J2 XV v Skerries (A) by Graeme McInerney – 03.02.23

J2 match report – Skerries J2 away 3rd February 2023

After last week’s bruising encounter against Terenure and yes it was very bruising with no less than 8 players ruled out with injuries and knocks, we regrouped and re-focused in what was to be another tough assignment for the J2 team against a strong Skerries J1 side (3rd in the league) on what was a non-AIL weekend. Not easy coming up against J1 sides on non-AIL weekends but none the less the lads were as hungry as ever, even if it was our 4th match in successive weekends. A huge thank you to Vinny (et al), Flats (et al) and Darren (et al) for their support in rounding up bodies to play for us. We would not have been able to play if it wasn’t for the lads stepping up to play for us and they were a credit to the club, their respective teams and themselves but more of that in the match report.

It was a beautiful evening out in Skerries which is rarity. Thankfully the bank holiday traffic wasn’t too bad, and we had all the lads on the pitch (just about) in time for the warm. The clear focus of the lads was communication, play for the start given the amount of new lads coming in and be physical up front as Skerries have a big pack that can cause damage.

First half: In games like this, it was great to have old man Al (McPhillips) back playing to help whip the lads into shape and that he did in abundance. Right from the off, we controlled the game through strong carries epitomised by the exceptional Michael Connell, dynamic Fanj and back to best Chris Kane, putting us over the gainline numerous times as well as reliable boot Bourky giving the team strong field position from the hand and from penalties. Shout out too to Potsey ‘senior’ and Aaron who worked tireless in the first half with numerous clear outs and tackles show casing how comfortable they were with the step up to the J2’s. Skerries did not know what hit them and to be honest neither did Lyonsey or myself as the phase play and link up was a sight to behold and no bad for a team that required many introductions before kick-off. The lads lead by Ruadhan and Andy Mc battered away to fully dominate the first 20 minutes and were unlucky not to come away with points for the sheer dominance.  Some unforced errors and turnovers close to the line was proving a stumbling block for the lads and sure enough on 25 mins when we pounded away at the skerries line, an unfortunate knock-on led to a skerries scrum and after a few phases to clear their lines, they got a debatable penalty and an extra 10 metres for some backchat (this was not in the playbook). They kicked to the corner, won the lineout, and put together 4-5 phases to go over for their first try with a conversion. To say this was against the run of play, was an understatement, it was their first time in our 22. The lads regrouped and soon began to exert dominance again in the game and work the way up the pitch.  Again, Michael was to the fore with some superb ‘pick and goes’ causing skerries all sort of problems and gaining us valuable metres every time. Some strong carries by young man Finn and old man Cal were also causing skerries plenty of problems. Again, some unforced errors and strong skerries defending kept us at bay until the 39 minutes, when we got a penalty in front of the post with skipper Niall and Bourky rightfully decided that it was time for points on the board given our dominance. Bourky obliged with the 3 points. Half time 7-3 to Skerries.

Second half: Patience was the message at half time as we could not fault the collect effort of the team. Our lads again picked up where they left off, but Skerries too came out a different team and started to play some ball and keep passion more. This required the lads to up the defence effort with centre starlets Ruadhan and Andy Mc leading the way, nothing gets by them! It was also great to see young Potsey make some big ball carries on his return from injury, he showed no fear despite coming up against lads at least 10 years his senior. It wasn’t long before we were again dominating and battering away at the skerries line phase after phase, patience lads, remember…. Then an unfortunate but defining moment in the game, in what seemed the right decision after relentless pressure and space out wide, comes a skip pass to our overlap, only for their winger to read the ball perfectly, scoop up the pass and run the length of the field for try under posts. 14-3 to Skerries. The game we were watching deserved the reverse score line!

The lads heads didn’t drop which is a credit to them but it was time for some new blood in the form of young prop Eoghan on for Fionan and the return of Lee on for old man Al. The new lads again added new life into the lads. Despite the tender age of 18, Eoghan was completely at home despite the step up, some strong carries and a one bone crunching tackle against the biggest man on the park, he showed us that he was up for this game. We wont mention too much about that kick but needless to say the contribution from the 20’s lads bodes well for the future of the club. Roll on the energetic Jonathan Lynch for more pace in the game (another 20’s addition) for Christian, who gave us the solid ball at 8, normally provided by evergreen donners. Our last change coming moments later with Oisin Quinn on for old man Cal who again had another fine game on the wing. With a healthy enough lead, Skerries knew all they had to do was contain us and that they did. They even opted for 3 points on the 70 min mark to stretch their lead to 14 points knowing that most of their attacks were being thwarted by the strong Marys’ defence. The game petered out a little from here on in as the sore bodies took hold and the elusive try became very much elusive for Marys. It was a frustrating defeat as Mary’s played most if not all the rugby, the lads deserved points, just like the reverse fixture earlier in the season but credit to Skerries, they withheld the onslaught, took their chances, and ground out the win.

Again, a special thank you to Leon Potts, Eoghan Pender and Jonathan Lynch from the 20’s as well as Aaron Doherty, Christian McLindon and Potsey ‘senior’ making the step up to J2’s (kinda J1’s for the day that was in it), we were indebted to them and reliable old man Al McPhillips.

Final score 17-3 to skerries.

Management STAR of the match was Michael Connell, who despite his young age gave a vintage performance defined by big tackles and relentless gainline breaks.