning to the club. Excellent defence and good outside break and reads game very well so is a fine organiser and excellent at the breakdown; a quiet friendly man with real steel.
Darren Hudson (14), who won a JP Fanagan medal at the club, is another former St Marys College pupil. He is a Leinster Academy and A player. He is big and strong and a most elusive runner and has real power and pace on the break. He is making good progress.
Gavin (Gav) Dunne (15), came in 2009 to St Marys from UCC where he won a Munster Cup medal and an AIL division 2, medal at outhalf in 2007-08, he also plays fullback, very secure and reads game well. He is the main place kicker. He is extremely composed and calm under pressure and has a really happy attitude.
Christopher Lilly is another who won a JP Fanagan League medal. He is a former pupil of St Columba’s College and has been in the Leinster pre Academy. He plays scrumhalf, outhalf or wing and is a most promising player, possessed of balance and pace. He is a player who always appears to have time on the ball and makes good use of it, he tackles well, is a natural athlete and much is expected from him. He is developing very impressively and has a big future in rugby.
Mark (Marko) Sexton (Brother of slightly more famous Jonathan and brother Gerry who has joined the club this year from St Mary’s College). Mark is just recovering from an injury and getting back to fitness. He plays 12, has good hands and hard acceleration and has a particularly sharp eye for a gap.
Ray (Razor) Crotty, another who was at St Marys at school and won a JP Fanagan medal. He is a versatile player who is at home at fullback or wing. He has real pace and kicks well from hand and is an accomplished place kicker. He has been in the Leinster Academy and is another who is developing well.
Ronan Doherty, another past pupil of St Marys, Ronan is blessed with high pace and sometimes bewildering foot work. Ronan has been at the club for over ten years; he spent a few years, while at College, playing for Trinity. Having been a regular for several years he has been out injured most of this season, although back in time to win the J1 league. He has a high try rate.
Steve (Stevie Wonder) Toal-Lennon, just off the U21s, Stevie, who plays at 13, is a past pupil of St Gerard’s, Bray and having been coached by former great St Marys man, Tony Ward, he followed his mentor up to St Marys and has been a real success, winning a J1 league medal, and is potentially a star. He is endowed with terrific vision and that requirement of a 13 bewildering acceleration for the outside break. He has the added attribute of having overall pace and is a bright lad.
And finally that is my lot for the season, thank you to all who commented or gave me feedback that is what makes it worth doing. Also thanks to Keith and Mossy who do such a fine job often under difficult situations.