1st XV v Naas (H) 22.01.22

ST Mary’s College RFC   V   Naas RFC

27                                        17

Energia AIL Division 1B

Templeville Road

Saturday 22nd January 2022.


All week there was a growing rumbling, a kind of vibration in the ethers that presaged something special and different. The recent history indicated a difficult afternoon and a tight match. The result would be almost season defining for both. The settled spell of weather, the perfectly Pokey-primed-pitch, and the predicted easing of restrictions, augured well.  Before kick off a real crowd populated, with anticipation the main terrace, the picture windows and then around the perimeter. Yes, you all turned up, Marys and Naas, eager and hopeful, jauncing for the joust.

It turned out to be an enthralling and compelling contest thanks to the total concentration of both teams and the quality of the fare.  Yes, it was certainly one of the finest all-round performances in some time by the home team and the visitors ensured it needed to be. The performance of the spectators was also of great intensity and sportsmanship, well done to all. The match was like a gourmet six course meal, from hors d’oeuvres to espressos, first-rate, and wholly satisfying.

The Game

The restlessness of the terrace poured on to the pitch and both teams put the boot down from kick off, it was white hot. The defensive effort of the home side was the most organised and eager this season with width and cover excellent. Once again it was shown how valuable it can be to take every opportunity to kick for goal, especially if you have a top class place kicker such as Conor Dean. He amassed marvellous 17 points from kicks during the course of the game; it turned out to be the difference. After nine minutes, following a penalty to the corner and several severe strikes, the line was breached and the score was 0-5. In fact after that over the course of the game, under heavy bombardment there was no further breach in the ranks until the 67th minute. The lineouts were excellent, with variation and security and a credit to the skipper (thrower), caller, lifters and jumpers, that was a significant factor, as was the hard won dominance in the scrum. The team work was commendable, you could feel concentration the absolute need to get there and to help when required. There was a controlled urgency about the whole performance. Today too, was a total team performance each aspect and sector complementary.  The desire and will of the supporters on the terrace was febrile, the mutual feedback was lightening, the air almost crackling.  All grew in magnitude and magnificence throughout a game, played with style and sportsmanship.  By half time the score had become 12-5, due to Conor’s penalties and shortly after the break he made it 15-5.  Then on 51 minutes, Craig’s try was earned. After a period of pressure on the Naas line, the ball came back from Adam to Deano, facing an obdurate defensive wall, he glided slantwise, out of reach, and then straightened and held, almost in the grasp two Naasians, The ever bright Craig read the intent and used a venomous vector to get the precision ball from Conor. He skimmed between two, then swayed outside his marker and scored.  “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”. It was now 20-5 and it was swaying and swinging on the terraces, with thunderous Marys-Marys-Marys.  Soon there was more joy, now in top gear we continued to attack.  Adam made a break, then Conor took it on, then Craig made a slaloming run gave back to Conor and as he put a beautiful chip behind  the wall and Myles at full tilt tapped down behind the posts, Conor added two and it was 27-5.  Before the end we lost a little in intensity and Naas who had continued to push, got through twice to score and bring the final score to 27-17.  Templeville’s alive to the sounds of music, in the guise of (a mutilation of) our lovely tuneful anthem it was beautiful, in a dressing room that was wonderful chaos.

The Team

The synchronisation of the team, the variety of play and the strength and reliability of the set pieces were the slight differences that effected the outcome. This almost innate harmony of players went right through the team, from the commendable and impressive captain, Richard Halpin who had a top class game, with accurate throws, piercing bursts and notable defence, to the full back, dancing David Fanagan. Each player who adorned the pitch, did so with dedicated grace. The three props on duty were bundles of belligerent boulders, impassable and insuppressible. Dan Lyons is heroically brave and unyielding with a high work rate, Niall McEniff is so full of talent, he has the potential to be whatever he wants and he shows advancement with every game, and Michael McCormack is just the best AIL tighthead prop in all respects. Secondrow demands immense expenditure of energy and ergs in its primary function, however, the modern game demands much more.  The Marys’ secondrow today exceeded all demands. It again boasted-and rightly so, three mighty men, Liam Corcoran is now synonymous with our forward success.  He is comfortable with all challenges and has now the stature and skills to sweep them aside.  He was ably partnered by Peter Starrett and Daniel Leane in the first and second half. Peter has earned and held the respect of all who have played with him and all who have worked with him, for he is just a perfect teammate, he never flinches nor complains.  He just does everything he should and well, and all the time.  Not too many like him around.  Young Daniel is full of latent ability, He has yet to reach his full physical and skills development, but what and athlete he is, and an invaluable man to bring to the game.  The only worry is, he will suffer altitude sickness when he jumps.

The hardest part of assessment of a team is the backrow for along with the half backs it is probably the fulcrum of a team and the engine that decrees the rate and direction of the game.  Over many years these are the two platforms at which St Marys have excelled and often mined their successes. David Aspil is a natural Six, carved from rock and fed on hard graft rugby.  He never has a bad game and once again he was mighty today.  We are most fortunate in having several top rate Sevens.  The two on duty today were equally active and highly effective.  Niall Hurley directly back from injury was Perpetua-immobile. He put in a super shift and then when one might think, it could not be replicated, it was; young Joe Nolan, came on bristling with fire to carry on.  Both were terrific. When mentioning Eight, Ronan Watters, you can be sure you cannot be hyperbolic, he is just astrospheric and no description can do him justice.  And so he was today.

The other nerve centre of action and decision, half backs, was humming today.  Scrumhalf, Adam McEvoy, has been out, but he came back with composure and adventure. That game will profit him well as he continues his impressive development.

Conor Dean could easily grace any top professional setup. We are indeed fortunate that his Marys’ genesis holds him lovingly attached. He could scarcely have played better.  He was the core of the action and critical to the outcome. He makes time and space and has developed uncanny vison allied to masterful distribution.  Added strengths are defence and anticipation.  On top of all that, his kicking in all respects is immaculate.  He converted five penalties, none from facile positions, and converted one of two tries.  He was directly instrumental in both tries, and while the second involved special vision and skill, the first was immaculate, he read the situation precisely, it required titanium nerve, exquisite timing and skill. How could he be anything but the man to receive the SoftCo MoM Award.

Mick O’Gara and Myles Carey a pair of Exocet missiles, they were in nonstop action today attack and defence, splendid.  It has been a real bonus that Mick’s departure has been delayed, however it is disappointing for the lad and we hope he will get away soon; meanwhile we will gratefully take the benefit.

Tim McMahon is to be congratulated on his first start at AIL level.  He is very talented young man.  Usually a centre, he fitted in very smoothly on the wing today; he showed composure and confidence.

Craig Kennedy has developed into a high quality winger, although it was only his second game back after injury he was at his best, sharp and ambitious.  He made several telling interventions, scored a vivid try and was vitally involved in the other.

David Fanagan is another who has hit the top notes, he was secure under the ball and posed a potent threat any time he got the ball with potential gain. His defence is also safe. He showed his versatility in covering most effectively at scrumhalf, when Adam left the field for the last part of the game.

Out injured since before Christmas, it was a most welcome return to another player with bewildering feet, who is adventurous, skilful and fearless, Mark Fogarty.  He will have enjoyed the run out for the last ten, when he took over from David at fullback.

The rest of the squad of equal importance were there in support.  As indeed were vitally important head coach Steve along with Sean, Jamie, Paul, Also Paudge, Ruaidhri, Paul, Conor. Thank you all for the dedication.

That victory meant that we swapped places on the table with Naas.  Old Wesley also swapped with Highfield, who were beaten today.  So we are again third, with Wesley first and Highfield second. Naas and Shannon are close behind.

The joyous clubhouse

When things settled a little, the elated supporters climbed the steps and filled the bars and halls. There was a warmth and friendship between the rival supporters which is part of club rugby, and we all knew there were days and will be again of reverse results.  Nobody begrudged the sporting joy felt by Marys.  It has been a long time since ever present stalwarts had the chance to stand or sit and chat and wave and feel normality all together. Patsy and Des of course, Noel and Barney (causing mischief), luckily he was with Chairman, Springer to keep him in check. Greg and Marys great Denis Hickie.  Young newlywed Aaron (the iron man), Alberto on the move, Quinner, Kathy and Conor. Lorraine and Deano Snr, GMack, Frank and Joss (all proud parents).  Rynner, hoarse from Marys-Marys-Marys, with his friend, a wonderful supporter, Tony Flynn, who comes from Kinsale most weeks we have AIL to cheer the team and enjoy the sociability. There are not too many more dedicated than that.  We are glad you came Tony.

President Patrick was awash with smiles, as he and VP Gareth Roche sipped and chatted to Naas counterparts. Several past presidents were soaking it up, as Administrator Marie looked on benignly with Tony, having been working full out all day. We saw Pat O’Brien from Naas too.  He has done some important work for both clubs.   Harry and Mossy were there too of course, as were Prof Sheahan with his medical mates, who also give invaluable service to the club. Down below were the two squads munching a well-deserved morsel, with Podge organising the evening ahead, along with Sobby, Ryano and Mattie.  The Captain and the wounded Warrior were winding up for a big night, still with a mind to next week’s clash with Navan, in the Royal County.

You have had more than enough now.  Just remember:-‘Tis less than an hour from Dublin. So you had better be there, you are in the groove so keep it up’, if necessary get out the skate board or scooter or even the lawnmower, but get there. See you !

D O’Brien

Team (12 changes)

15 D Fanagan, 14 T McMahon , 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 C Kennedy, 10 C Dean, 9 A McEvoy, 8 R Watters, 7 N Hurley, 6 D Aspil, 5 L Corcoran, 4 P Starrett, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin (Capt.) 1 D Lyons, N McEniff, P Dundon, D Leane, J Nolan Fogarty, M Timmons.