1st XV v Highfield (A) by D. O’Brien – 17.02.24

Highfield RFC V St Mary’s College RFC

9                           10

Energia AIL Division 1B

Saturday 17th February 2024.

Woodleigh Park


It may not have been an outstanding game, but for the near 1400 members of St Mary’s College RFC it was an outstanding occasion, and for the current episteme of the club it was the acme of rugby existence. The energy of sheer, innocent joy that exploded, and unfolded all evening, after this close win, was admirable and cathartic in a club where sportsmanship is top raison d’être and success, a close second. To return to AIL Division 1A, which this win ensures, is fulfilment of that great desire. To win AIL 1B with four games still to play is testament to Ronan’s superb squad and his outstanding captaincy.

President, Bobby O’Connor, has determined that there will be a fitting club celebration.  He said that the club looks forward to the remainder of the league with total commitment and determination. We have utmost respect for all the other clubs in 1B and owe it to them. We hope to show ourselves as worthy AIL, 1B Champions.

The Game

The first half, Marys spent the greater part in the Highfield half, in spite of a strongish counter wind.  Mark Fogarty stood out as he sliced rents in the Highfield defence, taking piercing vectors, and once being held just short of the line.  In fact, until he had to retire with a calf strain late-second half, he was tremendous.  He has fierce determination and courage, with superb feet and scalding acceleration. He tackles granite, and covers instinctively and effectively.  He was awarded the SoftCo MoM Award.

One other player has to be mentioned, the incredible, former club captain, Thomas (Tommer) O’Reilly.  He is not only a valued member of this squad and played an important part today, but was a member of the 2012 AIL winning squad and the 2015-16 AIL squad which also regained 1A status; what a club career so far. As well as within the squad, he is held in highest regard throughout the club; a most estimable man.

Unfortunately, the visitors could not make possession count, during the first half when Highfield accrued two penalties through outhalf, Shane O’Riordan, and they led 6-0 at half time.  During the game they had three yellow cards, overlapping at one stage.   The home scrum was strong and they showed spirit and desire to the end.

The second half was, for the main part, similar, and on 49 minutes Highfield added a penalty to lead 9-0.  They held that lead the 77th minute.  In spite of Conor Dean, today’s captain, orchestrating the attack and giving his best, we could not get to grips with the game until the last ten minutes when our backs started to hum.  We ran the ball well then, and with pace on the attack, and the Highfield defence started to creak. It was 69 minutes when the irreplaceable Mick O’Gara converted a penalty.  Deano ramped up the pace further and on 76 minutes the ball went right to left and flyer, Steven Kilgallen found space out wide and zipped over.  Now the hush fell.  It was in the corner; not an easy shot.  Mick, who has admirable calmness, weighed it up, placed the ball and poised.  He steadied and moved up, stroking the ball, and it was on a perfect trajectory as it bisected the posts.  Yes it was 9-10. With a few minutes to go.  This team has such character, it was never going to flinch and flinch it did not; standing firm and there you are, we are on our way to Elysium.

The dam burst, the wait was over and the concourse flooded with blue, and Marys-Marys-Marys boomed out.  The faithful showed their joy.  There were Marys men everywhere, President Bobby O’Connor, was as he always is, dignified but beaming with fulfilled happiness for his team and club.  Frank, and son injured super squad member, Craig Kennedy were there, with Terry Corcoran. Another long-term injured player, Niall McEniff was there in support of his teammates. Long-time members, Victor O’Connor and Greg Maher were also happily enjoying themselves.  Current hon secs Gavin and Colin, and last year’s president Gareth Roche, were there happily smiling, as were Spike and Liam Birkett. Also, former Hon Sec, Aoife O’Donnell and Eoin (Quinner) Quinn, Mylo Carey and pals, Gerry (G-Mack) McCormack all cheering.  Of course the highly popular Dean family, Paul and Lorraine were there, and Paul Brady and Mick (the Medium) O’Connor were down for the trip. Patrick and Joan Crawford were looking very pleased as were DoR Alan Shirley and his brother, high powered organiser and facilitator, Stephen.  The super management Paul Pender, Paul Conlon and Conor O’ Neill were beaming, and coaches, Mark, Jamie and Modser, looked to be in a state of euphoric trance. Then the admirable Paladin and Club Captain, Ronan Watters, led his ecstatic Squad and supporters in the most outrageous and ear crushing rendition of We are Marys Boys.  The world was alive and soaring.


There was a magnetic drag to Templeville Road, as the squad and travelling brigade arrived back.  There was a good group waiting, Ian Bloomer, Terry Kennedy, Noel O’Dea and family, veteran member, Louis McMullan and many more, including recent top players, Richard Halpin and Nick (Warrior) McCarthy. JVP, Gareth Logan was literally overseeing all, and the great Declan Fanning was there. and Former star player and coach, Barry Lynn came along overjoyed with the success. Brian Grimson was smiling, as was the most affable and popular, J1 manager, Darren Walker. When Skipper Ronan and his men arrived in company with President Bobby, a cacophony of sound, chants and songs, Ronan on shoulders, an ecstatic swaying human mass.  Beautiful. Natural exuberance and joy translated to coruscating post-match festivity.

When we have concluded our programme of games, we will have an overall look at the season and the celebration.  We have four games to go. Two weeks’ time 2nd March), we face tough opponents, Naas. Then we go to, difficult to find UCC, RFC on the Mardyke, in Cork, before returning to face close rivals, Old Wesley and then finish our wanderings in Athlone, for a joust with formidable opponents Buccaneers. It is clear, looking at the table, how important each match is.

Once again there is need to mention a sad loss, this time a long-time member, Bobby Coan.  Bobby looked after house and grounds over a considerable period and was an active supporter for many years.  He loved the overnight away trips in the early AIL years and was a popular figure in the club, before he retired to Louth.

The supporters have played their part well and truly over the season so far, and it is vital that we continue and help our lads end with a memorable record of wins and points.  Now is not the time to take the foot off. Keep practising your Marys-Marys-Marys. Your support is needed just as much now as before. Let us all march on together and keep that mystical bond locked, so we continue to soar. We really are lucky to be involved with this unique group. The club has indicated its pride in you the supporters, and recognises the genuine force of your support. We will all meet again on the 2nd March, 2.30.  So:-

Come on, Roar on Ronan

D O’Brien.

Team 15 C Hayes, 14 M Fogarty, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 S Kilgallen, 10 C Dean (Capt.), 9 R Fahy, 8 C Pierce, 7 E Baxter, 6 D Leane, 5 L Corcoran, 4 L Jacks, 3 M McCormack, 2 J Nelson-Murray, 1 J Reidy-Walsh, 16 C Stewart, 17 T O’Reilly, 18 I Wickham, 19 B Taylor, 20 A McEvoy, 21 P Ford.