1st XV v Old Belvedere (A) by D. O’Brien – 27.01.2024

Old Belvedere RFC V St Mary’s College RFC

33                                   35

Energia AIL Division 1B

Ollie Campbell Park

Anglesea Road

27th January 2024.




Pantomime to Party time, a nightmare wrapped in a reverie. That was how it appears when looking back at an execrable first half, followed by a pancratic and rapacious second; and an aftermath of chaotic cavorting.  A good league is one where each match promises excitement and uncertainty. This year AIL 1B, although fortunately for St Mary’s College RFC, the figures are very reassuring, almost every match has been exciting and sporting and no club we have yet to play on the way back, promises anything but a stern test.  Marys now lead second placed Belvo by 19 points with six games to go.  There may well be lots of gremlins hiding in the long grass. But Skipper Ronan and his squad would probably not want it any other way. Certainly coming to Ollie Campbell Park today, no one was under any misapprehension as to how the difficult it would be and what a severe examination it would be.


In terms of AIL Rugby the atmosphere and excitement at the pre-match lunches is a good barometer of the interclub relations; and certainly for us, Old Belvedere is up in the top stratum. The Belvo pre and post-match clubhouse is like Bewleys on a Christmas Eve, without the Santa.  Alan Wallace the Old Belvedere President and Bobby O’Connor are firm friends and both are most personable and affable so, this was always going to be a 180! And to make it even more special are the heroes of past and present there to join in and support.  Great Belvo men like Ollie himself, Tony O’Beirne, Paul Cunningham, John Mahony, David Martin, Niall Pelly et al.


As noted above, there were so many surprises to be come in the game. Being a player who works hard to maintain levels that are professional, it is very difficult if it goes wrong and it pains a lot more than for those who play brilliantly from the side lines or in the bar. And even when there was an avalanche of errors there was still great efforts made. Some, like Skipper Ronan, just keep working and willing his team along.  Mark Fogarty knows no other way than the fearless way.  When things look bad he goes looking. Today every ball he got, he put on his terpsichorean boots and skipped around players, he made mc2 look dawdling, and he took hits like hammers, and went again,  he was ever tracking back, hard rucking and never stopped with every fibril. He was inspirational, including scoring a vital try. He has performed like so all season, and is expert at 13, 14 or 15. Today he received the SoftCo MoM Award. (See: – photo of Mark receiving SoftCo MoM Award from President Bobby O’Connor).


The game


First half Enigma Variations ♫.


Even with the number of points shipped and errors made, overall, Marys looked a good match for Belvo in this half, and put together many decent moves and plays and frequently got little luck, such as being held up over the line. However, there were many uncharacteristic errors and slips, so much so, we were looking for juice of hemlock, skin of toad and tooth of bat hanging around the pitch, but no it was not it.


Unfortunately for the visitors, from the first play Belvo ran back the ball and after a few transfers they scampered through our defence and over. 7-0. Straight away, Marys hit back and following a lineout and maul, hooker Jamie Harding got over. 7-5. After eight minutes, Mick O’Gara scored a fine penalty. In hindsight it shows how important it can be to take points if possible. He hit another or 20 minutes and it was 7-11. Up to this it was pretty even, both sides strong in the set pieces and willing to play. The rest of the half was fairly painful and puzzling for the visitors. At 23 minutes, Belvo broke up field and were stopped near the line, however, with picks and drives, went over and it was 14-11. On 25 minutes, again after broken play, Belvo broke up field and on recycle they crossed kicked and following a Marys’ knock forward the Belvo winger Robles showed his pace and scored in the corner.  21-11. On 28 minutes, a lost lineout gave Belvo territory again, and they made their way up field and kicked into our 22 and after our clearance lineout they broke through defence and scored out wide. 26-11.  It was 35 minutes and Belvo had an attacking lineout, they broke through and set up picks and drives.  Backrower Mulcaire took a brilliant diagonal and sliced though to score close in.  It was 33-11, and soon it was half time.  The home team said our work is done. The visitors said give us a break.




During half time there were Marys supporters who said ah that is it! Those who have followed Ronan’s crusade knew that half was over and done and that was all.  A new start was on the way.


The coaches/management, captain, leaders and squad got the set squares and slide rules and went ice.


Second HalfThe ride of the Valkyries


You could almost hear the Wagnerian hooves on the turf as the Marys team reappeared.  The ball was in play, and faster and faster the pace evolved and you could hear the daemons scream in pain, as Beelzebub fled and the grim goblins scattered.  It was 46 minutes and after two perfect lineouts, there were carries and caries with venom, Big Liam lashed through, battling Ben with him, ball back, Maestro Deano sets it out and Conor Hayes burns the ground as he goes over. 33-18. We went straight back to attack.  There was a ruthless, relentlessness about the play now.  Belvo held on and fought as they will ever.  But with Ronan rampant and backed with his flankers, it was getting harder for the home team.  A penalty on the line on 50 minutes, Ronan takes a scrum and breaks the defence from the back of it, it is recycled and the miracle Mick O’Gara on a vicious vector, splits the defence and grounds, no doubt. 33-25. Could we believe, well more importantly the collective 21 believed and so it was going to happen.  They just were in unison and willing to adventure. but not buckle.


On 60 minutes after a good break by Myles and a penalty which he won, Ronan calls and takes it in the lineout, and nearly carries the Belvo Pack on his back, Richie has them humming, he sees a space out blind and Exocet Ethan is almost in, Ben again, Mighty Mick continues to hammer away (does he ever tire?) and then out it comes again.   Conor has a go, then sends out the ball to Hugo, and on to Mark on the wing, he hits the pedal and arcs in over in the corner. A difficult hit, but Mick can walk on water; so it is converted and it is 33-32.


Belvo get working again and they get two penalty chances, one very kickable but go for touch. It is nip and tuck and supporters are frantic; both sets.  On 65 minutes Daniel Leane who has worked unremittingly all game, takes a bad bang, and is down for a few five minutes.  He will not go off, he needs to complete the job.  The tension grows, the presidents are patrolling, and big Brian Wattters is prowling the perimeter. With just minutes to go, without warning or preparation, Deano takes a ball half way between the 22 and 10 metres lines, and calmly drops a goal.  A sweet kick that sails thorough with grace.  That is class.  It did not end there, but it did. So after another six minutes the whistle went on a remarkable game and a great credit to Old Belvedere RFC and St Mary’s College RFC.  33-35 le fin.


A look at the team


This team or I should say this squad and their mentors and coaches (Sean etc.), RC (Alan etc.) and managers Paul P. etc.), are all included in what is truly special. There could be no fear facing 1A opposition. To come back from near annihilation as they did is awe inspiring.  The hard masters, Sean, Mark, Jamie and Modser may well have straight words to say, and no doubt and will want to know.  But we need have no fears, with the skill, athleticism, courage and camaraderie this group have. Today the front row even without the great Tommer was superb. Young Jack Reidy-Walsh is developing every match. Today he faced a few testing situations and he handled them calmly.  He never shirked.  He can be proud of his contribution.  Every week Jamie Harding delivers.  When it counted today, he never made a false move.  His throwing was fine, his scrummaging is always powerful and legal, he is metronomic in his scoring record, with another today and he carried for 80 minutes powering along like an Aberdeen Angus Bull on the charge.  He is a fine player and a real team man. Now Mighty Mick McCormack, what team would not pawn half their squad to have Michael.  Week after week, he plays a full 80 minutes, rare in modern rugby and especially a tighthead.  He lifts like an Otis, he carries like low loader and scrummages like a Berserk Bison.  He is a true leader and he is fearless. What a contribution, today his unselfish support stood out.


Difficult to get top Seconds. Today, we had two tops, Daniel Leane may be spring loaded, and how he soars; has hands coated with Loctite. He has a real rugby brain and super delivery hands. He showed his commitment today, when he got up from a bad knock and refused to leave the fray. Liam Corcoran is part of the soul of the team, he is big strong and clever.  He has added an impressive carrying game to a strong tight game.  He is always there in support and in mauls he is indomitable.  He has become invaluable.


If you needed a cohort with you to go up and over the top, there would never be a hesitation, Ronan and his flank men. They have everything a modern back row needs, Ben (the engineer) cerebral, and lost in the middle of play. There is nothing he cannot do, he is like a bionic-bundle.  He jumps, he rucks, he tackles, he turns over balls, he mauls and delivers and is titanium tough. His linkage with Ethan is intuitive.  Ethan has everything a seven should have only he has more.  Like a spectre he appears and explodes into action.  His hits are almost like nuclear fission and he is everywhere the ball is, except when he is lurking with intent on the wing. Definitely Exocet-Ethan. He was at his best today until he had to go off in the last ten minutes with an injury.  La Raison d’être of the team is Ronan.  Ronan does everything and brilliantly.  He is a superb rugby player who can play right across the back row at a level above others.  He was phenomenal again today. His leadership is natural and tacit, never is there need for barks or grumps.  He leads and they follow with joy, on and off the field. He is the Skipper.


At nine today, Richie Fahy played a perfect role.  He was never missing, he was up with every move, every break down, and every ruck.  He relieved shrewdly and delivered with high efficiency.  His support and cover were of great importance and he kept probing and urging.  Well done Richie.


Since he was a boy, Conor Dean has enjoyed his rugby, and been blessed with the talents of his father. Each season he has been a high quality contributor.  However, this season he has metamorphosed into a true virtuoso, he is the ignition, the inspiration and the mover of the backline and its abilities. His passes are perfection and his speciality chips, are better than Leo Burdock’s.  His running and defensive games are excellent.  He is the standout, Stand-off in AIL, and as good as, or better than, most Provincial Tens. His game was full of adventure and once again he was the spark to get things moving and the stroke to seal it, with a brilliant drop goal. He is Deano.


A most popular and effective player is today’s 11, Hurtling-Hugo.  Hugo Conway is blessed with balance, pace and power and is equipped with the natural spatial awareness and predatory props to ensure tries and cover tackles. When he is not scoring he invites attention, so making space and opportunities for others.  While last week he scored a hat-trick, today he did the latter. A major contributor.


When you look to give a paean to Mick O’Gara, it never seems enough, because he is the consummate second play maker.  He is so good he makes it look easy. Today he carried like a Brickie’s Mate, he took pressure, he distributed and supported, tackled tirelessly, and scored a try few would have scored with a vicious vector, immense power and balance, and sheer will.  On top of that, he converted three tries and scored two penalties, 17 points; half the tally.  Not bad is he?


Myles Carey, he had been had been away last season, waltzing Matilda under the coolabah trees.  All at Marys are delighted to have him back waltzing through defences.  That was what he was doing today,, especially when really needed in the second half.  He ran until he almost dropped. He has that magnificent glide-mode, as he sways through traffic at zinch pace.  He is a big strong runner and is willing to take the hits for others.  He is a natural 13 and so makes space naturally.  His cover play was particularly impressive today.  Mark at 14 today was an inspiration and especially in the first half when things were not going right, he showed the way and kept pressure on the opposition.  He had a couple of difficult moments too, but never let his concentration, and his all-consuming fire, drop.  He was just outstanding.


There is a plant, Love in a Mist, a pretty valuable garden plant.  We have our own flower at 15, Love in a Haze (Hayes).  All supporters loved Conor Hayes today, for he was coruscating as he did his Roo Bounce before setting off in attack.  He turns every difficulty into opportunity.  He kicked well, and got good length when necessary and he covered as a good 15 should. He scored that vital try and when he zooms up along the wing he seems to be covered in anti-tackle Teflon as players bounce off him. A top fullback.


We must not forget, the replacements, all essential to that win. Conor Pierce, Cameron Stewart, Ian Wickham, Finn Burke, Adam McEvoy and back from injury, Stephen (Zip) Kilgallen.  Also injured Leroy Jack and Leandro (Zap) Ramirez, Podge and ever faithful and hard-working, Craig Kennedy, soon to return.


The post-match conglomeration saw alicadoos and all sorts mingling, smiling and singing and milling about, with an explosion of Marys-Marys-Marys ringing out.  Our hosts were as ever, gracious though a little stunned. (We have done stunned on occasion too).


Enough shocks for the moment, as we have a break until February 10th when we entertain Garryowen, with Shay already rescued and safely overseeing bar activity. However it is essential we are humming again by then.  Thank you teams for a marvellous spectacle and a visit to the shock shop.


Remember the 10th February and come on up and roar on Ronan


Team15 C Hayes, 14 M Fogarty, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 H Conway, 10 C Dean, 9 R Fahy, 8, R Watters (Capt.) 7 E Baxter, 6 B Taylor, 5 L Corcoran, 4 D Leane, 3 M McCormack, 2 J Harding, 1 J Reidy-Walsh, 16 C Pierce, 17 C Stewart, 18 I Wickham, 19 F Burke, 20 A McEvoy, 21 S Kilgallen.


D O’Brien