Brophy happy to be playing the game he loves.

Brophy happy to be playing the game he loves.

By Niall Brew

It’s a cold Monday evening and Templeville is lit up like Christmas. Theres a big crowd for St Mary‘s J1 floodlight game versus Old Belvedere and as usual Philip Brophy is among the faces to be found. All around him are fellow team mates, carrying on the tradition of supporting the club, but you wouldn’t be surprised if inside “Brophs” was just itching to play as he watched the contest unfold. This spectator was born to compete on the sports field.

Some people view the AIL as an after thought. A third tier below the Leinster team and the Academy structures. Long gone are the days of big crowds and big name players. But a lack of big numbers or contracted names doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of quality or indeed professional rugby’s attritional nature. “ Dislocated collarbone, broken thumbs, pulled hamstrings, hip joint”. At age 27, marks of a rugby player, playing serious rugby. As Philip Brophy lists the injuries he receives, you can’t help but be struck by what these guys go through, all for the love of the amateur game. “Injuries are a part of rugby, top to bottom. We’re looked after really well but rugby is by its nature a physical game. I’ve actually been very lucky in a sense, this club has lost some great players through injuries over the years” he saids, as he lists some players forgotten to the game but not to those in St Mary’s, to those that matter most.

He’s a utility back in that he can play right across the backline, yet it’s the position of responsibility that he enjoys most. “Number ten is probably my favoured position in that it’s a creative role and yeah I would relish having to be a decision maker on the field. I’ve played everywhere in the back three but my pace isn’t suited for the back three as much. Former club captain Paul Nash is a hard man to impress but would gladly play beside Brophy all day. “We’ve played together since we were 8 and he has always been a stand out player”, say’s Nash. “I’ve met very few people who can continuously push themselves even in training to do what he does. His mentality is to compete for 80 minutes, whatever it takes to get the job done. He could have made it in the professional game if it had fell his way.”

Modest to the core, Brophy bats away the idea that these skills and mentality could have seen him make it in the pro ranks. “No that ship has sailed, if it was ever there to be honest. We played ‘Rock the other day and someone said afterwards, Joe Schmidt was in the crowd. Maybe players would think, well if I scored 30 points today I’ll get a call. But the reality is that he was there to see some Leinster players playing for Blackrock. That’s just the way the game is structured now. Which is fine by me. I’m focused on St Mary’s and enjoy the life as an AIL player. Sure it can be tough for us to mix work and training nearly four days a week but why would we complain it keeps us fit and healthy and we make friends for life. I’ve played for the AIL Irish side in 2010 and that was a great reward and that will do me just fine.”

With Mary’s having won their last league game, Brophy is confident for the season. “We’ve been unlucky in the past. We’re doing ok this season and the aim like any team is to win it. That’s why everyone, the coaches, officials, supporters and players work so hard. His work for the club was rewarded in 2009, when he was named captain of the club. “It was a great honour and a brilliant experience. And it will be something I look back on when I’m old and grey and can be proud of, but in St. Mary’s we’re full of leaders and experience so I’m just another lad plugging away. And as the whistle goes in Templeville on that Monday evening, Brophy and his teammates pick up their bags and head straight from the terraces for the gym. Truly committed to the life of an A.I.L player.