|13/03/2011||3:00pm – Asbrook||AIL||St. Marys U21s 1st XV||7 – 0||Dublin University||Away|
It hit me like a train yesterday afternoon at Coolmine RFC.
This was a Cup Final. Winner gets into the quarter-final of the All Ireland Under 20’s Competition.
Despite playing with the wind in the first half, and having two kickable penalties awarded to them,
Mary’s went in at half time without having scored. Nil all. It was a tense occasion. Trinity should have started the second half with more gusto than they did. When Mary’s had two players sin-binned within three minutes of one another, Trinity were playing against thirteen men. They lived in the Mary’s red zone yet could not cross for a try. Returning to fifteen men on the pitch, Trinity were deflated and Mary’s grew in confidence. A third yellow card against Mary’s indicated their eagerness.
With a kickable penalty awarded to Trinity on the stroke of eighty minutes, it seemed all over. It was missed. Then the roar began. The cheers and whoops from the Mary’s supporters lifted their team noticeably. In the second minute of added time, Chris Lilly crossed for a good try which was also converted. Trinity were devastated. The cheers and whoops continued unabated for the next two minutes of added time. Two lone Trinity parents roaring their support were never going to be enough.
Final whistle blasts. Elation for Mary’s team and their magnificent supporters.
That 16th man made the difference yesterday, because there was nothing between the two teams.
St. Mary’s V Dublin Universtiy (7-0)
1.Shane Kearney 2. Rory O’Donovan 3. Robert Ferris 4. Stephen Maguire 5. Ronan Lennon 6. Mark Fallon 7.Thomas Lamboley, 8. Darragh Keller 9. Chris Lilly 10. Darragh Fitzgerald 11. Owen Mariarty 12. Hugh McGovern 13. Ryan O’Loughlin 14. Steve Toal Lennon, 15. Ray Crotty
Subs: Sean Carroll, David Callanan, Gavin Thornberry, JJ Clarke, Simon O’Donnell, Colin Sheridan, Maurice Walsh.
Others have written about this match previously but I felt it better to wait until this week (the week of our first All Ireland match) to write the official version of events on the day.
What an extraordinary game of rugby it was with both sides fully committed to progressing. This was not surprising, given that the prize was entry into the All Ireland competition and also a quarter final place in the McCorry cup.
From a spectators’ perspective, it was an excellent game of rugby with chances created and lost / defended on both sides. Needless to say I was absolutely delighted with the outcome although stress levels were intense until the very last whistle.
We did miss three penalty opportunities during the game but in truth, the two first half chances were difficult and I would maintain, somewhat of a shot to nothing. The missed penalty late into the second half was unfortunate as the ball began to fall over as Ray approached it. They did however add to the tension on the day. The tension was obviously also felt by the players as Trinity missed a very kickable opportunity in the dying minutes of the game which would probably have sealed our fate.
Without taking away from the Trinity performance in any way, I maintain that St. Mary’s were deserved winners on the day, especially having defended superbly against very difficult odds. Some might claim justice but I maintain the three yellow cards issued to our boys were harsh decisions. Whatever the truth, at one point we were forced to defend our line for almost 10 minutes with only 13 players on the field. And defend it we did in style!! Trusting our defence and working so very hard for each other, St Mary’s held off the Trinity onslaught without conceding any penalties or points.
To a man, the St Mary’s team performed brilliantly on the day and in truth, they needed to as Trinity also brought their A game. There were however, in my opinion, some particularly spectacular defensive performances from Darragh Keller, Chris Lilly, Steve Maguire and Maurice Walsh. Maurice’s aggressive attacking play was also noteworthy. (welcome back from injury Maurice!).
In extra time and immediately following the missed Trinity penalty (and down to 14 players remember), we patiently worked our way up field. A great line break from Ryan on their 22mtr line, with Chris Lilly (and his lucky Penny) in support, resulted in Chris Lilly knocking two defenders aside to dive over for the winning try (Steve Toal-Lennon Converted).
In my opinion however it was our dominance up front all day, our belief in our defence, our patience under duress and in attack and our player communication which won out on the day.
The support for the St Mary’s team was fantastic as usual and was much appreciated by the players, coaches and myself. It probably gave us a 14th man when we were down to 13. Long may it continue!
We knew that we would have to step up our game in order to compete at the higher level and this is what the squad have been working towards since the poor season start. Every match from here on in will be more difficult than the last and will require equally as impressive a performance as the guys gave against Trinity. I have total confidence in this squad and am very proud of their journey to this point. I am also confident that anyone who watched this game will agree that St Mary’s U21’s are a force to reckoned with and have justifiably earned their shot at the All Ireland and Mc Corry titles.
Your continued support is not only welcome but essential to our journey and I look forward to see you at the next game against Cork Conn. (Venue and date to be decided).