27.02.2015 1st XV v Clontarf (H)
St Mary’s College RFC V Clontarf FC
AIL Division 1A
Friday 27th February 2015.
The Impossible Dream
Impossible also it is to describe adequately, one of the genuinely historic nights in the club’s history and only beingthere to share in this pyrotechnic explosion, could it be appreciated. A team of fresh young players, written off by many two months ago, soared and extracted from the essence of existence skill, power, endurance and altruistic bravery, seldom seen on a sporting field.
A match of skill, attrition, pace and power unfolded between a rounded confident top four team, a burgeoning team of talented neophytes; and the elements. It has to be said that there was not a punch or altercation throughout the game, which was a sporting spectacle; and the close friendship that has always existed between our two clubs was enhanced rather than in any way sullied for both the players and supporters.
A fascinating story unfolded. The first half, to the Marys’ supporters’ consternation we played down to Templeville Road, with a strong wind, often whipping up into destructive gusts. We needed a big lead, and to get a big lead against a team of Clontarf’s ability would not be easy. Easy it was not,but with the educated boot of young Sean Kearns frequently and wisely putting us down into Tarf’s 22, we kept pressure on them and built up a lead with three penalties (8, 18 and 21 minutes) through Ray’s well gauged kicking.
Then mid half (23 minutes) we mounted a sustained attack on the Tarf line, drive after drive, wave after wave and with the instinct and ferocity of a feral ferret, Brian Mc Govern drilled over the line. Leading 14 – 0, it gave some hope and confidence we continued to attack. Our fast rucking was getting pace on the game and just two minutes after that, we moved it wide and broke the cover, Marcus O’Driscoll showed wonderful balanced power and pace as he zigzaggeddown the left wing; Ryan O’Loughlin was at hand when the cover closed, Marcus gave a superb switch to Ryan who, went to Mk11 and whizzed in for a try converted by the trusty boot of Ray Crotty. Hard to believe, it was 21 – 0. With three minutes of injury time played we gave a way a penalty and had a man sent to the sin bin and so we went in at 21 – 3. Let battle commence!
Misfortune struck early in the second half, when we had another man sent to the bin and, for what felt an aeon, with just 13 men we had to withstand attack after attack, manning the barricades, Shiner rallied his men, they scrambled, wrestled and flung themselves at attackers with impunity. Backs and forwards, shoulder to shoulder, they fought for everything, driving with the ball , without ball, non stop and eventually with fourteen minutes showing on the clock were replenished to full 15 status; what a moral victory that was. Still into the claws of a vicious wind we regrouped and continued to play and that was the answer to our needs, we played and held onto the ball and we were getting into ascendancy again, when possible disaster struck, two finemidfield breaks, one after another (67 and 69 minutes), by Tarf gave them two tries, one converted and we were looking at 21 – 17 and 12 minutes to go; was it from impossible dream to impossible task?. Now this is when the passion, the coaching, the camaraderie and the bravery came into play.This is a team of comrades, lads who care for each other, trust each other and value each other and they were not going to be broken. There was a furious onslaught for the remainder of the game. The ramparts were manned and near mayhemensued as we saw, Chris Lilly in the middle of rucks his head under boots, Barry O’Flanagan whipping legs from under backs, out wide, Conor Oliver tearing away ball from thefallen, Mark Sexton diving under a runner. Breathless, heaving masses, battering rams in twos and threes they cameand still we stood shoulder to shoulder, resolutely, comradestogether. The fretting terraces rang with Marys, Marys, Marys, supporters gasping, howling, shaking and trembling. Tarf men baying; a marvellous amalgam of humanity; and then it happened the Referee gave one last whistle and the air filled with white heat and history had been made. Hard it is to think that during the game we had altogether played 40 minutes without a full team due to four yellow cards.
We are Marys’ Boys crashed and screamed out in delight and the dressing room was a mass of mankind.
Those who made it happen and Post Match
In over twenty years in the club, as player and coach never has Peter Smyth divined such an astral performance and never has he been more proud or elated by a win as this. He beamed, as beside him, one of the great players and members of Marys, Phillip Brophy, now the back’s coach, glowed with pride for his charges. Yes, the coaches, Peter, Phillip, Jonathan and Jamie, with management, Paudge, Garry, Pokey, Gareth, John B and Ian, have all worked with this squad to elevate it to an exceptional status.
Think back, early season, scrums were sometimes fragile, lineouts unpredictable, defence and attack sometimes naïve. There was, however, always talent, bravery and willingness to learn. It looked fraught for a time, but with the work of alland the quiet determined leadership of Kevin Sheahan, the squad has developed into a commendable team of ability and bravery. You must also realise that five of the squad are teenagers and two playing tonight, were on Smythy’s Blackrock College SCT this time last year; impressive.
Today, our scrum was firm and our lineout was dependable and a weapon. Our back alignment was precise and our rucking hard and effective. Last week our defence was delicate on occasion, this week adamantine.
This game even exceeds the Con win in importance and we will thrive because of it. We have some steep mountains to climb but we have the crampons on and ready to go.
Just a word on Players
At One, Tom O’Reilly is for me, the most improved player in the squad and was a major influence on the game today. For a baby prop, he has enormous strength and good technique and already he is working skilfully and committedly around the field.
At hooker, Sean McCarthy came to us a prop and converted to hooker and the transformation is as impressive as the one made in the phone box by Clark Kent. He is a major loose player and has made throwing in, look easy. He had a super game today.
Last week I had Brian McGovern as my man of the match,and he is not far off it again today. He is a tough scrummager and a highly skilful rugby player with the hands of a 12 and tackle of a fullback, he has the instinct of a ground terrier for the line. He was terrific. Robert Sweeney is a leader and warrior and he stood into the breach and never shirked when needed. Well now, on this historic day, it is a pleasure to report that again this week Ciaran Ruddock was gargantuan, he is super strong and he gets fitter and fitter and so uses that strength to great effect all game, carrying, catching, tackling; a real enforcer and a wonderful young man, he was my man of the match. We thought some time ago Steve Bradshaw was finished playing due to persistent injury , but he showed how valuable he is, especially early in a game his presence and power come into play when discipline and control is called for and how well he did that tonight; we also thought that Darragh Frawley had left us too, but no, and how fortunate we are that he is with us, he is a marvellous lineout man both in attack and in defensive lineouts, he will jump all day and he used is big strong frame to good effect with Rudds; great to have him.
I cannot separate the backrow, they were as one working in unison both in defence and support with Barry tackling non-stop, he was to be found everywhere. He does all of that gritty, undercover work. There was Conor Oliver, a nineteen year old lad tearing the ball out of players grip, winning turn-overs and generally in perpetual motion, and Shiner, the captain, leading from the front, taking ball on, sacrificing himself time after time in carrying well and hard and cover tackling everywhere. A marvellous unit and backed up withwarrior Richard Sweeney and Mark Fallon, who when on had a significant impact, carrying and covering. Young Mark’sconcentration levels have risen significantly to good effect, he will contribute much. Richie is brave clever and committed and made life easier, when he came on. He is an important player and leader and a great Marys man.
Behind the scrum, how much better things were today, although in the second half they were called on to put their bodies on the line with less in the line of attack. David Fanagan is a jack in the box, popping up everywhere, cajoling urging and sniping, he read the game well tonight and gave aclever service. An old head on young shoulders and he had a fine game. It is near impossible to believe that young Sean Kearns was a Blackrock College schoolboy player last year and now he is lording his line in division 1 A, AIL. Nothing upsets his concentration, as he calmly and delicately distributes or times his kicks to, and with, perfection and direction. He has a big future and he enjoys his game so much it is infectious and so everyone around him gets much from his game. Well done Sean a super one.
The one area of experience is the midfield and today they were vital to the security of the line and taking the ball out of defence often against fierce odds; Mark and Marcus will be happy with their contribution this week and will relish taking on the Nure next week.
The back three again were essential to our success, it was clear that Tarf have a back three of highest quality and even if without one, they tested us hard but our young lads held fast, with Conor, Ryan and Ray standing firm and Conor and Ryan always a threat to Tarf in attack. Chris Lilly is a master footballer and athlete and showed his value tonight by being everywhere, forward and back, fearlessly.
These 21 players and their other squad members will go down in club history. Members for over 50 years like Louis Mc Mullen, Liam Birkett, John Kinahan, Frank Kennedy, Tom Browne, Spike and Dec Coleman were almost in tears with joy. And it has to be said clearly, that Clontarf were magnanimous and sporting all through and joined all in the afters with gusto.
I do not think there is any other sport, which brings out these emotions, that moulds character and binds friendships and loyalties for life, but rugby. Tonight many Old Clontarf menwere there that would have been seen in 60s at Lansdowne Road playing in the greatly loved LSC. That is rugby, especially club rugby. Let us all work to ensure it can continue.
Next Saturday we head for the purple and black fields of our neighbours and we must turn them blue for us and for them. The knowledge of ourselves and the vital importance of being together will drive all to heights not even yet seen and weshall prevail. We must however, perform to those heights. Nure have a well-turned team and their kicking game is admirable which we learned to our cost at home beforeChristmas, so we must be alert and aware at all times. Our genuine friendship, yet fierce rivalry with Terenure, demands it.
The closeness of the supporter/team bond is lockite and that will bring you all to Lakelands next Saturday you will have seen again how defining it was tonight and how important it is for you all to come in throngs and masses; let the invasion begin.
The Team (Rolling substitutions)
15 R Crotty, 14 C Toolan, 13 M O’Driscoll, 12 M Sexton, 11 R O’Loughlin, 10 S Kearns, 9 D Fanagan, 8 C Oliver, 7 B O’Flanagan, 6 K Sheahan (Capt), 5 S Bradshaw, 4 C Ruddock, 3 B McGovern, 2 S Mc Carthy, 1 T O’Reilly,Robert Sweeney, Richard Sweeney, D Frawley, M Fallon C Lilly.