St Mary’s College RFC V Clontarf FC
AIL Division 1A
Friday 7th April 2017.
Our good friends from across the great divide, Clontarf FC, visited us on a perfect evening for rugby and, it has to be said, they played fairly perfect club rugby. The first 17 minutes saw them score three top-class tries, on 5, 14 and 17 minutes. Thereafter, Marys were trying to play catch up. Against a fine Tarf side, it was always going to be very difficult, but for Marys to lose four top class players to injury during the game, made it impossible. We did get a try back on 20 minutes, after a penalty to the corner, a maul and David O’Connor getting over. Well into injury time, we got another score back with a penalty try converted by Paddy O’Driscoll. We had then got back to 12 – 17. However, Tarf scored twice in the second half, on 44 and 76 minutes, to make the final score 12 – 31.
The weight of injuries told in the second half. We had lost the highly influential Gus Jones on 30 minutes, his replacement Nick McCarthy, within five minutes, then the outstanding Jordan Larmour who was thriving. Finally in the second half our inspirational backrower Kevin Sheahan, on his last home game after ten years of brilliant service to Marys dislocated his thumb. We also had a yellow card spanning the first and second half. All of this necessitated shuffles and playing two front row forwards, a hooker Stephen O’Brien and prop Cathal Ryan in the back row. They both did particularly well, out of position. There were some good performances, especially from young Caelan Doris, who contributed with exuberance and determined skill in the line out, and in open play, and continued on to the end in spite of carrying an injury. He was the recipient of the SoftCo MoM award.
It could be seen why Clontarf are in the top four. They have a strong pack, with a superb backrow, and a backline that runs hard and straight with good handling and remarkable overall support play. Marys defence was caught narrow on many occasions and this was exploited exquisitely by the high-paced Tarf finishers. There were also a number of missed tackles and near the end when trying frantically to accrue a losing bonus point, too many injudicious kicks which invited Clontarf to do what they were doing well, run back with intent.
The bottom of the table now looks tight. Old Belvedere, with 28 points are unfortunately relegated. There are three teams on 35 points, Terenure, TCD and Garryowen. We have 36 points. The odds are strongly in our favour of not facing a playoff game V the second team in 1B
Terenure and TCD face each other next week. If we were to lose to Cork Con without a losing bonus point, and they to draw with four tries each, or end within seven points of each other, we could face a playoff, possibly V Naas or UL Bohs. This would only happen if Garryowen also won, beating Lansdowne in Dublin. A loss, without a losing bonus point, for any one of those three clubs would mean we were safe. This is the most likely outcome.
Some seasons, as with us last season, every bounce and chance seems to go our way. This season we have had the opposite, both with individual games and with injuries. Even now, we face into a vitally tough game with all those injured this weekend unavailable. This is on top of already losing effervescent, David Fanagan, and not having had our key, U20 star players, Terry Kennedy, Conor Dean, Jordan Larmour and Caelan Doris, for most of the season. We also lost, early in the season, Ivan Dineen, Marcus O’Driscoll and Sean Kearns. We lost Hugo Kean, Emmett Ferron, Darragh Keller, Mark Fallon and Conor Gilsenan for long periods and recently Richard Halpin. We have seen very little of sparkling Cathal Marsh and only had Ian Nagle once. Sean Kearns returning from injury this weekend, showed outstanding courage and dedication to play in this game and he should be well applauded.
That said, this is a very young squad and it has strong potential. Our young coaching team has been working with dedication and ability and has brought many young players into the senior group and developed them. With some strengthening of the squad, we should face the future with belief. Meanwhile we have a big job ahead and need every able-bodied supporter to join Joyce and Eileen’s brigade on our visit to Temple Hill next Saturday. You could make all the difference.
Team (including rolling replacements) 15 J Larmour, 14 I O’Neill, 13 D Moroney, 12 P Lavelle, 11 C Hogan, S Kearns, 9 P O’Driscoll; 8 C Doris, 7 G Jones, 6 K Sheahan, 5 D O’Connor, 4 C O’Flaherty, 3 B McGovern (Capt), 2 H Kean, 1 T O’Reilly, S O’Brien, C Ryan, N McCarthy, C Ruddock, R O’Loughlin.