St Mary’s College RFC V Garryowen FC
Division 1A Promotion/Relegation Playoff
Saturday 25th April 2015.
I am sure this is as painful to read as it is to write, but the outcome must be recorded.
After all the appeals over the week, the response of the supporters was magnificent, the ground was swarming with Marys’ folk and indeed many Garryowen people too. Seldom have both terraces been full and all along the Templeville wall was lined with supporters.
All week the sun shone and our pitch was in perfect condition. One thing no Marys’ person wanted was rain, so rain it did, in barrels full. It was clearly best for Marys if the game could be played at high tempo on a dry pitch. That was not to be. Not only did it deluge rain but almost every time the ball went out of play a Garryowen player went down injured and so the game was played at a sluggish place, especially as their big forwards continually slowed down release. They also most effectively held on to the ball and their kicking was very good. In addition, they made good ground from their big New Zealand Eight, Hrstich.
Our scrum was the stronger and our rucking excellent, once again, our lineouts faltered on occasion.
The first half was fairly even although, at half time, Garryowen led 3 – 10. They opened their account after ten minutes with a penalty, matched ten minutes later by a Ray Crotty penalty and a further ten minutes on, Garryowen got a good try, having created a wide move, which was halted by our cover, only to have Cronin slip in from the ensuing ruck; the conversion was good. Although we forced for an equalizer and coming close on several occasions we could not breach their defence.
The second half, saw Garryowen mainly in defence as we came looking for a win. We were again most unfortunate to lose big Robert Sweeney soon after his appearance and when he starting to make a strong impact. Sadly, Robert broke three ribs. Marys were in full attack and had Garryowen pinned in their 22. Indeed, it appeared that we had scored a quality try by the fine young winger, Ryan O’Loughlin, after a sweeping movement and a terrific finish, only to find that the referee was not on hand and his assistant could not see, although it had clearly been grounded, so a scrum was awarded. This was without doubt the turning point, as Garryowen‘s confidence soared and they continued to frustrate the Marys’ attack. Everyone gave to his last erg, yet victory eluded the Marys’ team and Garryowen went home with a place in 1A and The Shay Deering Trophy.
The way forward
After the final whistle went there was an air of shock, every Marys’ supporter was transfixed with pain and sorrow. Everyone dealt with it as they could and no one was more upset than any other was. The overwhelming feeling was of profound disappointment and sadness for the coaches, management and most of all, the young squad who had fought nobly all season only to fall short by the slightest of margins.
History has now repeated itself. When we won the AIL in 2000, three seasons later we were relegated, again having won the AIL in 2012 we slip to 1B in 2015. It is totally understandable, in both instances the squads were decimated by players going up to the professional game, others retiring and on this occasion, additionally emigration has been a big factor. Looking at the picture of the 2012 squad inside the door of the Centenary Bar it will be seen that of the entire front row of players in the picture, all top quality experienced ones,not one player is still available and half the back row, likewise. It is in fact remarkable that Peter Smyth and his colleagues, with the support of Steve and Rugby Council, have managed to build a fine young team with several players of astonishing potential; it must be realised however, that it is yet a baby squad. The addition of a few high quality experienced bulky players to the squad could ensure a direct return to 1A after next season. We have good reason to be sad but also to be optimistic. We are part of a club with a wonderful history and tradition and we will ever be that,whatever. With the belief that Peter and his colleagues shall continue and the current squad with him, there is great reason for that optimism. There is an added reason to be confident of our strong future in all respects, our highly valued sponsor Softco, has emphatically committed to our cause, and to support the club in its search for continued stability and success at all levels.
We must not forget our president Brian Grimson, who is truly devastated by this outcome. He has tried all within his encompass to help and support his senior team and he deserves our strongest sympathy as does our admirable captain, Kevin Sheahan, who has been a superb ambassador for the club and has played brilliantly all season. He has done everything possible to save the situation under, often most difficult circumstances; injuries, absences and sometimes foul luck. We owe him great gratitude. We cannot forget the continuing herculean work of Smythy, Philly, and Jonny. Of course Peter Smyth, who is invaluable and irreplaceable, is our hope for the future and we can never repay him. Being the Marys man he is, he looks for nothing only the best for his club and his players. Thanks you Peter.
It is up to us, the ordinary members, now to embraceour new challenges, support our incoming president, Declan Fanning, coaches, RC and incoming DoR Patrick Crawford, and follow our team next season to all parts of Ireland, North, South, East and West. We have two trips north to Ballymena and Belfast Harlequins, one south to Dolphin in Cork, two to Shannon and UL Bohs in Limerick and one to Buccaneers in the west. Also, we have Trinity, Blackrock, and Wesley to face in Dublin. So root out your sat nav and get ready.
Remember although we are under a dark cloud now, there are glimpses of the sun on the horizon. As Mr Shelley might say, “When Winter’s come can spring be far behind”. Let us go forward with hope and belief.
Have a good off-season.
The Team (Rolling substitutions)
15 R Crotty, 14 C Toolan 13 M O’Driscoll, 12 M Sexton, 11 R O’Loughlin, 10 C Marsh,
9 D Fanagan, 8 K Sheahan (Capt.),7 C Oliver, 6 D O’Connor, 5 S Bradshaw, 4 C
Ruddock, 3 B McGovern, 2 S McCarthy,1 T O’Reilly, Robert Sweeney, Richard
Sweeney, N Timoney, B O’Flanagan, C Lilly.