St Mary’s College RFC V Highfield RFC
Energia AIL Division 1B
Saturday 11th November 2023.
Superlatives lose influence if too often used, sometimeshowever, like today, even superlatives seem puny. This was a pyrotechnic, pancratic, performance that was redolent of the 123 year history and core mission of St Mary’s College RFC. That is, of an adventurous, sporting, rapid, running game. Today showed a team, led by an exceptional, natural born leader, Ronan, and populated by happy and inspired rugby men. The excellence and joy of the players suffused the substantial numbers of supporters, to near euphoria.
The last time Highfield visited us was January 2023. The previous five times we had played, Highfield were the victors and were in close second place to St Marys coming into the game. However, even before they arrived today it seemed unlikely that we would lose by 20 points this time, although few would be keen to vaticinate the outcome, and fewer be dismissive of Highfield in their aspirations.
Highfield produced a big team with strong set pieces and mauls. They kicked well and worked doggedly to the end. They may not have been at their best but were honourable, strong opponents. From the start St Marys were effervescent in their play. There is little anyone could fault in the home side’s performance or diligence. However, once more there were too many penalties conceded, which was to the particular advantage of the visitors, for their strongest suit was, the maul, with added picks and drives.
Not only did the entire Marys’ panel excel, but the performances of so many individuals were stratospheric and deserved citation. Although it was excruciatingly difficult to exclude many players, one player, Conor (Deano) Dean, was key to so many good things, the source of stimulus to many productive moves and plays and had to be selected for the SoftCo MoM Award. He had a spectacular game. His kicking and passing were outstanding, his attitude to the gain line was impudent and so his probing made space for his backline and also led to a delicious individual try. His distribution was a pleasure to see and all around him soared.
After a guard of honour for the teams from 80 super mini rugby players and a sad and respectful minute’s silence for all our members who died, or lost family members over the past few weeks, the game kicked off on a bright sunny day and ten degrees. The pitch was a little soft but very playable, thanks to the hard work of Peter O’Kelly.
There was a shiver of excitement from the kick off, and it started at real pace. It was only three minutes gone, whensuper active, Mark Fogarty, following up a kick ahead won a penalty and Mick O’Gara opened the score, 3-0. Five minutes later Highfield won a penalty to the corner and mauled,showing their power, and on a retake for pulling down, they scored in the Cabbage Patch corner. 3-7. The home side really put the pace on and the pressure told, as Highfield gave a way a penalty and after the lineout, when he ball came to Deano he put a dainty chip over the defence and into Carvill Corner, Conor Hayes who had a coruscating game, beat the cover to retrieve and then round them at pace going in behind the posts. Super, 10-7 on 12 minutes. Now it was looking more comfortable and the fair sized crowd was becoming animated. You could feel the elation. On 15 minutes, Daniel Leane took a kick ahead near half way and fed it out. Deano again used his magic with a superb long pass to Steve, who fed Mark and he made ground then fed Steve again, who put on the turbo, to zoom over in the gate corner, 15-7. On 19 minutes, aHighfield penalty made it 15-10.
Marys hit back almost immediately (20 minutes) with a stunning try set off by the halves. Then near halfway, Mark fed Steve, he then fed dynamic Daniel and he ran like a winger beating two men on the outside, before turning cleverly to dummy inside and feed Ben on the outside, who like the admirable backrower he is, shadowed play all the way and was there to go over in the Gate Corner again. Beautiful, the terrace was hopping, the sun shining and what could be better, 22-10. Again, it was only two minutes later, Conor Hayes fielded a ball just outside his 22, (on 22 minutes), and he dazzled a hoard of defenders, he slalomed through the entire defence to the last one near the line. He had Electric Ethan up to feed, and Ethan scored under the posts. 29-10Truly breath-taking!
It was 35 minutes and Highfield used a penalty to kick to corner and maul, then picks and drives and a try 29-17.
Forty minutes were gone, ever busy, lightening Leandro from defence, made ground once more then, when Conor Hayes kicked a 50/22 from the ensuing lineout the exemplary, Mick O’Gara was fed the ball and he went through the cover at power-pack pace, and over, close in. 36-17. The half ended that way.
The second half commenced with the same verve and on 44 minutes the ball came to Deano just on the Highfield 22, and he dummied, then swayed through a bunch of defenders to go over under the posts. 43-17. It could hardly be better for the home team. Then on 60 minutes, a series of picks and drives on the Highfield line saw a change with the ball sent out to Deano and he saw Conor Lurking, put a measured kick, Conor said thank you Conor, and scampered over in the Cabbage Patch corner. Then Mick converted from the edge,50-17. What an invaluable player is Mick who contributed 20 points and a superb performance. Highfield got another close-in try and it was 50-22 on 75 minutes. The game was now slower, and it suited Highfield who got another close-in try 50-29, but on 83 minutes Myles Carey skinned the defence out wide and flew in for a lovely try in the Well Corner, 55-29. Game over.
We have to accept that, as with the professional game, the amateur game is a squad game not now a 15 player game; It is now planned and gauged technically by use of 21 (AIL) players with 12 player exchanges during a game.
Our six players today, made important contributions to the game and one, Cameron Stewart made his AIL debut for us today, congratulations to him. Leroy Jack, has been most unfortunate with injury and other setbacks; however his abilities are immense and when he gets a run he will be a major asset. He has to keep positive, he has great goodwill from all.
The bars were abuzz, smiles and joy abounded. Hugs were the currency, as the game was relived and enjoyed anew. President Bobby did his benign Bobby Beam and sipped his coffee. He was as ever, gracious as he chatted with his guests from Highfield. They were disappointed but also gracious and all knew it would be a different challenge when we visit them in Cork. Mossy and Rebecca were in conversion and Quinner and Spike shared a joke. Big Brian and Laura Watters, Paul and Lorraine Dean and Milo Carey had many smiles. Parents of players are highly regarded by the club. It was particularly good to see Jamie’s and Ben’s families over for the match,they were most affable and super company; we look forward to seeing them often. Maybe Ben and Jamie will go into the Rugby Tourism business!!!! Big Leroy also had his charming girlfriend along. Robin Bailey was enjoying a chat with Stephen Shirley. Paudge McGill showed his growing familiarity and pleasure with his VP role as chatted amiably with former president, Kevin Conboy.
In the dressing rooms too there was an air of joy but also respect for their adversaries. This is a really important stage and great credit must go to Ronan and the squad for their hard work. It is a long way from done, but it is a time to reflect. For so much credit must go to Sean, Mark, Jamie, and Marcus, also management, Paul Pender, Conor O’Neill andPaul Conlon. It is also a credit to Alan Shirley and Smythy and their Rugby Council, and of course the President; all of whom have invested much and worked hard to muster and nurture the squad and wider club rugby.
The Shay Deering Trophy
Next Saturday we go to Dooradoyle and face an old rivals, Garryowen for the Shay Deering Trophy (Bust). (You can read about Shay and the Trophy on the website).
Just to recall, that Shay or Deero, was one of our truly great players who played for St Marys, UCD and Garryowen and of course Ireland. However, it was St Marys where he played longest and where started and finished his career. He had the spirit and heart of a Lion. A big athletic man, he was highly skilled, motivated, loyal and a perfect sportsman. He was a model Backrow forward He was also one of the kindest gentlemen ever part of our club. He was admired throughout the rugby world. Very sadly he died far too young.
Each time we are both in the same league division we play Garryowen for the trophy. If, as there is now, two games each season, we came to an agreement that we play for the trophy once only, that is on the first occasion; a draw mean the holders retain the trophy. Therefore, next Saturday has much added meaning, and we need a really big group of supporters to travel. They are always formidable opponents with special rivalry stirring. We really do need everyone down, shouting and cheering all game.
Come on and Roar on Ronan.
15 C Hayes, 14, L Ramirez, 13 M Fogarty, 12 M O’Gara, 11 S Kilgallen, 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 J Reidy-Walsh, J Nelson-Murray, C Stewart, LJack, I Wickham M Carey, D Sancery, H Conway, K Quinn.