27.03.2010 U20 Premier XV v Cork Constitution (H)

27/03/20104:45pmAILSt. Marys U21s 1st XV18 – 5Cork ConstitutionHome

                        St Mary’s Vs Cork Conn                      18-5

The Squad:

1. Neil Murphy, 2. Tommy Meredeth, 3. Sean Preston, 4. Robbie Field, 5. Gavin Thornberry,  6. Ronan Lennon, 7. Wesley Wojnar, 8. Darragh Keller,

9. Chris Lilly, 10. Colin Sheridan, 11. Ray Crotty, 12. Edouard Nicolay, 13. Steve Toal-Lennon, 14. Ian O’Neill, 15. Ciaran Collins (Ciarzo) 16. Rory O’Donovan, (Rocky) 17. Robert Ferris, 18. Owen McGill 19. Darragh Maher 20. Simon O’ Donnell, 21. Dara Fitzgerald, 22. Ross Wynn,

By way of a gentle reminder, for the first time since the competition began, ST.MARY’S WON THE J.P.FANAGAN CUP and did so with a game to spare. While it is totally acceptable, in my book, for the Manager to still be on a high from the guys’ great achievement, the biggest concern I had going into the Cork Conn game was that the squad might be over confident and consequently loose with their play. This game was, after all, going to be a level up from anything they had experienced before.

And what do you know. I’m still filling water bottles after the warm up session and Cork Conn run in a well worked try in the corner. The fact that they missed the conversion was of no consolation and the true test of the team was about to begin. Cork Conn are a very physical side and were certainly up for the game having seen their 1st XV comprehensively beaten by St Mary’s only minutes before.

I have always maintained that winning is a habit (and unfortunately so also is loosing). Given that we were well beaten by Lansdowne in our last outing (albeit in very different circumstances and in a game which the guys knew was of no real importance), again I was worried that this might affect the mind set of the team.

(I worry a lot it would seem and will seek therapy once the season is over!!)

As it turned out, I had little to be concerned about. The spirit and skills which made this team Leinster Champions began to show through and it began up front. Sean Preston, Tommy Meredith and Neil Murphy were immense and also tackled well in loose play. Gavin Thornberry and Robbie Field dominated the lineout and Keller, Lennon and Wojner hoovered up around the edges and always looked dangerous on the break. As expected, Keller once again lifted spirits with one of his 40yard dashes which resulted in a defensive error by Cork Conn.

Penalty to St Mary’s which Ray converted with ease. 5-3 and game on.

For the next 20 minutes however, thanks to excellent work by the forwards (yes including Robbie!) we secured excellent possession and threw the ball around quite a bit. However there was too much ball and not enough structure resulting in several poor passes which went to ground and quite a few that were almost intercepted by Cork Conn. Had only one of these gone to hand for Cork Conn the game would have taken on a very different complexion. Finally we settled down and following excellent rucking and mauling by our forwards, Darragh Keller crashed over for a try near to half time. Half time score 8-5.

A revised game plan for the second half and the wind at our backs allowed us to turn up the heat on the visitors and following more forward pressure on their 22mtr line, they conceded a penalty which Ray again converted with ease. (11-5)

Colin and Chris took full advantage of the favourable conditions and put additional pressure on Cork Conn with some excellent territorial kicks. One such kick from Colin moved us from inside our half to just inside their 22mtr and their crocked lineout gave us a scrum. Again the forwards supplied a perfect platform for the backs who executed a well rehearsed move. Nellie, at pace, received a perfect pass from Chris, and after running a dynamic line, off-loaded to Ciaran Collins who ran in under the posts. Again Ray converted. (18-5).

I have always maintained that we have an excellent squad and not just a first 15 and so it was time for strategic replacements.

Ronan Lennon was replaced by Owen McGill. Neil Murphy by Robert Ferris. Tommy Meredith by Rory O’Donovan. Darragh Keller by Darragh Maher. Ciaran Collins by Ross Wynn and Colin Sheridan by Dara Fitzgerald and not a moment too soon as then came the expected onslaught from Cork Conn who, to their credit, never gave up on the game and time and time again tested our defences.

Full credit to St Mary’s for defending brilliantly throughout the day, and particularly in the last 15 minutes against wave after wave of Conn pressure. Our substitutions injected fresh legs to the team and this was certainly needed. Edouard and Steve remained particularly solid in the mid field and Ray deserves special mention for an excellent try-saving tackle following a 40mtr chase after the Cork Conn winger who intercepted just inside our half with 15 minutes to go. (I knew he would catch him!!)

To have conceded a try at that time would have added significant and unwelcomed pressure.

All-in-all this was an excellent display of attacking rugby and solid defence from a squad of players who remain motivated and hungry. All the nicer as it was in front of our home crowd whose support was very welcome as ever. The victory came at a price however with injuries to Tommy, Keller, Ciaran, Ronan and Colin. We are however supremely confident in the healing skills of David Lyons and hope to field a full squad for the semi-final against Lansdowne next Saturday in Templeville.

Whatever else happens this year, I want this win against Lansdowne and I’m sure I am not alone in this. Your support on Saturday will be much appreciated as always.