1st XV v Shannon (H) 26.02.22

St Mary’s College RFC   V     Shannon RFC

18                                            25

Energia AIL Division 1B

Templeville Road

Saturday 26th February 2022


With a light southerly breeze blowing and clouds drifting overhead, there was almost an ethereal feel to the pre-match atmosphere.  As those clouds drifted in, drifting in too was Michael Corcoran (or as he one time was, the irrepressible Mickey the Fish). In filamentous threads of memory id, he could be seen robbing for ball from Paddy Kenny, then mighty Jemmo, jumping with Mick Galway, to engulf the throw in, and Babs looming up out of the scrum with his cherubic grin.  Memories now swelled of tremendous tussles and matches won and lost, friendships formed and broken flood.

Soon tranquillity descended, as the clubhouse disgorged its human content. Momentary sun touched the grass, and the flame of contest lit minds, though none could arrogate the outcome.

However, inside every head there was also profound sadness and malaise, as elsewhere on the eastern flank of Europe, a nation was being crushed and bullied; we could not forget that nor will we.

Our inspirational captain, Richard Halpin was out ill, however his influence galvanised the minds of his comrades.  Stephen (Sobby) O’Brien, standing in at hooker for Richie, showed appetite and ability. Ronan Watters who deputised as captain, showed once again how well suited he is to that role and on top of that, his contribution was phenomenal. His pace on to the ball, his pace with the ball and his fearless assaults and clever vectors on the defence were astral.  He was superb in the lineouts and his own defence and mustering of his men, were goluptious. He was awarded the SoftCo MoM Award.

Centrally important secondrow, Liam Corcoran, was impaired by a warm-up injury, but he bravely took the field.  After less than ten minutes Marys lost talented loosehead prop Niall McEniff.  Daniel Lyons came on and went toe to toe for the entire game onwards, well done Dan. Colm Reilly brings an urgency and clever perception of the game that is real bonus and again today he made a major contribution.

St Marys produced an admirable performance.  The difference between the teams today, was powerful weight. Shannon have a behemothic pack and used it to good advantage. This told at drives, scrums and mauls particularly. The home defence was mesmerising to watch and the application commendable for the entire match. The players and coaches can take great solace and pride from it. Two of Shannon’s tries were the results of powerful mauls and the third was genuinely fortuitous.  That said we might have threatened the Shannon line more often.  The two St Marys’ tries were beautifully timed and effected intercepts.

We saw again today that to stay with much heavier powerful units, a team must move the ball wide rapidly, cleverly, punitively, and often. It is clear too that playing on a heavy pitch against a powerful team is very wearing and that kicking is a strategic weapon that requires clear, lightening thought and restrained, judicious use.

We have slipped to fifth with 41 points, behind Shannon fourth, 42, and Naas third, 45.  Highfield have 47 and Old Wesley, 59. That bonus point today may prove critical. We well have the ability and opportunity to end in the top four and beyond.  We have Armagh, Banbridge, Old Wesley and Highfield to play. Shannon are well positioned to make the play-offs too, although it is always wise to recall the old adage, many a slip twixt the cup and the lip…. Naas have to play Old Wesley, Highfield, Malone and Old Belvedere, although they have a four point cushion on us. Highfield have six on us, but also have a testing series ahead. So an exciting time ahead; good for the game if not the nerves.

It is hoped to have Skipper, Richie back and possibly wonder winger, Hugo Conway, also the Warrior Nick McCarthy.  Niall McEniff should be fine too and possibly even Tommer O’Reilly.

I know it is a bit of a broken record, but it is so important to emphasise your importance. Yes you.  Armagh is not too distant.  It will be a tough match and we really do need you there, grab your pals and share a car, go on the bus and really have a travelling party, but get there. The team deserve our committed support and remember our saviour-coach over so many years, Steven Hennessy, is finishing field coaching at the end of the season, and we certainly owe him riveted-on support, above all other factors.

The game

Marys started fast, playing down towards the Templeville Road, and moving the ball with intent and pace.  With only five minutes up Conor Dean made it 3-0 when he struck a long range penalty with accuracy. We continued the high paced game and the pressure told when a Shannon pass was read beautifully, and on a perfect vector it was picked off by Conor Dean and he showed his super acceleration and speed as he flew over 35 metres and whizzed over under the posts.  He converted on 13 minutes, 10-0. It was a real plus when Mattie Timmons repeated the feat perfectly and made it over, only two minutes later.  15-0. On 19 minutes Shannon got a penalty back 15-3.  Conor made it 18-3 with another penalty on 33 minutes. This was excellent and those with pacemakers and Valium were breathing nicely. However, a penalty and lineout take on 44 minutes, led to a mauled try by Shannon using that big pack to good effect; it was 18-8 at half time.

The second half was only seven minutes gone when Shannon got a second mauled try in the same manner as the first.  It was converted from the edge by their fine outhalf, Jake Flannery 18-17. Marys kept the pace on the game, although it was clear the far heavier weight of the Shannon pack was causing problems in the tight and breakdown.  67 minutes saw Shannon add a penalty to go ahead for the first time in the game. 18-20. As the game went into the last few minutes and St Marys were trying desperately to get close enough with possession to either get across the line or a penalty, a breakaway move and kick ahead on 82 minutes, saw a favourable bounce give Shannon a try.  The conversion would have meant our losing a losing bonus point.  Fortunately however, the conversion was wide and we held on to what might be a sweet point. Of course there was great disappointment but, being a game and every player on the team having played with flair and total commitment, there was graceful acceptance and optimism that  there will be good things to come.

Sean Cronin

Sean Cronin, who has been coaching with Steve this season and has been anointed by him, has agreed to take on the role of Head Coach at St Mary’s College RFC next season.  Congratulations to him and to DoR, Alan Shirley and him, for a successful negotiation and agreement.  He will be most welcome, and is a top-class acquisition for the club.  Every member of the club welcomes him and all active in rugby will support him wholeheartedly.  We will get a chance to acknowledge the absolutely incomparable work of Steve over many years now, at the end of the season.

To mark this and the fact that Sean has been a designated playing member of our club for several years now, [as assigned to us by Leinster Rugby], after the game his name and photograph were placed on the wall gallery of our international players, by the president, Patrick Crawford. Patrick introduced him and then Niall (Rynner) Rynne, agreed (reluctantly!!!!) to give a short biography of Sean and hold a Q & A session with Sean.  It was very good to see Sean’s wife Claire and also his dad there in support. It was ironic that it was today, when his old club Shannon came to visit.

Rynner pointed out the excellence of Sean’s abilities and successes over many years as a professional rugby player in Munster, Connacht and, latterly for 11 years, Leinster and Ireland.  The two showed a natural rapport and wit, so the interaction was informative and most enjoyable for the full attendance. Sean told of how he got the nickname Nugget when he came to Leinster and grew to hate it for a while.  He then answered questions, when many amusing interchanges occurred. The President wondered would he consider putting on the white starred blue jersey, and club legend Declan Fanning, wondered from whom Sean had received the most memorable punch during his career sic.

Big thanks to Rynner and Sean and of course we all wish him great success and a long and enjoyable spell with St Marys.

Come on then, give Richie a Halpin hand.

D O’Brien

Team (12 changes)

15 M Fogarty, 14 M Timmons, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 C Kennedy, 10 C Dean, 9 C Reilly, 8 R Watters Capt), 7 N Hurley, 6 D Aspil, 5 L Corcoran, 4 D Leane, 3 M McCormack, 2 S O’Brien, 1 N McEniff. D Lyons, P Starrett, C Corcoran, R O’Loughlin A O’Neill, P Dundon,