St Mary’s College RFC V Old Belvedere RFC

St Mary’s College RFC V Old Belvedere RFC

34                                27

Energia AIL Division 1 B

Templeville Road

2nd December 2023


Gary Croke and his colleagues, who are doing such important and time consuming  work for their club, manning the gates every AIL match, were there as usual as one entered.  The lines of cars, the echoes of practice calls, the sharp, cold, calm mist at 2 degrees, and the bustle of preparation, all built into the feel for this match. The warming pre-Christmas anticipation and the smiling faces of friendly foes and their persiflage, as they swelled the numbers; all lent to occasion. Memories were roused of the last time Belvo visited, April 2023, and left, 21-32 victors. But 30 points from six games now, and the 13 games it took last season to amass 30 points, trumped it. The home team has since had a palingenesis of near perfection.  However, one thing all knew, no matter what, it would be a herculean joust. These matches have become excellent exhibitions of fair play and sportsmanship and a concatenation of skills and effort in resolution.

Courage, confidence and concentration was eventually to decide the match in the last play.  In a match of such celestial intensity and competitiveness, it was clear it would be afflatus at end game that would be decisive.

This match was a memory marker, a day of tumultuous club rugby an advertisement for our game and a binder for our two clubs. The response of the Belvederians playing and non-playing, to what for them, was a sudden jolting result, spoke highly of their character and demands respect. Both clubs will profit in the future.


There was little to separate the two teams and our visitors were well equipped with a big, yet mobile pack, an outstanding pair of halves and centres and a high class back three. Their Nine, Peter O’Beirne, son of senior IRFU man Tony, was excellent and scored a fine try. The Belvo Ten, David Wilkinson, also had fine game. In the pack their second rower, Fionn McWey stood out in the lineout and with constant hard carries.

This was a game in which, if any player on either side, had had an off day, it would have been costly. We were lucky, none had, and what has been remarked here before, the depth in this squad is such that each judicious change made during a game adds to the performance rather than subtracts. Having depth in a squad is essential to success in modern rugby.  Having leaders too is vital.  Ronan Watters has now proven many times over that he is one of our great club captains and leaders.  He engenders loyalty, passion and courage.  He makes good decisions and leads from the front.   Today he was a conflagration of energy, skill and ability.  He scored a pivotal try and, later with Conor Dean, their final decision of the game changed the result from draw/loss to dramatic and uplifting win.

The pack had to work harder today than any other so far, such was the opposition, and work they did. The power of the pack is the front row, and they are unrelenting. Mighty Mick McCormack at tighthead, played a full 85 minutes today and was the bedrock of the performance, at times scrummaging, again rucking, then as a Rampaging Rhino, and again a brick wall in defence.  Another has to be given special mention, Ben Taylor. If you look at every facet of the game, and the outcome therefrom, it is hard to take your attention away from Ben Taylor. At club level, Six, is one of the most demanding positions. One needs a JCB engine, a rocket booster, and an unflagging and pragmatic spirit, and must cover every move afar and close in, often with little reward.  A Six has to carry, and to tackle close in incessantly; and have one’s head buried in rucks and mauls and pile-ups too. Ben did all that today and was active at lineouts too, he never dropped concentration or intensity.  He deserved to receive the SoftCo MoM Award.

Our backline was altogether superb, and Ten, Conor Dean, was extraordinarily good today. His performances this season, are noticed with envy throughout club rugby. He is decisive, he is confident, is relaxed and energised, his hands are anointed and made to pass with beauty, he keeps defences bewildered and some of his kicking is astonishingly good.

The Game

From start to finish this game demanded attention and was breathless.  Near the end the players were gasping for breath and near the end the supporters were equally breathless. The set pieces were fiercely competed and even. As the game went on our scrum was in command and our backrow were excelling, but there was never much in it either way. Competition for the ball at the breakdown was intriguing.

After 12 minutes, the marvellous Mick O’Gara hit a long penalty towards the Cabbage Patch end and it was 3-0.  A few minutes afterwards we were hit with a bombshell on the left wing, when the Belvo star left winger Ariel Robles picked up a diagonal kick ahead and skipped through and scored close in at the Templeville Road end and it was 3-7.  And just under 20 minutes, Marys got a real wake-up call, with fine individual try from scrumhalf Peter O’Beirne, 3-14.  The home support were somewhat perplexed. A short while later, unfortunately, Marys’ Secondrow Big Liam Corcoran who has been playing superbly, had to go off.  Leroy Jack came on.  Leroy has been settling in and today he showed his enormous abilities and was crushing in attack and defence, was efficient in lineout and made a most valuable contribution.  We will see a lot more of him in the second row and back row, no doubt.

Ronan’s troops then buckled on the Kevlar vests, and worked. It was on 26 minutes a lineout in the Gate Corner and a strong maul gave shrewd and hard-working hooker, Jamie Harding the opportunity to grind his way over in the Well Corner, Mick did the honours and it was 10-14.  That was how it finished that half.

The second half was five minutes old when Belvo added a penalty, 10-17.  Marys really were working now and probing with innovation and intent.  On 51 minutes, a penalty and a maul for the home side led to Leroy breaking off and powering over the line and 17-17.  Were we closing in?  Well no, not then anyway, as three minutes later a fine cross kick was well gathered in the Cabbage Patch Corner, and  gave Belvo the lead again, 17-24. This was becoming worrisome. We needed something soon and who better than super skipper Ronan, who directly from a lineout took a beautifully timed ball, arced around and smashed through the cover in Carvill Corner, to build belief again.  We were now 22-24. It was 63 minutes, when it seemed wisely Belvo took a penalty to make it 22-27.  Were they creeping away?  There was real power in play now. On 71 minutes, Exocet-Ethan Baxter who had been his usual outstanding self, got a bad knock and had to retire. Ian Wickham who has immense potential came on to add to young Jack Reidy Walsh, Myles Carey and Jack Nelson Murray who were already giving much to the battle.  With 37 minutes on the clock, hurtling Hugo Conway gave hope with a super snipe into the Gate Corner after a scrum and a superb pass from Deano coming blind; and made it 27-27.  There was a sigh of relief. Most were happy with the hope of a draw.  Belvo put on pressure and we were soon defending and it the clock was in the red.  On 84 minutes Belvo were in the Marys 22 on attack. Our defence, as it was all game, was impressive and impregnable, but could it hold?  Belvo lost the ball forward, we had a scrum; one last play. The wise ones said hold it, play it safe and put it out.  It would be madness to do anything else.  Well would it now? The scrum was strong. It was imperceptibly, but almost glance-less the Skipper and Deano exchanged a vision, a vote of confidence, of belief and ambition. There was a chill, and almost roaring hush.  The ball came out, Adam to Deano on the blind, Deano swivelled, dummied and whoosh he was gone, it was held up on the touchline then off it went again and Deano zoomed in and out, the ball swept across, back, over and back, pass after pass, every man involved, into the Belvo half; touchline to touchline. Tackles rained in, players leaving a stream of steam in the cold air, there were bodies on the ground.  Pass after pass, ruck, back, the ball went left to right it was now tight on the touchline, it came to Leandro (Zip). He soon may be Leandro the Legend-ro.  He was like mini Tornado, his feet flashed in a mesmerising   meander, he twisted from hands and tore through tackle and dived through grasps, in at Carvill Corner.  Incredibly it was, yes it was, it was a try and Mick added two. 34-27.This was without doubt one of the great team tries, exhilarating; a reminder of the 1973 Barbarians super, Gareth Edwards try. Whew!

The terrace erupted, Marys-Marys-Marys, on and on. Seldom has Templeville experienced such emotion and joy. It was not an exultant cheer, it was joyous but respectful too of a well matched rival, who would be even better next time. The players in exhausted delirium, sat in the dressing room. The wonderful coaching and management members, who had done so much to help make all this happen, were mingling with their players.  Mark McHugh and Paul Pender were in a dignified state of elation while Jamie Cornett and Marcus O’Driscoll were in happy chats with the players, as were Paul Conlon and Ian Bloomer. RC’s both Shirleys, Alan and Stephen, Eoin Quinn (LB.Rep) and Kevin Conboy were all there.

Outside many of the players’ parents were chatting happily, Brian and Laura Watters, Paul and Lorraine Dean, Milo Carey and the Corcoran family, Tommer’s Mum, G-Mack, Arthur McEvoy, and the Hayes family, all in proud delight


Entering the crammed clubhouse, a sensation of energy, of warmth, enveloped one. There were emotional hugs and smiles everywhere and a few full glasses (Tony and his staff were working smoothly and full out).  Club Administrator, Gillian was smilingly gliding through the melee, with cocktail sausages and hors d’oeuvres for everyone. There were people who hadn’t been on a rugby field for forty years being congratulated. There were Marys and Belvos everywhere shaking hands. The much admired, Belvo former, player, coach and president, Paul Cunningham, was as ever gracious and congratulatory, as was President Alan Wallace as he chatted with Marys’ President Bobby O’Connor. The legend that is Ollie Campbell was mingling with his close friends, Frank and Terry Kennedy. He had previously had a chat and photo with Club Chairman Brendan Spring’s 7YO, grandson Ollie as they swapped notes. Ronnie McBrien down from the Perch, chatting with Volunteer, Video Man, Brian Holohan. Garry Manning and Morgan Crowe were memorising the match.  Former Hon Sec, Aoife O’Donnell (Top Raconteur) was having a chat with John Bainbridge. There were many former players and members from both clubs and all eras there. Noel O’Dea was having a drink with Robbie Lyons and Paul Glynn. Reggie was bemused with joy. Former Club Captain, Noel McCarthy was enjoying the atmosphere. It was also super to see Peter Sullivan, Garth Halpin former great full back, and Micky the Fish one of our best ever hookers, who was with Greg Maher. Legend Declan Fanning was sharing old stories with Paul Goff, now domiciled in London (home for a break). Louis McMullan was perched on a stool, musing about times gone by with Paul Brady, while Mick the Medium appeared to be on a higher plane and Noel Keegan was counting the number of balls he had retrieved for the great Steve Hennessy; and the number of cars he had parked. It was lovely to see more recently retired stars such as Ryano, David Fanagan and Ian (Nelly) O’Neill.

Trustee, Spike, was enjoying a glass with Brian Corrigan. The senior Fanagans were also there, while in the Executive corner were VP Paudge McGill, Gavin McConnell and Colin Smyth with Belvo counterparts socialising.

Soon the players were trickling in, adding to the excitement and happiness.  A wonderful evening was in promise. However, everyone had to be aware that next Saturday, we entertain Blackrock RFC, an old rival and friend, back up from division 2A of AIL and on a mission.  With promising coach Ian Madigan, they lie in second so will test the mettle.    Last home game before Xmas so:-

Come on up and Roar on Ronan.


D O’Brien.


15 C Hayes, 14, L Ramirez, 13 M Fogarty, 12 M O’Gara, 11 H Conway, 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,  D Sancery.