St Marys V Old Belvedere by D. O’Brien 02.03.19

St Mary’s College RFC V Old Belvedere RFC

10                                   7

UB. AIL Division 1 B

Templeville Road

2nd March 2019.


A coruscating kaleidoscope of captivating rugby was served up for our delectation by two clubs competing sportingly yet fiercely in the most compressed of leagues. The final whistle was a momentous moment for our season. Our affection and admiration for our team poured out after the game. This was a game that never lost its grip on our souls, yet varied in execution and mood throughout, especially between halves.

Our admiration too flowed for the coaches, Steve, Jamie and Barry who have expertly nurtured and nursed this young squad through innocence, injuries, hiccups and dips. The often forgotten management, Paudge, Pokie and Rhuaidrí, who quietly ensure synchrony were likewise applauded.

The Team

This was a particular performance, epitomising what our club has espoused for nigh120 years; courage, skill, camaraderie and belief. The re-availability of David Aspil, Liam Corcoran and Ronan Watters, did add vital, esoteric abilities and ballast. However, this was a truly comprehensive team performance with almost infinitesimal differences between players. To us the supporters, they were all heroes. Once again, the front row was superlative in every aspect of play, especially the scrum where they shone, though faced by lauded counterparts on the fine Belvo team. If there is a better more dedicated clubman and leader playing at St Marys now than Tommer, he has not shown himself.  Young Gmack Micko (McCormack), is a marvel of consistent industry and ability; he was again today.  Since Richie Halpin joined St Marys, he has thrown his body and spirit into the team and club.  Today, was one of our least ever effective days in the lineout, for mainly climatic reasons, yet Richie never flagged.  He started and finished with power, passion and persistence.  He led, often with his head and ever with his heart.  He never dropped a ball or flinched in attack or rocklike defence.  On a day of heroes he had an almost subliminal edge and most deservedly was accorded the SoftCo MoM award.

Hugo Diepman has suffered indeterminable injuries and setbacks, this athletic young man got his chance on recovery, and has under tutelage, progressed weekly.  Today he came of age, he was battered but unbowed and unbeaten.  He suffered another injury, yet he refused to leave the field when suitable replacements there were none.  His partner, Liam Corcoran, just back from injury, was a tower of strength before having to leave the field, once more injured. That backrow was a revelation of intervention, defence and attack. David Aspil out since our trip to Banbridge, was herculean in effort.  He is the most effective of ball carriers and he took on the role again right-away, he also is a bone crusher tackler, again straight into it and when Liam had to withdraw he willingly took on the 2nd row duties with aplomb.  Welcome back David.  Ronan Watters, is a classic 7, in so many ways, his rugby brain ever ticks and his tackling is deadly, where he adds another invaluable dimension is the breakdown.  He was terrific today and when we were almost down and out after uncountable carries by a big accurate and intent Belvo team, he got the game defining turnover on our line under the posts.  It saved the day.  He may well be on U20 international duty next week, what a loss he would be.  However, all Marys will wish him well for it. Nick, “the Warrior” again came good today with carries and covers, hits and drives, indefatigable, always encouraging never shirking.  It would be unfair not to mention Steven [Sobby] O’Brien who is a hooker; but came on as a flanker and how well he did. He drove himself to a standstill, as indeed did Sean Heeran, now fully in the swing. A great pack of forwards and an equally great performance.

The backs were no way behind in any respect, as they sparkled, even in horrific conditions, with a gale blowing and rain saturating people and ground. Padjo (Paddy O’Driscoll) and Deano (Conor Dean) gel so well, and did again today, although when Ruairi Shield had to withdraw early on Padjo went full back and never put a foot wrong, his high quality versatility is a big bonus for the team.  Deano scored all the points and added his class in many ways.  He has shown total loyalty to his club and although was again offered a very attractive package elsewhere, eschewed it to remain with Marys.

Last week Skipper, Marcus (Modser) O’Driscoll, was phenomenal and although not quite as spectacular this week, he was as usual outstanding as a leader and player. With his highly talented young partner, Myles Carey, who weekly plays bravely through a chronic injury, every gap was probed and every thrust repelled, con brio. The two young wingers, Craig Kennedy and Hugo Conway are total in their courage and commitment; they kept pressure on the Belvo defence at every opportunity and covered in defence; so necessary when playing against a gale.  

Another “player” not yet mentioned, but important none the less, the band of supporters, especially those who stayed on the terrace throughout drenching rain and a strong gale.  They kept up a constant cacophony of sound, making for atmosphere and helping their side to keep going and raise their game when needed.  In the second half, when the Marys’ line was under severe threat, the surge of Marys-Marys-Marys, led by the doughty Rynner, lifted the hearts of the defence to almost incessant tackling and ultimately, lifting the siege.  Well done to all involved. For yours is the kingdom of Templeville.

The Game

Indubitably, there were few games tougher than this one in Division 1B.Belvo have a skilful, well balanced team.  They were, as we have frequently found, heavier all round.  This was counteracted by pace and precision.  It ended as the closest and most competitive of matches.  This has always been the case between these two sporting rivals.  As noted by a Belvo alickadoo, there is never rancour between the two sides, but this is well outweighed by sporting intensity and competiveness.  And so it was today.

The first half, the supporters breathed a sigh relief when they found the home side playing towards the Cabbage Patch and against the gale and rain.  The home sages had it that if we could keep the score to within 14 points we would prosper.  Sages of course are seldom as sagacious as they appear.

Belvo started as though they were going to use the wind to good effect, however, after the first few minutes they used it seldom. Strangely, this was to be in the second half too with the home side.

Marys looked and were full of confidence and running and held the ball very well with David et al carrying effectively.  After three minutes a kick ahead was fielded in the 22 by the home side.  Then, the entire Marys’ team appeared to be involved in multiple phases lasting almost three minutes. It ended when a Hugo Conway break was halted close in the Well corner.  The ball was recycled right to left. Padjo fed, it was taken on by Micko and Ronan and then on recycle Deano, dummied to the left.  He saw his chance and went right on a slight curve and in by the posts, he converted his own try.  7-0 on six minutes. We were in for an onslaught it appeared, however, although Belvo mounted a number of attacks we repelled all and ran back with verve and vigour, playing with poise and purpose, in a memorable display, of handling and running rugby.  It was injury time before half time and we were looking very comfortable.  A silly misjudgement on our 10 M line gave Belvo a penalty and when they kicked to the gate corner, they mauled, then recycled and kicked across field to a waiting winger who tapped down in Carvill Corner.  A fine conversion made it was 7-7 at half time.  We were disappointed, but still confident.

With driving rain in our backs we confidently faced the kick off in the second half. However, “the shoe was on the other foot”.  Belvo did as their hosts had done first half.  When they got the ball, it became their obsession, they clung to it like their isms. They started to run at the Marys defence and worked their way up-field and on two occasions in particular they pounded our line, out and back went the ball, angles changed, they came at us in ones, twos and threes.  It went to backs and forwards; they pounded our line.  Our lads threw themselves at the carriers, they knocked them down, they dragged them down.  They then dragged themselves up and did it all again, resolute, unflagging.  The most severe assault on our line lasted nearly four minutes from 66 to 70 minutes. Belvo were hammering under our posts, almost there,  Ronan pounced, he clamped, then rolled, up he came, cheeky grin on his face and ball in his arms, turnover.  Penalty to us.  That may have been the most significant moment in the game.  We sucked in oxygen and were ready for whatever might come.  More did come, but we dealt with it and on 85 minutes the referee blew the end. It was 10-7. Ecstasy!

This was a day to make any president smile and Jack Ebbs, smiled benignly.  We all did.  He smiled too, for this was also a significant day for St Marys in another way as it was the first time we officially fielded a team of special needs players in a Tag game.  It is hoped that the team will progress eventually to full contact rugby. The President is particularly supportive of this initiative and indeed they have support and good will throughout the club.

Today we shifted a little on the table, three places to 5thand put ourselves in a stronger position.  We head to Armagh City next Saturday and face a stern test.  This is our first ever rugby visit to Armagh and we really do need all you Marys-Marys-Marys supporters to come along.

D O’Brien

Team (Rolling Replacements X12)

15 R Shield, 14 H Conway, 13 Myles Carey, 12 M O’Driscoll (Capt), 11 C Kennedy, 10 C Dean, 9 P O’Driscoll, 8 N McCarthy, 7R Watters,  6 D Aspil, 5 L Corcoran, 4 H Diepman, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, S O’Brien, P Dundon, S Heeran, D Moroney D Lyons.