St Mary’s College RFC V Garryowen FC
Energia AIL Division 1 B
Saturday 10th February 2024
Since we have last played at home on 13th. January V QUB, much has happened and there has been a growing yearning to get back to Templeville Road. We have lost our unbeaten run to Blackrock, by a point, and had a memorable and effulgent comeback victory over Old Belvedere. This week we had the uplifting news of two of our players being selected for the Club International Panel, Conor Dean and Conor Hayes; very well-deserved selections and both showing why with superlative performances today. These two paladins join their esteemed team mate Thomas O’Reilly (also starring today) in this highly prestigious group. Congratulations to both.
We also had the very sad news of the death of long time, much loved member, Arthur Costello, who had played in the club during the 60s and 70s and later coached, then gave nine years as an exceptional honorary treasurer. He was an active tag rugby player until the early 2000s. He remained active and a highly valued member since. Everyone will miss, his exceptionally kind and affable presence. His loss and the important contribution he has made to our club was recognised with a minute’s silence observed before the kick off.
Due to the persistent heavy rain over the last few days, the kick off was only made possible by the long, tough work of several volunteers, especially senior team manager, Paul Pender, who was assisted by by Aaron Hudson and groundsman Peter O’Kelly. They worked long and hard to keep the possibility of playing open. Today, they spent the morning, forking, sanding and lightly rolling in preparation. Paul paid special credit to Aaron who showed himself to be invaluable; a real Iron Man. Paul’s colleagues call him Moses, (the parting of the waters). All of this, once more emphasises the admirable camaraderie and generosity engendered by club rugby. Club President, Bobby O’Connor, praised their work and dedication and thanked them fulsomely.
The rain had relented, the pitch was heavy. The main terrace was heavily populated and when required the crowd gave strong support to their teams. Late in the game with another contumacious fight back underway, the royal blue battalion blasted out Marys-Marys-Marys, continuously, helping their heroes home.
Marys were without two of the brilliant backrow, Ethan Baxter and Ben Taylor and lost inspirational Skipper, Ronan Watters, halfway through the game. There were several others out injured. This made it difficult but is testament to the RC and the coaches in developing an inclusive and broad squad. Today, it was uplifting to see players such as Jack Nelson Murray, Ian Wickham, Conor Pierce, Finn Burke and Leroy Jacks, come into the pack and relentlessly, strive and thrive. Given the position in the league, there could have been some tendency to cruise. Au contraire, all drove themselves to near extinction. Everyone put themselves through the pain barrier and exhaustion index, and all deserve highest praise. There were some notable performances, but nothing exemplified the soul of this team more than the sight of Mighty Mick McCormack, standing tall, battling defiantly in the 88th minutes just as he had in the first. For this campaign he has mainly played the full 80+ minutes, unmoveable in the scrum, the fulcrum, of mauls, and an unshakeable tackler and carrier. Today, he did the same, was indefatigable and a major influence on the game; phenomenal. He received the SoftCo MoM Award.
This was a fascinating match. It was not perfect of course, there continued to be a problem with penalties, and today too, there were now and then, lapses in concentration allowing gaps in defence. However when under heavy pressure, the close defence was mesmerizingly brave and effective and the set pieces were sound. Having gone behind and when it seemed all was lost for the hosts; then having had a Lazarus-like comeback to go ahead on 79 minutes, there followed, 8/9 minutes of excruciating extra time, defying description.
It has to be said Garryowen, produced a team and performance of high quality and impressive power. The conditions did suit that power more than the Marys rapid fire system. It all produced a thunderous clash, played in sporting fashion, which captured the imagination and at the end, left both sets of fans in a state of exhaustion which almost mirrored that of the teams.
After just two minutes St Marys were caught offside and Garryowen went ahead, 0-3. However on seven minutes Conor Hayes earned neat 50/22. Marys mauled the lineout and when the ball was delivered, Conor Dean put in a Deano Special chip behind the defence, and Mark Fogarty who had shown he could deal with the heavy ground while getting back to save a try in the first minute, now zipped in and scored a fine try. 5-3.
The joust swung to and fro and on 13 minutes, Mick O’Gara added penalty, 8-3. It was 27 minutes when a scrum on halfway gave Garryowen the ball and they broke through the host’s defence and scored a fine try in the Cabbage Patch Corner, 8-10. Marys put on pressure and conjured up some chances to score but Garryowen held out and added a penalty on 41 minutes, so the first half ended 8-13.
There was a lively start to the second half, with the home side attacking and after five minutes of pressure, they had a lineout around the 22, and after a take, and four or five drives the ball came out from a ruck to Richie, on to Deano, his prestidigitation transferred to Myles, who was coping well with the heavy going, he slipped his marker and dived in at the Cabbage Patch Corner. 13-13. Marys pulled a little ahead with a penalty on 54 minutes.
On the visitors’ 22, Garryowen sent out a ball from a ruck, and our wide defence was breached and they ran from there to the Gate Corner, where a backup scored. 16-20. On 69 minutes Garryowen had a lineout in Carvill Corner, they mauled it, then with picks and drives, they got over under the posts and it was 16-27.
It looked as though we could end up without even a losing bonus point. Not so good. However, this a not a Piker group. Back we came and three minutes later we had a penalty, a lineout, a maul, and when Garryowen pulled it down a penalty try made it 23-27. In the last minute of normal time we had another lineout, maul and this time we got over, with the excellent Jack Nelson Murray touching down. 28-27.
All we had to do was take the kick off, hold it for less than a minute. Unfortunately the ball was taken, but put up from the take and Garryowen started to run the ball. This was really the longest period I have ever noted at any level, when a team held the ball through multiple nonstop phases without dropping it or losing it on a mucky pitch. Both teams deserve the highest praise for concentration, skill and sheer will. They slipped the ball, they swung it wide, they sidestepped and scampered. They went right they went left, they half broke tackles and drove in twos and threes. Marys met them man for man. Each man dragged himself up after tackles, covered for teammates, if a slight slip through happened. Marys drove them across, they drove them back. They recovered lost ground and drove again. On 88/89 minutes another effort was made, and woe was wailed as a suspected high tackle was blown by the referee. Oh. No, after all the effort were we to fall. It was kickable. Left of the posts 35 metres out. A right footed kicker had a good chance. He was, as were all thirty on the pitch shattered with fatigue. He steadied and kicked, it seemed good, but dropped off and that was the end, 28-27. Whew, we had prevailed in a memorable win. For the last six or seven minutes the terrace was deluged with spontaneous Marys-Marys-Marys. It was deafening and a credit to the loyal supporters, led by Rynner. No doubt it kept the young warriors going and played a really important part in this uplifting win.
Those who watched the game from the Centenary Bar would swear they saw Shay smile. Our highly popular President Bobby O’Connor also smiled with joy and pride in his squad; and in club rugby. Bobby has been intrinsically involved, along with DoR and the coaches/management, in putting together the current rugby structures and deserves magnanimous praise and gratitude. He, and the most gracious and affable Garryowen President, Dr Jim Fehily, chatted and feted an outstanding example of sporting endeavour and skill.
St Marys now lead Old Belvedere (39) and Blackrock (39) by 22 points, having accrued a highly impressive 61 points. A win next week in Cork V Highfield, would ensure automatic promotion. However, no matter how that goes or whenever we achieve that goal, our club will honour each encounter with the strongest possible squad and equivalent endeavour. It is imperative, for all other clubs in contention or guarding their status, that that is the case.
You don’t want this to end of course, so saturate yourself in the atmosphere again, and make the effort to head for Cork next week.
Come on Roar on Ronan
Team 15 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 F Burke, 6 L Jacks, 5 L Corcoran, 4 D Leane, 3 M McCormack, 2 J Harding, 1 J Reidy-Walsh, 16 Nelson-Murray, 17 T O’Reilly, 18 I Wickham, 19 C Pierce, 20 A McEvoy, 21 S Kilgallen.