18.11.2012 1st XV v Shannon (A)
Shannon RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
AIL Division 1 A
Sunday 18th November 2012.
Windswept Coonagh ah’ cold with rain
Combatants, both, ignored the pain,
Second half, against slanted gale
Saw Marys firm and so prevail.
The bus arrived at rain drenched Coonagh ejecting a neat group of staunch Marys’ supporters, there to join the few others who had made the trip by car including our precious and pertinacious president Michael Fanagan. There was an air of confidence yet tremulation, eying history and conditions. It was ironic that, two clubs that have striven, yearly around the top of the table, were here fighting to scramble off the bottom. So there was much to fight for and hope for and all knew that whatever, it would be a fair and fierce contest; and so it was. Shannon are starting the rebuilding and have a team of young, brave lads with potential, but as yet remain a little naïve and unvarnished. No one needs doubt that Shannon will be back as a leading force in Irish Club rugby in time.
For us of course, this was a psychologically testing game and all knew we needed to win it, to launch our curve upward. That we did was creditable and due to hard preparatory work by coaches, management and squad and during this grinding game, to unrelenting bravery, patience and belief, helped to a great degree by experienced leaders who knew what was right to do. Also, the team played with controlled passion and pace and our set pieces were back to rights. We showed a strong maul, good rucking and support play. Our ruck control was so resolute that Shannon could only have bought a turnover in a bakery. Needless to say, in the weather prevailing, it was not possible to play with great width or flair but the team showed the ability to adapt to the conditions and keep concentration and, whenever the ball wandered out to the fringes, acumen was obvious. We had lost Gavin Dunne to a strained hamstring sustained on last Thursday’s training, yet another injury loss and neither Kevin Sheahan nor Christopher Lilly were available dur to examination demands...
Our halfbacks were a vital factor; with Matt D’Arcy back to Duracell Bunny mode and Phillip Brophy back to Marvel-Man. In the second half, when we needed it, playing into a gale; they controlled it all. Our pack was strong and committed, led by exceptional Skipper, Richard Sweeney. Sadly, he got a severe knock in the back, in the second half and had to be taken off and to hospital. It is hoped that it is not too serious and we all send best wishes to him. The front row were unmoving and highly active in the loose; Colm Mc Mahon was again outstanding and a strong contender for Man of the Match. Kevin Croke also looked a leader and a natural backrow man, giving a fine performance. Out wide too we looked in command, even if the conditions were not conducive to wide area play. Rob Hudson was concrete in defence (some of you will remember Rock Hudson) and threatening in attack, scoring a really excellent try, Conor Hogan looked as sharp as ever, Steve Toal-Lennon showed his potential and had a remarkable run along the touchline that led to a try and all round looked top class. Overall then, it was a courageous team performance.
We started better than of late and in spite of the conditions, we showed composure and security, and playing with the wind, we put pressure on Shannon throughout the first half and looked tidy. However, it was not until 25 minutes had passed that we registered a score, but when it came, it was worth waiting for. After a series of high-pressure rucks and pick and overs, the pack was to the right of the posts and the ball came out and went left, Rob Hudson received and arced to the left slipping tackles as he straightened and cut in hard between defenders for a really good try. We did not convert but had the quiff in front. The score remained 0 – 5 until half time and we continued to control the game and make fewer errors.
The second half could have been very difficult, as we had to face a strong slanting wind, although the rain had relented. It was only gone three minutes when Robbie Hudson picked up the ball on the right wing, well in his own half and he hit Mk 2 within two metres then he mesmerised the tacklers as they lined up for him, he made over 60 metres with bewildering pace and footwork and when the ball was released, Kevin Croke was following up to score in the corner. We were ten ahead and getting a grip, as confidence grew and the halves controlled things. Shannon got a penalty to make it 3- 10 but never looked likely to breach our lines. Indeed Marcus O’Driscoll, who also had a fine game on the left wing, came very close after a good move and beat all to touch down, but it was just touch in goal. The half was held up for several minutes while or stricken captain was being administered unto by the on duty ambulance crew. The game finished in almost darkness, but we were happy as it showed St Marys winners with a score of 3 – 10. Well earned.
The coaches, management and squad were well pleased and our ever smiling president was positively lighting up the twilight gloom with his obviously evident happiness.
Important as that win was, and indeed however well deserved it may have been, we face a testing journey ahead and next on the list is Garryowen at Dooradoyle on Saturday 1st December and that will present its own challenges. No doubt, we are better placed to face all the challenges ahead but the team needs your help. There was good support today and no doubt, it helped; so let us keep it up now as we hope to march forward.
The Team (Rolling substitutions)
15 C Hogan, 14 S Toal-Lennon, 13 A Burke, 12 R Hudson, 11 M O’Driscoll, 10 P Brophy, 9 M D’Arcy, 8 K Croke, 7 G Austen, 6 K Haupt, 5 G Sexton, 4 C Ruddock, 3 Robert Sweeney, 2 Richie Sweeney (Capt), 1 C Mc Mahon. D Keller, P Starett, A Lyons, R O’Loughlin, D Fawsitt.