|4:00pm – Dubarry Park Athlone
|St. Marys 1st XV
|10 – 17
St Mary’s College RFC V Cork Constitution FC
AIL Division 1 A
8th May 2010.
What a glorious yet sad day, a day when our club lost and won, when supporters (all ten busloads and dozens of cars full) and players merged to a beautiful, proud and illutible amalgam. It is impossible to describe properly the day, for it was a day not just a game, a day of great hope and a game of indescribable tension and anguish and an after of dismay and pain and an evening of realisation of an era of achievement and progress. Put all together, it has elevated St Mary’s College RFC to a new plain and made all involved, from both clubs, fortunate to be part of this wonderful club game.
Regarding the game itself, it takes more than one team and Cork Con were worthy, sporting opponents in a sumptuous game, high quality, hard, uncompromising and fair when few were the handling errors and the high ball was dealt with, commandingly by both teams, with Damian Hall, Gavin Dunne and Darragh Fanning infallible in that regard..It was clear from the run out that there was intent in the hearts and bodies of the Marys’ team, led by their intrepid captain Hugh Hogan. It was clear also from the start that Peter Smyth and Ciaran Potts had done their analysis well, for we won and held possession and position almost continually for the first half, punctuated only by sporadic incursions to our half of the field by Con; one such leading to a converted penalty. Gavin Dunne also had a penalty attempt, which appeared to have gone over, but was considered not to by the officials, so at half time it was 0-3. Allain Rolland was refereeing easily and relaxedly. We looked to be in a favourable position after that period, against the strong wind, of concentrated effort and attack. We had dominance of the set pieces, especially the lineouts, with Richie Sweeney throwing accurately for ours and our jumpers thieving several of theirs. However, what was also clear was that their defence was imperious, showing more wit and width than on either of the earlier league encounters. They would be hard to break down.
The second half saw a continuation of the pattern and indeed Gavin soon levelled the score with a fine penalty. As the game progressed and limbs tired a little more space was being found and breaks were being made, then like a bolt we were hit, when their 10, Manning, broke inside and got over for a converted try, 3 – 10 it was. We did not wilt, au contraire, we piled on the pressure, making attack after attack and as the half wore on we increased the pace and had their defence stretched on several occasions, with their impressive backrow called on to rescue. Then it ran into lost time, and still we came on, and by now the large animated Marys’ crowd, with bourans and bells and Rynner leading, chanting Mary –Marys-Marys and come on you boys in blue, the game went to frantic pace and we rucked and drove and rucked and drove and went wide and switched and took it in again and still they defended, they broke out briefly but back we came with Marys-Marys-Marys and we were on their line and we were shunting and shoving and driving and in the eight minute of added time the ball appeared, Shaun did a shuffle and large Logie took it on and then it went back to Shaun and he went over in the corner, the very corner, and we were two points behind. Palely, but steadily, Gavin walked up. He placed the ball, was it right? He went back, the silence almost screamed, the tension crackled and he approached, he swung, he struck and breath was held, it was on trajectory, would it travel; yes it would. It was over. Redemption it was for us and for Con desolation. It had to be our day roll on extra time.
Extra Time We were now back against the wind and we dug in, the cramps appeared for them and for us, Robin Copeland went down, Mark Sexton went down, then Hugh. Still we were going to get there. The first period was almost complete, when horror struck, we were attacking and they regained the ball and moved it wide, Manning lingered, he dallied, he feigned, then gave the ball to Cronan Doyle scampering inside, he seemed to go at slow motion, but he was gliding and he turned in under the posts and broke our hearts; the conversion stung. It was now 10 – 17 and the period was over.
The second period saw us fight for existence, with bodies dragged along, hearts heaving and our supporters fought along with the team urging, chanting, willing. We came again and again, then they broke up field and luckily were called back for a forward pass. We came again and surged and the crowd boomed frantically. Then it was quiet, the whistle sounded and it was over. Hearts were broken, but it was borne sportingly as the two sets of players embraced. Con had won the AIL Division 1 A title, but both teams and both sets of supporters had won a great victory for the club game. Our president was, as he has been all year, dignified and gracious as he congratulated them; he then went to share the pain with his incredible team of young men; “Marys Boys who wear the Blue and White and our Star gleaming bright”
It would be wrong to single out players on a day when everyone was a hero and gave to dropping point. It was so desperately close and, that in its own way is the great credit to the game and the teams. Maybe they marginally deserved their win, they may have been a little more composed on the ball and they had the experience of several previous finals. One thing is certain we will be back.
The Morning and the Evening
Rynner, Marie and Tony were all up in the club from early, getting ready and as the fleet of coaches pulled out around 11.00 AM the anticipation was breath taking. Various lunch spots were visited and circa 1.00 PM, arrivals were noted as they filled the well-prepared Buccaneers’ Clubhouse, with Eamonn Fagan welcoming all. The pre-match reception was abuzz with chat and chatter, and bets and omens and then Mr Crowley of AIB told all of how proud AIB was to have sponsored the AIL for 13 years and how much they had enjoyed it all. Mr John Callaghan President IRFU in his address showed and spoke strongly of his love and commitment to the club game, Mr Pat O’Keefe President of Cork Con then spoke on the up coming game and his hopes for a fair contest with no injuries. Our president Niall spoke with his usual enthusiasm and pointed out that nearly 20 past presidents of the club were there today, as an example of how strong our club support was, and he thanked all involved including the IRFU for their sponsorship of coaches, Investec our long term sponsors, his executive and all involved in rugby especially Smythy and his team and Rugby Council. He made a fitting and greatly appreciated presentation to all the other speakers with beautifully crafted crystal pieces engraved with details of the day. He then wished good luck to all involved.
After the game and the post match reception when all our team, our president and those involved, behaved with great dignity and graciousness; and then it was off home.
When the team arrived at Templeville Road, Rynner had all the many supporters out side waiting and lining the steps; and the team was met with an explosion of applause and appreciation and Hugh Hogan although obviously overcome with the welcome, spoke most eloquently and sincerely of his and his team’s appreciation and affection for all the supporters over the year and how they and the team were inextricably linked for the good of the club. It has to be reported that all then sang (not raucously chanted) our anthem and it truly was rousing and melodic. It should be done again some time. Michael Wasser would approve. A really memorable night was then had when pride and joy in our club swelled.
Off the field, there had been lots of preparation all week with the incomparable Rynner marshalling his forces and working feverishly behind scenes. It has been a magnificent season on field and off and much of the credit must go to President Niall Rynne, for since he took over he has continued the thrust of his predecessor Eoin Quinn in building spirit within the club and supporting all the teams and all members in everyway. He has succeeded emphatically, with lunches, dinners and events, all packed and hopping with excitement and goodwill. He has also continued the work of previous years in the development of the club and we now have a superb set up. Rugby Council also did wonderfully well in ensuring that all teams got top quality equipment, coaching and support and it has paid off with the LSL Cup, the JP Fanagan (U21s), the J2’s and the J3’s cups in the glass case. The coaching and management teams were vital to that success and it has to be remembered that all of these achievements were the culmination of several years of work. The senior squad has been built over the past six years, since going down to the 2nd division. Steven Hennessy brought us back up immediately and he and Peter Smyth then set about developing a top class, mainly home produced squad. Peter, Ciaran Potts and Shaun Mc Carthy, with the support of the enthusiastic and energetic management group of Terry Tierney, Ian Grimson and David Lyons (Jr.) have, over the past two years, put the finishing touches to what is now a strong talented, amateur squad, with a diversity of school origins which gives hybrid vigour so important to the successes so far achieved. The captain of course has the vital role on the field and over the past few seasons we have been blessed with great and dedicated leaders. Last season we were cruelly denied a playoff spot, when Phillip Brophy led his men with exemplary leadership and ambassadorial qualities and this year Hugh Hogan has also been magnificent, on and off the pitch, never failing to rally and inspire his men. He can be truly proud of himself, as he is of his team; he overcame a dreadful personal tragedy to achieve all this. I know for Rynner he was joy to work with and they will ever have a special bond.
Finally, let us all send special good wishes to Conor Mc Phillips and Darragh Fanning, both going to Connaught. Conor came across the road from Templeogue College over ten years ago and has contributed handsomely to our club, both as a player and a coach. Darragh, like all Fannings, was a St. Mary’s College schoolboy and he has made startling progress since he came, to become one of the highest rated AIL players and he is still progressing, he has a most promising future. They will both be sadly missed by their teammates; both are outstandingly popular, on and off the field. We will all miss them.
Team: 15 G Dunne, 14 R Doherty (S O’Flanagan), 13 S Grissing, 12 M Sexton (C Donohue), 11 D Fanning, 10 S Mc Carthy, 9 C Mc Phillips (C Quinn), 8 H Hogan (Capt), 7 P Nash (B O’Flanagan), 6 D Hall, 5 R Copeland, 4 S Bradshaw (G Logan), 3 Robert Sweeney, 2 Richard Sweeney (G Hickie), 1 J Mc Grath (C McMahon).