1st XV v Naas (H) by D. O’Brien – 02.03.2024

St Mary’s College RFC V Naas RFC
31                                 17                                        
Energia AIL Division 1B
Templeville Road
Saturday 2nd March 2024.


A glorious day full of joy, celebration and spirit.  Spirit! There is Irish spirit, whiskey or maybe you like a bit of rough; poteen. Then there are ghosts, goblins and banshees and there is human spirit. Snow had crippled Dublin and rain had washed it into full drains and rivers. Shortly after 8.00 this morning, former president Gareth Roche, who with Bobby, was part of this beautiful journey, threw an expert eye over the Templeville Pond, later to be known as the pitch and he decreed; with work it will work! With the kindness of neighbours, Terenure College RFC, we had fall-back, the offer of use of their fine 4G pitch at 17.15.

Enter Senior Rugby Manager and action man, Paul Pender. He headed off to his depot and appropriated, at his own expense, two large skips full of sand and two industrial water-vacs, a host of tools and sounded reveille.  Loyal troops and colleagues, assembled.  Along came Supt. Conor O’Neill, Paul Conlon and Harry Ebbs.  The DoR, erudite Alan Shirley, showing his physical abilities came to help with brother, dynamic Stephen and children who all did a lot of work.  Pat Crawford and Hon Sec, Gavin McConnell, with pal Darragh. Minis coach Conor Kinnear, and a player’s father, Greg Masterson, who worked hard, were up bright and early too. A little later on came inspirational skipper, Ronan Watters, leading many of his squad who were hors de combat, or not playing later.  Ethan Baxter, playing later, did as he does, ignored protocols and got stuck in too. Along came the entire Edgeworth family led by Gavin and Rebecca, then Paul Brennan and Vinnie Murray. (See photos)    Many times since AIL started, up to 2009 (major pitch drainage and re-seeding), the pitch has had to be rescued on a match day morning.  In over 30 years, this was the first time the squad got involved, and they made a telling contribution.

What a mighty man is Paul P, he did enormous work and also directed operations astutely.  He and Alan and Paul C and Conor vacuumed off half a reservoir of surface water and then with all mucking in (literally), there was forking, deep forking, sanding, with Alan and Keelan, Hugo, Niffer, Craig, Vinnie etc. etc. shifting staggering loads of sand.  They are excused gym for a week. A titanic effort. Slowly, Templeville Pond metamorphosed from pond to pitch. 12.30 Anxiety, still 3 or 4 dodgy patches, more sand, more deep forking, more levelling.  Finally, it was time for groundsman, Peter O’Kelly to mark the pitch and for the workers to take stock and marvel at what they had achieved. There was an hour more of anxiety and pouting patches to be touched up. 13.30, former international referee and revered, Gordon (Blackie) Black, pulled up. The Pauls and Conor greeted him tremulously and escorted him around the pitch, President Bobby and DoR Alan watching from behind slit fingers.  Gordon eyed and peered, he prodded and poked and chatted amiably as he strode purposefully around the no longer pond. He smiled, as Gordon does, and said well done.  The pitch is ready. When the referee, Andrew Mitchell, arrived later in the afternoon, he had no problem “it is a rugby pitch” he said sensibly, in exactly the same manner, later he refereed the game, well done ref!

A combination of groups and a unison of members.  It showed what can be achieved when there is unison of purpose and spirit. St Marys has always been renowned for spirit and it has stood to the club with exceptional results, in every way.  However, this group of players led by Ronan has brought the most remarkable and admirable spirit that has enrapt the entire membership.  It surges from within and wells up and flows and infuses all.  There is an all-enveloping warmth (Spirit) and it part of all club activity and most of all on the field. This was to be found in the following match and later celebratory proceedings.

Meanwhile (back at the ranch), There was a concatenation of the ladies day revelries (169) and pre-match lunch (220).  A swarm of humans; and happy ones.  Naas’s personable, President, Paula Laffan, who no doubt was tempted to the 169, was warmly welcomed by our amiable president, Bobby and the fun began.  It may have been a jam but what a sweet jam it was, with throngs of alumni and great Marys and Naas members of the past.  I know it would be crazy to mention any in particular. It was the start of a kaleidoscope of banter and beauty and wisdom and wit and elegance and emotion and perfect presidential addresses.

The Game

The events on the pitch beforehand or those within the clubhouse, did not distract the teams as they took the field on a cold dry day at an unusual time; both teams looked primed. St Marys were missing Captain Ronan, Hugo Conway, Leroy Jacks and others. Naas were also short of some players.
It was the perfect game to suit the occasion, fast attractive rugby played in a sporting fashion and close to the near end. At one stage, it looked as though Naas might prevail, but the home team, playing like worthy champions, retrieved the situation and pulled away to win. The scrums and lineouts were well contested and accurate for both sides.  Two players who took the field for the home side, embodied that spirit which was mentioned.  Number 8 Conor Pierce who is a very promising forward, had spent the morning helping in the bar and came straight out to play; and Tommer O’Reilly came on in the second half for his 147th AIL game, if he plays in the last three games he will have the 150.  Come on Tommer.  Both showed how good they are with strong performances.  Indeed, others too showed how good they are and why we are going back to Elysium.  None more so, than Conor Hayes at 15.  His performance was commanding and assured, but also adventurous and exciting, as he probed and sashayed from defence and his boot today was magnificent, with one 60/22 which led to a try, and he scored a brilliant  one himself. There was less of his Roo-Hop than usual but was no less effective for that.  He had a top class game and received the SoftCo MoM.

The game started fast and direct. Just under three minutes, after loose play Conor Hayes made a break up along the clubhouse side and passed back in to Richie Fahy, who had an impressive game today, Richie sold a precise dummy and stepped inside to go over. The ever excellent, Mick O’Gara converted 7-0.  After 15 minutes a long pass from Conor Dean, found namesake Conor Hayes in the line, he ran across found a gap straightened, he had Mark Fogarty outside, but was confident, went through three defenders, and scored in the Well Corner, 12-0. Meanwhile Daniel Leane and Ian Wickham were elegant and effective in the lineout and working hard out field. Soon Naas were raising their game and with two good tries got to 12-12 after a half hour. Just on half time a penalty and lineout maul led to a try by Jack Nelson-Murray who was impressively hitting targets and playing with verve and determination.  Half Time 17-12.

The game was now flying along with both sides running the ball.   Naas outhalf, Ronaldson and 9, Brophy were lively and effective and we had to defend well, with the Marys’ back row powerfully busy, then on 53 minutes, Naas got just reward with very good try in the Well Corner, drawing level again, 17-17.

It was 65 minutes when Conor Hayes, saw a chance and launched a soaring kick from his own half, landing and skidding out, well inside Naas 22.  Marys’ lineout.  A maul was formed, it was held up by Naas.  Marys took it on in picks and drives. Big Liam Corcoran, launched himself and ball at a gap and pierced the defenders to score in Carvill Corner, 24-17.  We were flying now and narrowly missed a couple of chances, however, near the end, Conor Dean gauged a kick ahead perfectly and a Naas defender slipped.  Mark Fogarty, who was once again having an outstanding match, pounced, picked and zoomed over. 31-17. The crammed terrace exploded into Marys-Marys-Marys followed by singing and uproar of the loveliest kind.  It was over. The team and followers sang their anthem on the pitch to loud applause.


The large crowd stayed in situ and Manager, Paul Pender brought out the microphone. The IRFU presentation was done by our own highly popular and successful, Niall Rynne, Chairman of the IRFU Management Board.  You could see the special closeness between President Bobby and Niall, long time close pals as they prepared. Niall spoke of his love of his club and how proud he was to be the one to present the trophy and medals.

Paul called the names of the players involved over the season, commencing with today’s 21. A cheer went up for each hero as they received their medals and congratulations from, Niall, Bobby and Paul. Then Ronan Watters the extraordinary Club Captain and leader of the squad was called and there was a cacophony of noise and well deserved cheering.  He took the cup and his medal with obvious happiness. He made special point of mentioning the sad and painful loss early in the season, of great clubman, iconic Patsy Fogarty, his teammate, Mark Fogarty’s dad. He then spoke of his squad and their abilities and their dedication to their club.  He emotionally thanked all involved, with special reference to Sean Cronin.

He thanked Mark McHugh, Jamie Cornett, Marcus O’Driscoll and others involved in coaching.  He thanked the committee and had real appreciation when he mentioned the ubiquitous and the essential, Alan Shirley and his Rugby Council. He thanked all the important development work of the superb legend, Steve Hennessy. He had warm words for Paul Pender, Conor O’Neill, Paul Conlon and Ian Bloomer, for their dedication and help. He did not forget others such as the incomparable Davy (Dougal) Lyons physiotherapist.  He then rightly embraced with fulsome praise his parents Brian and Laura and all close to him in a most touching and emotional way. Brian and Laura have been with Ronan and his group all the way since school time.  We have all come to admire and like them greatly over their constant attendance at all the games. -There were photos taken- and hugs and hands shaken-, and waves and misses- and odd wee kisses, as supporters and players mingled.

Our normally spacious clubhouse resembled the old Havelock Square End, as hundreds mixed and needed pints instantly.
Great credit is due to Gillian Shakespeare and her helpers, the caterers under testing conditions, and the amazing Tony McGuinness and his staff.  How they all did it is the 10th Wonder of the world.  Well done all!  A big thanks was expressed by President Bobby and all his committee. Really all that needs saying of afterwards.  Celebrations in good nature, and happiness unbounded, went on until well after quarter past……….

Post Script

Do not forget, we have three more games to go, and all must, in all roles, perform to the level shown today.  We travel to Cork and UCC on 23rd March and entertain second placed Old Wesley ooh a big one.  Finally we visit Buccaneers at Athlone and then there may be another bit of celebration.

Photos Here

Remember, 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, 9 R Fahy, 8, C Pierce (Capt.) 7 E Baxter, 6 B Taylor, 5 I Wickham, 4 D Leane, 3 M McCormack, 2 Nelson-Murray, 1 J Reidy-Walsh, 16 C Stewart, 17 T O’Reilly, 18 L Corcoran, 19 F Burke, 20 A McEvoy, 21 L Ramirez.