1st XV v Malone (A) by D. O’Brien – 01.04.23

Malone RFC V St Mary’s College RFC

29                          13

AIL Division 1B

Gibson Park, Cregagh

1st April 2023.


On the way to Malone there was a deluge of rain which fizzled out near destination, the second half of the game saw a deluge of errors and penalties from Marys and scores for the home side which saw the visitors’ chances fizzle out. The last three games between the sides had been high scoring with Marys the victors earlier this season (41-34) and the previous two games had been draws, with the last visit to Gibson Park ending in a 17-17 draw. It would be cant hypocrisy to say other than from us, it was disappointing and below standard.  It is not implied that the date had anything to do with the result.

There is a close friendship between our two clubs going back to 1940.  Malone was the first Ulster club to play regular fixtures with St Marys College RFC. Gerry Gibbons, Malone’s affable President, welcomed President Gareth Roche and his entourage from St Marys, most magnanimously.  There was however, a sense of sadness, the club having lost its most popular and genial vice president, Gary Kirkpatrick who died during the season. 

The game was played in most sporting manner and although Malone deserved their much needed win and five points, the first half and early second half showed that our team was well capable of winning, and during that stage outplayed and outscored Malone, even though they had a number of Ulster squad players, including Aaron Sexton, one of the fastest men in Ireland; and a fine player. Malone however, are bottom of the table

St Marys were without outstanding captain, Ronan Watters and several others, but welcomed back from injury Stephen Kilgallen, who moved into fullback.  He was a revelation, running back ball elusively and effectively, joining and initiating moves, fielding with confidence and covering astutely, he was involved in both scores. He was awarded the SoftCo MoM Award. 

During the game star winger, Hugo Conway was injured with a dislocated shoulder and will be out some time.  Young Conor Pierce, who has been showing good form for the J1s was rewarded by Sean Cronin with his first start for the senior side, and he repaid Sean with an impressive display at Number 8; and exhibited strong potential.  Well done Conor.

The game started brightly for us, as the team showed good organisation, calm and determination, when for nearly ten minutes they held out an assault on the goal line, which included two penalties, selected by Malone as scrums. From then until ten minutes into the second half, we were generally the better side, although both sides found the ball rejective to retention.  During that time, on 25 minutes, a very fine move involving Stephen Kilgallen, Richie Fahy and Hugo Conway, ended with an interplay between Richie and Hugo, and Richie scoring.  There was a converted try for Malone (35 minutes) and a penalty by Mick O’Gara (37 minutes). Then early in the second half Malone added a penalty.  We continued to show good enterprise, and on the 49th minute, an attractive concatenation started with a fine pass by Conor Dean at Ten, then, evasive and ever willing winger, Mark Fogarty score a fine try. Having received the ball with two defenders facing, he feinted and took an incisive inside vector to go over. That meant the score was now 10-13.  That was as good as it got.  Whether it was the subconscious knowledge of mid table safety or loss of concentration, the visitors failed to put real pressure on the opposition, likewise they failed to prevent Malone score  three unanswered tries on 60, 65 and 76 minutes to go from 10-13 to 29-13.

The St Marys players were stunned and deeply disappointed with the result and even more so with the second half performance.  Sean, Jamie, Marcus and Conor will have been equally disappointed, having put such hard and excellent quality work prior to this game; and Sean having driven all the way from Limerick to Belfast and back; and on Sunday he also came up to the important J1 match at Barnhall.

Okay, we must all put that behind us, learning by the experience and ensuring future commitment and consistency.  No doubt, with Skipper Ronan back for the last game of the league campaign on 15th V Old Belvedere   at home, there will be rapacious esurience and resolve. Now is our time to show our loyalty to our club, with no whispers or whines, just determination to get up for the game and give it a whop. No more said! 

Remember 15th April, come along and Roar on Ronan.

D O’Brien

Team (12 rolling changes)

15 S Kilgallen, 14 H Conway, 13 C Hickey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 M Fogarty, 10 C Dean, 9 R Fahy, 8 C Pierce, 7 E Baxter, 6 D Leane, 5 H MacDonald, 4 P Starrett (Capt.), 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin,1 A Mulvihill. 16, L Sellier, 17, J Reidy Walsh, 18 I Wickham, 19 A O’Neill, 20 R O’Loughlin, 21 A Walsh.