Terenure College RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
AIL Division 1 A
Saturday 29th October 2016.
A lunch for over 700 in impressive surroundings, before a fiercely competitive joust between two sides, sounds more like Trump V Clinton than an AIL match between Terenure RFC and St Mary’s College RFC. This prelude sharpened the senses before the game and so, on a wonderfully gentle autumn day, the scene was perfectly set. The last visit in AIL Division 1A was in March 2014, we had not forgotten that on that day we came off second best by 41 – 24. It is interesting, that in less than two years, only five St Marys’ players who played that day, lined out today, three in the forwards and two in the backs.
Oh, this was a treasure, a little gem, to be kept in a special box in the mind and taken out when in need of a boost. It is never easy when playing Terenure and that is to their greatest credit; this was again the case today. It was a sparkler of a game fought hand to hand in the most competitive, fiercest, but fairest fashion and it defined Jamie’s and Peter’s team for the future. A team it is, that will never lie down, a team that has courage, adventure, skill, one that shares its existence in a beautiful bond of partnership, locked together by a captain, who leads and trusts; Brian (McGov) McGovern.
The air crackled with energised particles of joy, hope, fear tremble, ululation and jubilation. Long may we feel it.
Of course, the delivery was not perfect. The lineout was a real worry, especially in the first half, and, although we had a clearly dominant scrum, indiscernibly, we incurred the wrath of the referee at the scrum on a number of occasions, once leading to a try against us. We also had a few holes in midfield cover, that caused some worry, but overall the defence was adamantine. The support play was a feature, and a factor in our win. Offloads and continuous, cyclical support play is essential to breaking defences in the modern game; and our coaches are developing this aspect admirably.
There is one difficulty, when there is a great overall performance, all have fired in harmony and ferocity, and all have left us agog, mentioning individuals. The backs were excellent, all of them, and it was the backs that won the game. The forwards were also excellent and it was their persistence, bravery and determination that made it possible for the backs to win it. However, it would be a cowardly disservice not to pay tribute to a few outstanding performances. This game was a treasure. We have a personal treasure in Jordan Larmour, the young man, extolled after the TCD game. Well, this lad is full of everything good, he has pace, power, balance, sharp brain, hunger and work culture. His anticipation and spatial awareness in attack and defence are particularly valuable assets. He was ever vigilant he made several invaluable breaks, covered judiciously, scored a try and had to be my SoftCo MoM. Our very involved main sponsor, SoftCo, has generously added a handsome award for the selected Softco MoM in each AIL game for the rest of the season; and today, Jamie presented the award to Jordan after the game to acclamation.
The sheer exuberant rugby ability, flashing feet and adventure of David Fanagan at full back added so much value to the game, not to mention his very well taken try. He showed strong defence and anticipation. With him in the tumultuous assault on the Nure defence, the scintillating Terry Kennedy was a continuous threat and tireless outrider. The first start for young Conor Dean (Deano Mk2) at outhalf, under most trying circumstances, was remarkable. Coolly he delivered artfully, rode close to the line, and when he settled he probed and poked and soon was running the show. Sean (sadly out injured), looking on, was most impressed and happy for him; and how proudly did mum and dad survey the scene. Paddy O’Driscoll kept a fine protective balance for Conor, kicking deftly and delivering accurately. Outside him, he had old heads (they must be 22 or even 23 now!) in Ryano and Paddy Lavelle, supporting and delivering beautifully in their own right.
Yes, the backs did the scoring, but how hard and unrelenting did the forwards work, on this enchanting day. They gave away kilos, and although outweighed, in grind and grit they were peerless. The speed they put on open play was key, as was the work of the backrow. Marvellous to see, the concentrated work of returning David (Doc) O’Connor, and David Aspil back to his international best as he flew around in disruptive and eruptive mode; both well backed up by Nick McCarthy.
We were fortunate also to see Cathal O’Flaherty and clever and consistent Ciaran Ruddock putting in a truly significant shift at second row; the soul of the pack.
Without a front row of quality a game is all but lost and in modern rugby a front row is full of skill, and granite, with most valued swashbucklers. That our captain McGov is a prop adds to his status as a leader, his ability and durability are vital to our success, he was splendid today and a major influence on the game. Tom (Tommer) O’Reilly the loosehead and the most popular of players, was outstanding today. His work, much unseen was unrelenting. Not only was his scrummaging and carrying potent and his defence untarnished, his work behind the scenes was invaluable. At the back of the lineout on a number of occasions his alert reactions were brilliant. One such occasion, a loose ball was snared redirected and led to the first try. A mighty man. Richard Halpin standing in for the commendable Hugo Kean, out hamstrung, never stopped trying and showed strong defence and desire to take on ball.
It would be most unfair not to do two things, one give just credit to the Terenure team and two, to give even more to our replacement players and vital part they played.
Terenure, for as long as anyone in our club can remember, has always presented a voracious will to win and a spirit that never dies no matter what the odds or the score. These qualities ensure lunches for 700 without Trump or Clinton are possible and games between our two great clubs will always flourish, engender fierce emotion, friendships and rivalries that persist for lifetimes. Today, the rivalry was as strong as ever and the teams as well matched as the result shows. Nure have a fine team and will come to Templeville Road in March knowing that this year’s test couplet is only half over. Then, maybe, we can have another pre match, 700 places, lunch.
As to the replacements, today, they played a crucial role, each one of them. The added energy and zest inspired. In particular, Hugh Kellegher was one, startling in his energised contribution, Stephen (Sobby) O’Brien loved the intensity and Darren Moroney the hard paced carrying; it was good to see Conor Hogan getting back into harness and as ever the reassurance of having Emmett Ferron on the blocks is always a big bonus.
After a respectful silence, in memory of Anthony Foley, the game kicked off. This was a match that floated the imagination and with its progress it soared. It started a little tentative with both sides kicking to each other and both sides knocking on with the fever of the minute, but as it progressed so did the intent, on and off the pitch, as a section of the crowd good naturedly questioned our team’s sex, by chant. On 16 minutes Marys were enigmatically penalised at the scrum, Terenure chose the corner and from a good lineout the ball went out to midfield where a gap was found, O’Neill went through and Nure were seven points to the good. Marys started to raise the pace of the game and it was good to watch as both teams played with style. On 35 minutes, Terenure received a yellow card for going off the feet at a ruck. We kicked to the corner from the penalty, Tommer alertly retrieved the loose ball at the back of the lineout. The ball was swept out, Jordan made inroads and then a lovely ball saw the fleet footed David Fanagan speed in, on a perfect vector, to score. And it was 7 – 5. That was the score at half time.
The second half continued at the closely contested skilful rate and both teams probed and the game throbbed. On 54 minutes Nure added a penalty, 10 – 5. This was the signal for McGov to rev his team into turbo mode. It was 66 minutes, when pressing Marys got a penalty, it was driven to the corner, the lineout was good, the pack set into maul mode and swayed forward, metre by metre, the backs joined, the maul meandered a bit, steadied and drove on; alert Terry Kennedy was on hand to dive over and it was 10 – 12, after a super conversion by Conor Dean. Nure responded and assailed our defence which held brilliantly, then a penalty was awarded to the home side and from distance Swaine scored we were behind, 13 – 12 with seven minutes to go; action stations alert. What a response by the visitors, they were not going to beaten, the ghosts and spirits of long fallen Marys’ heroes of old, infused the team as it streamed forward, holding the ball, swinging it out, driving it on, guarding it. Then it went right to left, through hands to hands, those of Jordan and he was not going to be stopped as he stepped and powered over in the very corner. Was it to be salvation? There were a few minutes left and true to their tradition, Nure came hunting, they squeezed out two penalties both to the corner and both repelled after a fierce onslaught. Oh’ sublime relief, the whistle, the end, 13 – 17. The Marys’ team and supporters were letabund. Even the air seemed to dance with joy, and this was a rugby match.
Next week we face Young Munster at home and this will be a different challenge, ultra-physical, but after today we can surmount that challenge, if we use our confidence and spirit gained today and are able use our pace and backline to its full extent; with the support play, now part of the system. Remember support is vital and especially when we have now won our three away games, and lost our two home games. We must win this one. You are cordially invited. Regrets only.
Team (including rolling replacements) 15 D Fanagan, 14 T Kennedy, 13 P Lavelle,12 R O’Loughlin, 11 J Larmour, 10 C Dean, 9 P O’Driscoll; 8 N McCarthy, 7 D Aspil, 6 , 5 C O’Flaherty, 4 C Ruddock, 3 B McGovern (Capt), 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, E Ferron, H Kellegher, D Moroney, C Hogan.