04.10.2008 1st XV v Dungannon (A)

04/10/2008 2:30pm AIL Dungannon 10 – 27 St. Marys 1st XV Away

Dungannon FC V St Mary’s College RFC

10 27

Stevenson Park

4th October 2008

The waiting is over and the AIL is up an running and how better to start than with a four try, five points win away from home? We have a strong connection of friendship with Dungannon for many years and we were treated with great hospitality and friendship again today. It was heartening also to see so many travelling by coach and cars on a dreary drizzling day, the drizzle having become a constant drenching rain by the time the game began.

They had the place looking splendid, with pitch refurbishment and club house decoration to greet us. They had brought in several new players and a new biomass, green boiler over the summer with local approbation, although a few locals wondered if it were not possible to get an orange rather than a green boiler. Our president Eoin Quinn was a little nervous with his first address to the masses facing him, he need not have worried; he was top class, with nicely balanced words of friendship and competitiveness and a sprinkling of subtle wit. We had a most sociable and enjoyable lunch in the company of president, Ian Brewster, and patron wonderful 94 year old patron Bobby Mills.

It is a stupid man who does not learn by events and our team and coaches, not being in any way stupid or slow, will have learned a lot from today, including modulating nervous eagerness, as this looked like much of the reason for many of the errors which were common in the first half. It will also be clear that the Leinster Senior League does not prepare a team for the intensity and quality of 1st division AIL and indeed it took the first half to make the adjustment, before the obvious class and belief of this squad appeared. With that in mind is it not good to be able to report such a perfect result and retain our justifiable optimism?

In the first half we tried hard to get into the game but Dungannon looked a fraction faster to the ball and breakdown, their scrum was also stronger which put pressure on our backrow. They had a good backrow and a very promising 8, in Willie Anderson’s son, Thomas, and a strong tighthead prop, Declan Fitzpatrick, who went off at half time. Our tackling lacked the precision and assuredness expected, and even our kicking lacked perspicacity and ingenuity. However there was no lack of endeavour or desire and that is what kept us in the game although we were 10 – 3 down at half time with lots of work to do. This pressure also added up to many penalty blows against us, as we took rearguard action. The penalty count was 9 to 4 against us.

After only five minutes a backrow move outside our 22 saw their number 7 run clean through us and score under the posts and it was 7 – 0. After 14 minutes Shaun Mc Carthy got a well struck penalty, but on 25 minutes they made it 10 – 3 with a penalty of their own, at the same time as Gareth Logan had to take 10 minutes in the sin bin for going off his feet in the ruck, he being the victim of just one too many such offences by our pack. We withstood that 10 minutes without conceding any more points, with Conor Mc Inerney and Paul Nash doing Herculean work to repel them and Chops taking on ball at every opportunity. Logie, who had a strong second half, returned and we saw out the half. The rains continued to blanket the grounds and water ran down our necks to ensure our attention.

The half ended 10 – 3.

The second half started ominously, for we gave away five penalties to one in the first ten minutes and we still had not found our rhythm or punch. Then Stephen Grissing made good ground, a ruck formed and Louis Bourke, who had just come on to replace Kevin Sheehan who unfortunately injured his finger, cantered up the centre to be stopped just short, a series of picks and drives with Nasher, Conor Mc Inerney and Ross Condron coming close before large Logie propelled himself over the scoring line and it was 10 – 8, Shaun failing to find his correct line with the kick. From that time it was as though our players had taken an elixir as they surged forward with confidence, belief in success welling up and they would not be denied. At the 20 minute mark, a scrum wheeled and Matt D’Arcy managed to gather the ball and break yet again, his work rate now urgent, he gave a nice ball to Conor Mc Phillips who sped in and somewhat foolhardily became airborne before scoring. We did not convert so it was 10 – 15. We continued to press with intent and missed a penalty on 30 minutes. They had their captain sin binned mid half as we put on the pressure and then Grisso broke again up the side line and Conor Mc Phillips following up at burning pace got his hands on the ball and passed inside, however blatant off the ball interference led to a penalty try, which we converted, 10 – 22, and so heading for the finishing line, we were looking good, as now the belief was burgeoning and the hunger for the fourth and bonus try was apparent. Putting them under relentless pressure we won a scrum on the 22 and Matt D’Arcy broke beautifully once again and scudded in to score, Shaun missed, but we hit jackpot, it ended 10 – 27.

Afterwards, there was true happiness and graciousness from Marys and sporting congratulations from Dungannon. We can look with growing confidence at the next game against Ballymena on Saturday, after today several players will have things to reflect on and several will be well content. For me Matt D’Arcy slipped in as man of the match and was a touchstone for many of the good things that happened, he covered enormous ground and made a number of telling tackles. In the forwards Nasher was outstanding never ceasing to work and try and Conor Mc Inerney gave a gargantuan performance out of touch and in the loose. Very comforting also is the way the centre partnership of Conor Donohue and Stephen Grissing is developing; there is an unselfish symbiosis there that ensures a strong spine and a sharp cutting edge in mid field. Several others did well and most improved markedly in the second half; with a special note on Louis Bourke, Matt Duggan and the other players who came off the bench as they all did really well and showed the importance of a balanced squad. Phillip Brophy will be relieved and happy and relish the challenges of the future.

D O’Brien.

Team. 15 P Brophy (Capt), 14C Mc Phillips, 13 S Grissing, 12 C Donohue, 11 R Doherty, 10 S Mc Carthy (M Sexton 73), 9 M D’Arcy, 8 K Sheahan (L Bourke 49), 7 R Condron, 6 P Nash (R Copeland75), 5 C Mc Inerney, 4 G Logan, 3 R Murphy, 2 D Kilbride (M Duggan 50), 1 R Sweeney.