Cork Constitution FC V St Mary’s College RFC
AIL Division 1 A
Saturday 31st January 2015.
Captain Kevin led his men in under the radar, like a squadron of stealth bombers. The air shivered in the cold and we warmed to the heat of battle. The special close relationship between supporters and team continued as over 30 came on the bus, and dozens more in cars and by train. The St Marys mini-rugby section, shepherded by Karl Jennings, having played their games stayed to join the blue brigade and cheer on their heroes. And heroes they were today and cheering and cheered were the supporters today.
In this fiercely fought league this year, microns separate the teams as they fight for glory and survival. In such a milieu, fractions matter and leadership is vital. Step up Shiner; he grows in stature weekly, showing his immense rugby ability and his mesmeric leadership qualities, calm and compelling. Once again today, against a big skilful team and a vicious wind in their faces in the first vital half, his men flailed themselves and drove themselves to glory. How well they deserved this victory and how well Smythy, Broph and Jonny deserve it too, for they all stand together. Without three outstanding U20 players, all in the Six Nations panel, and a few other important players also out, the proof of squad cohesion and esprit de corps was clear.
And, every player called on today showed indomitable courage and proved vital cogs in the victory.
The scrum had difficult moments but latterly won parity. While down to seven forwards, due to a yellow card, it conceded a penalty try. It is very good to be able to relate that the lineout was near flawless and additionally put some pressure on a big Con lineout.
The rucking was fast and intense and most of all, the close confident carrying and support play was the critical factor in our win, with patient hard carries at one end making the ground to keep possession and repel attacks; while at the other making space for breaks. The defence too was up to the highest standard and as time went on it added confidence to the Marys’ team.
The first half it was down to defending hard against the strong wind, while Con hammered away. We made good use of the ball whenever we snitched it, holding on to it well and only kicking when forced to. We got a really good turn of events when we put together a wonderful converted try and then a penalty just before half time. The second half, we had a wobble for the first quarter when the composure was tested and Con raised their game, but when the skipper returned from the sin bin he rallied his men, they refocussed, and worked relentlessly to deservedly earn a memorable win against a strong, well coached team, as Con always are. It was a top class game of fast feisty rugby, hard, but without any rancour or foul play. It was a credit to both teams. The supporters too mingled well; we have a good friendship with Cork Constitution going back many years.
Big credit must be given to Sean Mc Carthy, who has made the transition from prop to hooker and today, he was terrific, an extra backrower, carrier and forager. He was so very well supported by his props. Tom O’Reilly is growing in ability weekly and input, Neil Murphy is likewise maturing nicely and when he came on we lost nothing and Robert (Chops) Sweeney returned to his marvellous best, He and Ciaran (Rudds) Ruddock were like two smouldering volcanoes, erupting into fire-spitting dragons, as they lashed through defences or crashed into rucks; wonderful!
Young Keelan McKenna was enjoying his afternoon and contributing handsomely in lineout and loose, when unfortunately, injury took him off. Mark Fallon came on and he too did more than asked of him and he well deserved his run after a long period of injury. Our commando unit, the manic marauders of the backrow, were invaluable, Richard (Chips) Sweeney, worked close in, taking out snipers, throwing himself into the fray, making metres and leading from the front. Barry O’Flanagan was the outrider, covering breaks nipping the ball from under eyes, snapping ankles and contributing substantially in the lineout with some splendid takes. The skipper’s performance today was once again outstanding, with high work rate, covering kicks, hitting rucks, taking on ball on the run and from scrums, making grinding tackles, taking ball from the lineout and organising and exhorting. He was the unfortunate one to be sin binned, after the referee’s warning for repeated team penalties and while off, we conceded 10 of the 13 points scored against us.
Behind the scrum, David Fanagan at Nine, was back to his best, keeping the game at high pace, feeding fast ball, covering and most of all flashing through cover, with electric feet and Banana dummies. He had the Con defence bewildered. He just shaded it as Man of the Match. Our first try was from David. Ryan O’Loughlin made a dazzling break and ball was taken on by Shiner, who stepped and made ten metres or so. David Fanagan picked and flickered along through defenders, hit the turbo and over the line, to score his try. Ever unflustered Ray Crotty converted a difficult kick.
Sean Kearns, last year playing for Smythy at Blackrock College, today he was playing his first senior game. To the manor born, he was cool, unflustered and composed. He varied his game, took the ball near to the line and passed well. His control of the game was impressive, he defended well and his kicking was astute. He has a big accurate boot and looks as though he has a big future. Well done to the young man.
It is some time since I have seen this level of all round sense in the mid field. Mark and Marcus were in synchrony and harmony as they locked the doors to all comers and slipped through every chink, making important space and distance. They retained the ball well too and supported the breakdown; two big strong lads and two quality centres.
It was fitting that Tony Ward and Ryan O’Loughlin’s dad were there. Tony coached and developed both today’s wingers, Stevie-Wonder Toal-Lennon and Ryan and he will have been very proud of their performances. Excepting one missed tackle early on, they both had quality games, both in attack and defence. They covered and fielded well and were potent in attack. The second score, at a pivotal time, followed 17 phases of tight inter-passing and pick-and-drives, then when the ball was zipped across the line Stevie, coming into the line, beat his man neatly and Ryan took a brilliant reverse pass from Stevie as he came inside on a superb vector; skipped around two and slid in ; whoopee said his dad and amen said all of us. That was the Nail.
Ryan had to withdraw injured late on and Conor Toolan entered the fray and joined the mindset as he defended well when asked, and looked to run; he has terrific pace.
Behind all was Ray Crotty unruffled and composed as he dealt with all asked of him and added five vital points with a conversion and a difficult penalty. He also ran back well and joined the line.
Rory (Rocky) O’Donovan and Conor Gilsenan were straining on the leash, two fine young players, waiting if needed, and of course, they will both add much to St Marys as time goes by; today they were as important as any on the field.
Scoring Sequence 12 mins Penalty Quinlan 3- 0. 31 mins Try Fanagan, con Crotty 3 – 7. 41 mins Pen Crotty 3 – 10. HT
47 mins Pen Quinlan, 6 – 10. 56 mins Pen try converted Quinlan. 11 – 10. 59 mins Try O’Loughlin 11 – 15.
So many good things have been happening since Christmas, making the long cold month of January easier to bear, it is bound to bring fortune to us. (Anois teacht al Earraigh). We lost out to Clontarf on 2nd January; a loss we can reverse on the 27th February. We had a super win against Belvo and now a memorable victory against Cork Con, We had some very good U20 and junior wins, a healthy rugby forum, an exceptionally enjoyable annual club dinner and last week the ubiquitous Niall (Rynner) Rynne was most deservedly appointed Junior Vice President of the Leinster Branch for season 2015-16 going on to become Leinster President for season 2017-18.
We must concentrate on building on this win and prepare for the visit of Ballynahinch on 21st February. We need to win that game. We of course will look forward to seeing all our friends from Ballynahinch, who have been most hospitable to us on our visits. We remain in ninth place but are now on 23 points, six ahead of Dolphin and two behind Young Munster, who are now three points behind Belvo who beat them today.
Sadly today Frank Doyle our groundsman for almost four decades retired. Frank was an institution at Marys and loved the club as well as the most dedicated member. He defended it fiercely and helped all who needed his help. Although a bon viveur, he never drank alcohol nor smoked. He was appreciative of beautiful things and loved life. We must all wish him and his family happiness and contentment for many years of active retirement. It will not be the same without Frank.
The Team (Rolling substitutions)
15 R Crotty, 14R O’Loughlin, 13 M O’Driscoll, 12 M Sexton, 11 S Toal-Lennon, 10 S Kearns, 9 D Fanagan, 8 K Sheahan (Capt), 7 B O’Flanagan, 6 Richard Sweeney, 5 C Ruddock, 4 K Mc Kenna, 3 Robert Sweeney, 2 S Mc Carthy, 1 T O’Reilly, R O’Donovan, N Murphy, M Fallon, C Gilsenan, C Toolan.