06.10.2018 1st XV v Ballynahinch (H) by D. O’Brien
St Mary’s College RFC V Ballynahinch RFC
AIL Division 1B
Saturday 6th October 2018
You can waken now. We are back in season and already in AIL action. You have probably noticed the B after the 1 and so it is, half a notch down but still in healthy ambitious competition.
Today, on a mild windless day, we played our good friends from Ballynahinch and they, as usual, have a team of quality and pace. Therefore it turned out to be a highly competitive match up.
Over the past month or so in the LSL, and training fields, St Marys have been showing enterprise and a cohesion that augured well. The coaches, Steven, Jamie and Barry have merged well and with Marcus as skipper, and backed by the management of Paudge, Pokey and Rhuaidrí, have created a kindling fire that is ready to flame. And so, the squad has worked hard but smiled through the sweat. That cohesion, linked with happy ambition, has given reason to believe; and today the test came. The fact, of having gone 0-10 down tested that belief and with Seanie Kearns’s kicking and control, with a brilliant individual try thrown in it shone and we prevailed.
Now, it wasn’t yet perfect, but the attitude, work and persistence were commendable. There was a problem with tackles missed, especially early in the game and some inaccuracies, a few in the line outs and some in handling and indeed there was overall, a slow start, before confidence crept in and fluidity followed. The scrums were strong and commanding and the rucking fast and controlled. We did give away quite a number of penalties often at the breakdown, but the referee who ran the game well, was exceptionally diligent regarding ball and man release at the tackle. This season, that aspect and any semblance of a high tackle, will be sorely punished. That is an edict from the world governing body.
There was an all-round, fine performance from the team, and some especially notable ones from a number of players. In the pack, its very soul was Tom (Tommer) O’Reilly, back at his best, He carried copiously and scrummaged strongly and led well, he had a fine game, he was like a hyper hippo as he rampaged through, leading up to Seanie’s try. Liam Corcoran was reliable in the lineout, worked hard, picked well and dived over to score a try early second half. The back rowers are building an understanding and were efficient.
Two other second row forwards must also be mentioned, as we welcomed young Max Kennedy from Kerry, who took over after a quarter, from evergreen Gareth (Logie) Logan. Gareth, what a mighty man, had his 39th birthday today, he put in a hard shift. He is of course a former club captain and AIL winner from 2012, as is Colm Mc Mahon who has returned from London and made a significant impact.
Behind that mobile pack, there were also some eye catching performances, none more so than from Seanie Kearns who scored 17 points, converting two penalties, the four tries, including his own excellent individual try that gave five more points. The captain will be more than happy with his team’s response to his clear leadership and his own compelling individual performance, in all respects. This included a superb try and a close call for another. Out on the wing Conor Toolan, scourged with injuries over the past two seasons, added a piquancy that lifted the pace and unsettled the Hinch defence. He also covered the ground, fielding high and well and cover tackling. For his overall performance, he received the SoftCo MoM award. SoftCo have generously agreed to fund the award again this season, for all AIL games.
Hinch contributed equally and sportingly to the joust. They will have been disappointed that when pressing hard on the home line, in the last two minutes that they did not manage to cross from three line outs. That would have given them two points. We will face them in the last game of the campaign and who knows what the permutations may be. Meantime we wish them every good fortune. We can be very pleased with our five points.
As mentioned, we started slowly, Ballynahinch pressed strongly and scored a penalty after less than three minutes and a try by their Nine after 12, when he broke, close in and was not tackled. They led 0-10. Seanie scored two penalties, on 16 and 30 minutes and then two minutes later, following a strong burst from Tommer, the ball went to Seanie and he weaved his way through the defence to score under the posts and add the two. It was then on 32 minutes, 13-10. It was 38 minutes gone, when a lineout from a penalty, saw a good take by David Aspil go to Paddy O’Driscoll then Seanie, he fed Marcus and when Craig Kennedy got the ball on a sleek vector, he sliced through and gave the ball to Marcus, by now zinging outside him, he straightened and went through two, and under the portals. Seanie made it, 20-10. This is what the supporters wanted and they did a good impression of a Trumpian rally! That was how the half ended, 20-10.
The second half started with Marys again attacking and after a series of pick and drives, Liam Corcoran dived over for a try, converted by Seanie, 27-10. It was 45 minutes Then Hinch went on the attack and on 49 minutes they conjured a good move, although the tackling was again weak. They made the conversion, kept up the attack and converted a penalty to make it 27-20. Marys picked up the pace again and with 54 minutes showing, Seanie converted an important and difficult penalty, 30-20. Hammer and thongs it was, as fortunes swayed, and then on 66 minutes, we picked up a yellow card and after a maul, Hinch got over in Carvill Corner and brought the score to 30-27. Prickly heat time! Credit must be accorded, as Marys wilted not, but regenerated and went hard again. On 77 minutes after a series of drives, young Cormac Foley now on at scrumhalf, wiggled his way over for a fourth try, skilfully converted by Seanie, and although Ballynahinch fought with every sinew the hard blue line held firm, and so it ended 37-27.
There were great celebrations, and as ever Hinch were gracious and generous in their congratulations.
It was a most important and confidence building win for this young side, and Marcus, the coaches and management deserve great credit. It was also a marvellous fillip for our extremely popular and personable president, Jack Ebbs, who beamed sporting happiness as he and his agreeable counterpart from Ballynahinch socialised together.
You could see Joyce and Eileen whizzing around the terraces recruiting for the bus to Malone next Saturday. This is quite a challenging excursion, as Malone beat Ballymena away, 0-27 today, and that tells an unsettling story. None the less we shall go with optimism and belief.
It is not since the early 90s, the baby days of AIL, that we played Malone in competition and we look forward to visiting them at Gibson Park, Belfast. Many years earlier I recall playing against them. Then and later, they were always welcoming and sporting, so we shall look forward to an enjoyable trip. We must ensure it is just a trip up not a trip-up.
Finally, last year the supporters did their best to help. Unfortunately, we came up short. There is good reason to be hopeful this season. However, we must be under no illusion that this is going to be easy, or even not too hard. It is going to be hard. There are nine other motivated teams, all fighting for future existence in the new dispensation and entitlement. Any slip this year could be a serious setback for our club. We will need all the talent we have at playing, coaching and management levels, and we need all of you making a really special effort to go to games, home and away. You genuinely do make a difference. The players want to get to know you and no doubt that thought is reciprocated so let us all go forward together. We are all Marys’ boys who wear the blue and white
Team (Rolling Replacements X12) 15 D Fanagan, 14 M Fogarty, 13 C Kennedy, 12 M O’Driscoll (Capt), 11 C Toolan, 10 S Kearns, 9 P O’Driscoll, 8 M Fallon, 7 D Aspil, 6 D McDonnell, 5 L Corcoran, 4 G Logan, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, S O’Brien, C McMahon, M Kennedy, C Foley, R Shields.