24.04.2010 J2 XV v Blackrock (A)

24/04/20103:00pm – DonnybrookCupSt. Marys J2 XV19 – 13Blackrock CollegeAway

St Mary’s J2 19 Blackrock J2 13

Inspired by the heroics of our J3’s on Friday night, the J2’s defended their Albert O’Connell Cup in style in Donnybrook on Saturday. An excellent performance of skill, power and commitment gave us a deserved win over a strong Rock side. We followed up our double last year with a second cup win in a row which was a great way to end a season that was disfigured by opposition teams pulling out of our league and several cancellations due to the bad weather.

The only change to the semi-final team was the reunification of the old firm in midfield of Jason Verdon (winning his 4th O’Connell cup) and player-coach Alan Shirley. These two have battled together for the club since 1997 and as usual they were hard in the tackle and classy going forward. Both were involved in our opening try which was a quality score. The ball was moved down the blindside by winger Baz Cahill who fed full back Neil Cowhey. Cowhey showed his undoubted class by tip-toeing down the touchline before giving it back to Cahill for him to touch down in the corner. Playing against the wind in the first half we struggled to get sustained field position but our forwards were still physically dominating their opponents. Two penalties by Rock left us 5-6 down at the break but confident.

Louis Burke was exceptional – fielding kicks from the wing and full back positions with effortless class, running the ball back with power and skill, and making big tackles at vital times. It is easy to see how he played AIL for so many years. McInerney and Keane were lording the lineout and maul and Tommy Meredith (Capt of U21 League Winners) was excellent out of touch and in the loose – he has a great future. Gallivan and Brophy made the hard yards and never stopped tackling and Paul Collins was doing his Peter Clohessy impression and literally terrorising the opposition – this former Ireland Schools player must be one of the best in the club. The pack were driven on as ever by the peerless Eoin McCormack (also winning his 4th O’Connell Cup. Interesting fact – Tommy Meredith was 6 years old when Mucker won his first!!!). Joey Connolly was thriving off the regular supply of quality ball and Jimmy Dunne made some outstanding 60 yard clearances and was his powerful self all day. All of our replacements played key roles not just on this day but throughout the season.

In a difficult swirling wind for kickers we missed some that would have put daylight between us but we were playing too well to lose. Another brilliant mauling and rucking passage of play ended with Joey changing the direction of the move to Shirley on the blindside who fed man of the match Louis to score in the corner. This made it 19-6 to us with time running out. In the last play of the game Rock got a consolation score that flattered the scoreline but the celebrations soon erupted.

It was deserved ending for the players and management who had worked hard all season. Derek Gately did a great job as manager, his organisation, planning (and late-night video analysis) were key to our success. Derek was abley assisted by Mick O’Connor who is a valued member of the J2 set up. Colm Barry did trojan work all year, running great drills at training each week. Alan Shirley coached the backs expertly and played through thick and thin despite his dodgy ribs! However, I think most credit must go to captain Mikey Houlihan who was an inspiration on and off the field all year. In his first year of captaincy, Mikey led with great skill and authority – the club are lucky to have him.

I would also like to thank Pat & Rodney of the J1’s and Ruaidhri of the J3’s for all their support and assistance this year. Not all clubs have such productive relationships between the junior teams. Thanks to Conor McPhilips of the U21’s who helped us greatly all year. Also big thank you to fixtures secretary Michael Fanagan and to Rugby Council members Kevin Conboy and chairman Dave Donohue. Special thanks to President Rynner who gave us great encouragement all year and the odd free pint! We look forward to working with vice president Ronnie McBrien next year.

Stephen Shirley.