24.04.2012 J5 XV v Clontarf – Donnybrook

24/04/20127:30pm – Donnybrook (FINAL)O’Connor CupSt. Marys J5 XV21 – 13ClontarfAway

Everyone involved, playing and supporting the (wonderful) J5 Team on Tuesday night witnessed quite an incredible night of Junior Cup Rugby …. an amazing advertisement for Junior Rugby which will stay in the memory for a long, long time to come. A truly gripping match which had everything …. Skill, drama, heart break and eventually, after extra time and a highly contested 100 minutes of rugby, elation! As Rynner said just before full time on Tuesday night, “Carlsberg don’t do J5 O’Connor Cup finals, but if they did…!”  

We started nervously against a good Clontarf side (with an especially strong and wise, old pack). We took a long time to settle into the match and during that first 30 minutes, we still had the resolve to defend manfully and only allow Clontarf one penalty. 0 3. Our repeated attempts to get the ball wide eventually paid off … with the simplest of back moves. 9 to 10 to 12 to 15 to 11…as simple as it gets and as beautiful a passing move as you will see … which saw Caolan Smith break the line at great pace and deliver a perfect pass to Jack Ebbs who sprinted along the sideline for 40 meters and score in the corner! 5 3 to St Marys at half time and Jack Ebbs on the score sheet again! The try was somewhat against the run of play but St Marys were worthy leaders at half time due to the skill shown in the execution of that try alone. Following up on Hugh Hogan’s inspirational words in the dressing room before kick off, we started the second half in a more relaxed and focused fashion. All pressure by St Marys yet Clontarf broke away and won another kickable penalty. 5 6. 10 minutes later, the inspirational Sam Brennan had to go off injured. (A word on Sam Brennan if I may…who won his first J5 O’Connor Cup medal in 1976…in black and white!…and a full 36 years ago and well before most of his team mates on Tuesday night were even born! That’s the benchmark lads!)) Soon after, our scrum half, Ryan Barnes had to go off injured also. As we tried to re shuffle the team with replacements, Clontarf caught us napping and scored an opportunist try under the posts. They converted to leave it 5 13. Although St Marys looked the more accomplished side, the clever Clontarf forward unit played the game to their strength up front and ate up the clock with rolling mauls from every lineout. With 5 minutes to go, St Marys were on the attack again. This time through our pick and drive. On 5th phase ball, one half of our famous ‘boys from Brazil’ duo Rodrigo, took a lovely pop pass and then, with only 6 Clontarf guys on his back, barrelled over for a try with 3 minutes to go. Our missed conversion left it 10 13 with only 2 minutes to go. (‘Clear’ came the shout from our medic, Vincent Murray, as the team defibrillator was applied (for the first time in this match) to Bobby, Ado and Ian on the sideline!”) The Tarf pack was tiring and the incredible spirit and belief, which has marked this team all year, now appeared to be bursting through the veins of each of the men in Blue. Our pick and drive, one of the best defensive tackles you will ever see by our centre Sean Gilheaney and a hugely important block down by Captain Gareth Lloyd, all ensured that Tarf were pressurised for every second of those 2 minutes. Under this pressure, Tarf then went offside at a ruck, 30 meters out. Penalty to St Marys and all of the time in the second half gone. Sean Gilheaney, socks around his ankles, steps up to take it…..hard to tell if Seanie was striking a penalty or a 45! ….who cares…..between the posts! 13 13 and the referee blows for full time. What drama! 10 minutes per half extra time to come.

If the ideal Junior rugby team has a mix of youth, experience, skill, heart, determination and spirit, then we saw an ideal Junior Rugby team play the 20 minutes of extra time on Tuesday night. With superior fitness levels and the well conditioned U21’s running around the park like, eh, young fellas (!), St Marys owned extra time. Seanie slotted another in the first half of extra time to make it 16 13 and then, half way through the second half of extra time, a great counter attack from a poor clearing kick by Tarf went through 4 simple passes (again) and sent the impressive Cormac Tracey sprinting through a bewildered defensive line for a touchdown to the left of the posts. Seanie converted again to leave it 21 13. We had 2 or 3 more chances to score as Tarf tired and leg cramp was evident everywhere. 100 minutes after kick off and about 8 dog years later, the referee finally blew the final whistle! The St Marys College RFC J5 O’Connor Cup Team are …. Champions!

I can’t let this match report finish without mentioning some of the hidden and incredible stories of the night which, for me, epitomise this team, our own fine Club and ‘real’ Junior rugby. Our brave and tough Captain, Gareth Lloyd, never played rugby before this year. Padraig Fox, second row, never played rugby before this year either. Steve Walkin, prop, only his 5th year of playing rugby. The injured scrum half, Ryan Barnes, begged to be allowed re take the field even though he played the rest of the game with torn ligaments in his ankle. Sam Brennan was there when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball for the very first time…and he togged out again last Tuesday night…what a career…not enough words to describe Sam I’m afraid. The (quiet and retiring) Daniel Lyons at hooker and Jack Ebbs (Tommy Bowe?!) were both asked to play out of position. Not a bother to either of them. Mossy Davin…the heart and soul of this team…played the full 100 minutes of rugby as loose head prop….only his second match ever playing as prop in contested scrums.

Champions all!

15 Caolan Smith
14 Conor O’Beirne
13 Sean Gilheaney
12 Olan Cleary
11 Jack Ebbs
10 Conor Smith
9 Ryan Barnes
8 David Owen Mahon
7 Gareth Lloyd (C)
6 Daniel Hegarty
5 David O’Connell
4 Rodrigo Pucci
3 Maurice Davin
2 Daniel Lyons
1 Sammy Brennan

16 Chris Boylan
17 Stephen Walkin
18 Cormac Treacey
19 Padraig Fox
20 David Balfour