Naas RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
Energia AIL Division 1B.
4th November 2023
Over the past two weeks our club has been in emotional turmoil with the deaths of so many St Marys’ members or associates; and this was particularly so for the squad, as Mark Fogarty the son of Patsy, is such an important and cared for part of it. The response of Captain Ronan and his players, has been truly phenomenal and indicates the character of all the group. They, to a man, have been with Mark at every stage. Their support for him has been a beacon for all Patsy’s family and closest friends, and was just tribute to Patsy himself. Also a measure of Mark’s own outstanding character was his behaviour throughout and that he turned out today for his teammates and in memory of his dad and gave his usual high energy, high quality performance.
This is a substantial team in all respects, it has depth and strength right through. It is not a team that is going to fade as the season progresses, nor will it have anything but appetite for each game and fear for none. There is an outstanding captain, with support leaders throughout. Today also showed that it is a true team, one where every player can excel together. That is what makes a successful team. That is not to say that there are not areas in need of some improvement. The first half, Marys looked considerably ahead of a Naas team never short of endeavour and determination, but one that does not at present appear quite as well equipped as the last few seasons. However, that clear superiority was not translated into scores and a few opportunities were missed. There were also a few miscues in the lineout and scrum, which will be sorted out. In the second half, Naas improved markedly and posed some hard questions. That was when a signal defensive performance was effected by the visitors. Not a gap not a slip, not a hesitancy. It was like synchronised swimming and across the whole width. But it was also hard, it was brave, it was granite, it was adamantine, it was vicelike it was also everyone; and it was gasping. The backrow is working so well now that there was hardly a ball lost at the tackle and the recycled ball was fast. They are esurient and totally symbiotic in their work. Seldom will one come across three backrowers, each perfect for their position. Indeed, overall this team has fused to fruition.
As noted above, the team was a true team today with not one below standard. There are positions in rugby that entail enormous amount of sapping, unseen work especially the front five. Today as one watched Liam Corcoran, you could see an altruistic performance, from start to end. In mauls his effort was supreme, you could almost see every fibril flexing, as he edged his pack along. He was hungry for work, carrying with skill and intent, and launching himself in the lineouts. He got through a heavy schedule and never flagged; a team man in a team performance, he added that little edge. He certainly earned his SoftCo MoM Award.
St Marys were fairly well in control over the first half, but with the spirit and heart of Naas, if chances were wasted they could have been seriously regretted later on. Indeed there were opportunities passed, but then some were taken too. After 16 minutes Mick O’Gara who has been playing and kicking really well, converted a fine penalty 0-3 (He received a minor injury, later). Marys continued to attack and on 26 minutes, after a series of picks and goes, a quick penalty gave another chance and when stopped on the line; indispensable, Mighty Mick McCormack, who is always rapacious for work, decided okay, and he drove himself over the line to register a deserved try. 0-8.
It was 38 minutes and Marys got a penalty which was taken to the corner for a lineout and maul. It was well delivered and Jamie Harding who has integrated perfectly and who has been playing with real zeal, controlled and ball and timed his dive over. It meant St Marys went in at Half Time, at 0-13.
The second half saw a big step up from Naas, and they competed well. However, a high tackle on our 10 M line allowed Conor Dean, who had a top class game, launch a mighty kick to the corner, for a lineout. Then a maul ensued and this time Ben Taylor went blind off the back to score out wide. No one deserved it more, for his work rate, in true blindside fashion, is phenomenal. He has been another great addition to the team, and is very popular young man. The score was now 0-20.
Naas increased their pace and on 68 minutes after a bombardment of the Marys line they were awarded and took a penalty close in, to score a try, 7-20. As time was running out, 78 minutes, we got back to top gear and after broken play in the Naas 22, a ball was whipped out by Adam McEvoy to Deano who sent a sensational pass, left to right, out to the wing, who was lurking with intent, but Ethan Baxter, who had seen every inch of the pitch in a marvellous marauding performance. He skittled the defence as he went over for a brilliant try and a bonus point. Superb. 7-25. Naas were defiant and came back with spirit and scored a fine try under the posts. It finished 14-25.
A final point must be added, in the second half, the bench came on and had significant and beneficial effect on the game. It is good to see Leroy Jack, getting back after being out for past two weeks.
There was a good response by supporters, as fair numbers travelled down. There was a warmth of welcome from President, Paula Laffan and all the Naas membership. The area in front of the clubhouse and dressing rooms is a promenade, where supporters meet and chat. It was lovely to see the genuinely great Jimmy Kelly (former Marys, UCD and Captain of Ireland), there, and he was impressed by the quality of the St Marys team as were all there. Tom Doddy and Brian McLaughlin were there, as were Spike and Liam Birkett and Louis McMullan, Colin Potts and family, Declan Coleman and Declan Fanning, Robin Bailey, Tony Burke-Moran, Mick the Medium, Kevin Conboy with John Pyne (without his brother Sylveste). Many players’ parents were there; Milo Carey to watch sons, both Myles and later Owen. He and President emeritus Gareth, along with VP Paudge McGill, were chatting away and as ever it was a pleasure to meet gregarious Brian and Laura Watters. The fact that the J1 match was on after the senior game was an added draw, although it was felt by many that if kick off had been 4.30 instead of 5.00, more would have remained to see, what turned out to be another excellent performance by the J1s, led by fine backrower Joe Nolan and with many up and coming players like and Conor Pierce and Conor Corcoran, Ian Wickham and a sharp backline led by Senan Phelan and centres Max Svejdar and Peter Ford.
President Bobby and his cohorts, must have felt almost overwhelmed with joy over a palmerian weekend of rugby for their club. Since Friday’s impressive win for the U20s over UCD, it has been like a landslide election results sequence, with team after team winning in league games in impressive fashion, including today’s senior team and J1’s bonus point wins for both. Well done to all concerned.
We learned with disappointment that Sean Cronin will be soon relinquishing his post. It is also sad for Sean as he has been very happy at St Marys and is greatly admired. Sean has worked diligently and highly successfully to recruit players, fitted to the St Marys system. He has formed a close and fruitful partnership with his fellow coaches and the team management, as he does with the DoR. All of this shows in the results. Although there is sadness at his going there is nothing but the warmest of wishes for Sean and his future. He has been appointed to a prime position in the IRFU in Limerick, his home town. It is a role any young coach would crave and the club is very happy for Sean and grateful for all he has done. He unfailingly made the arduous commute from Limerick to St Marys in Dublin at least three times a week. He will be now able to spend more time with his young family. We hope he will stay in contact for the future.
Next week we host Highfield (14 points) who are second on the table, behind us (20 points) by six points. They have proven to be difficult opponents and we must have our best game to prevail. At this stage we will have confidence, as we should, but also have respect for our opponents. It all means you are needed, so make sure you come up and lend your voice and will power to propel our team forward.
Come up and Roar on Ronan.
15 S Kilgallen, 14 L Ramirez, 13 M Fogarty, 12 M O’Gara, 11 D Sancery, 10 C Dean, 9 A McEvoy, 8 R Watters, 7 E Baxter, 6 B Taylor, 5 L Corcoran, 4 D Leane, 3 M McCormack, 2 J Harding, 1. T O’Reilly. J Nelson-Murray, J Reidy-Walsh, L Jack, I Wickham, M Carey, C Hayes, R Fahy, J Nolan.