1st XV v UCC (A) by D. O’Brien – 23.03.2024

University College Cork RFC V St Mary’s College RFC

26                                         31

Energia AIL Division 1B

23rd March 2024.


It might be contended that the visitors had little to gain or to lose in this match, however if such was the contention, the contender, were he/she here today, he/she would have been soundly confounded, for this was a compelling game of rugby with Ronan, happily back from injury and his team displaying their wide array of skills and fierce and commendable, determination.  Indeed, all these qualities were required in facing off a balanced, skilful and hard, straight running university side.    This may be one of the oldest rugby clubs, (1872), in the country, but their team was full of fresh young players ready to joust with the best. They had the very promising, Sean Edogbo, at blindside.

On a cold, sunny and breezy day, the travelling faithful were greatly reduced in number, but a small group of the faithful followers were there in support, as were the parents, including ever loyal, Brian and Laura Watters, Paul and Lorraine Dean, along with Terry Corcoran, Mylo, Tom and G-Mack-Gerry.   A long-standing, loyal and popular Marys man, now living in Co Cork, Victor O’Connor, made his way to the match and was not only rewarded with a sparkling game, but with a special invitation to the pre-match lunch, where JVP, Paudge McGill paid tribute and presented him with a St Mary’s College RFC tie; well-deserved Vic. UCC President Finbar Dennehy, had previously warmly welcomed Paudge (representing President Bobby, away on urgent business) and his committee members, to a very enjoyable and convivial meal.

Only injured players were excluded from the squad (and most of those such as Hugo, Craig and Myles) were down in support.  All who graced the fine pitch acquitted themselves with acquisitive endeavour. The game was played at hard pace and high skill levels.  There was some looseness in the Marys’ tackling early on, but later the defence was excellent, especially of the maul and in near line security, where the entire team formed a groyne, as it were.  The backs were in top form, led by brilliant, Conor Dean and Mick O’Gara. Well, if all were in sparkling form, no one sparkled quite as brilliantly as Mark Fogarty.  The man is pure titanium, with a nuclear reactor as power plant.    He squeezed and squirmed at Mk2, through gaps, he turbo charged through tackles, and assassinated runners in defence; rhapsodic. He scored a most bewilderingly beautiful try. He is having an astral season.  Mark is highly talented; and it is clear his late dad, a club favourite, Patsy, is his inspiration.  He was the recipient of the SoftCo MoM Award.

The pack led by superb Ronan, was in top form too, with Mighty Mick McCormack irrepressible, and the entire eight in delightful unison. Overall this was a display of honourable loyalty. All would have to admire and love this group of players, coaches, RC, managers and mentors. A formidable force.

The Scores and More

St Marys played down with a strong breeze in the first half, although UCC opened the scoring after only ten minutes.  Just afterwards, both Jack Reidy-Walsh and Steven Kilgallen unfortunately, went off injured.  The rock that is Tommer O’Reilly, and young promising centre, Peter Ford, came on. Tommer brought his usual impressive game, working nonstop and scrummaging like a tormented tank. Peter went to 11 and scored the Marys’ first try of five, after just six minutes on, following a break by Mark Fogarty and recycle, Deano swinging it wide and Peter coming over from his left wing scored in the right corner, 7-5.   It was 28 minutes and UCC scored again, following a penalty to the corner and maul, 14-5. When 33 minutes had come, Deano did a sweet wrap, and with that space, fed pacey Hayesy and the dynamic fullback fairly flew through the cover to score, Mick O’Gara converted, 14-12. It stayed that way until half time.

The second half was only two minutes old when Deano had another magic moment, then he tapped the ball behind the cover and Adam McEvoy who was giving a smart service, was up with his Ten to pick the ball and whiz over, for a neat try. It was 14-19 after Mick converted. After a period of attack, on 54 minutes, Mark Fogarty got the ball near the home 22 and he cut the defence open with sleight of body, a 45⁰ angle swerve, then a series of sidesteps and Red-Ferrari acceleration under the posts, whew! 14-26.

Young Conor Pierce has been adjusting well to senior rugby and showed his latent abilities with a coruscating break from inside his own half.  He swayed and sashayed his way through defenders to four or five metres out. The ball was recycled quickly and reached Conor Hayes who hit the octanes to glide over in the corner. It was 14-31.  UCC scored two more, on the hour and on 80 minutes, to register four tries and two league points. The visitors, with five tries added five league points to their impressive league tally.  The replacements all got valuable time on, and all added to the overall performance.

The Marys Magic is back.  What a weekend this was with exciting wins and great battles, from minis to seniors and girls to women, ending in successes throughout the weekend.   Friday the U14s Girls’ team won their league game away V Navan. Saturday the J3s and J4s were most impressive and with those two wins have gained the finals of their respective leagues.  The U20s won their Purcell Cup Match V UCD away on Sunday and the Women beat Emerald Warriors in their cup game.

TheJ1s wrapped up the weekend with a swashbuckling, second round victory over Barnhall in the highly coveted Metropolitan 2nd round Cup tie (44-31).  This was an admirable performance against the team that beat them in a relegation battle last season. Everyone rose to the occasion and showed the importance of a team performance. There were some extra impressive performances there too, with the commendable captain, Joe Nolan, Finn Burke and Dan Lyons showing top form as a backrow and Owen Carey, Max Svejdar and Senan Phelan starring in the backline.

It was an auspicious day for the marvellous, dynastic Kennedy family. Craig Kennedy turned out for the J1s at 15, and will have been happy with his assured return to the game. A year and a half ago at Belfield, Craig suffered a terrifying injury, one which would have ended a lesser man’s rugby career.  Craig had to have major and extensive knee and ligament reconstruction and long gruelling rehabilitation and physiotherapy.  During all that time he was at almost every senior and J1 game, in support of his teammates, with a smile on his face.  He has trained incessantly since season’s start. He is to be greatly admired and everyone in the club is supporting him and looking forward to seeing him back to his best.

Darren Walker, the J1 supremo, deserves great credit, he has had a long winter of herding his charges, filling gaps and bringing in new blood. He is a fine organiser and man manager; a dedicated Marys man.  He has a good group from the senior squad now, who all enjoy playing for him and for personable leader and captain, Joe Nolan.

President Bobby on his return was straight up to his club and before the weekend was out, the famous Bobby Beam was on full high white full-beam.  Well done to him, his DoR, and all his rugby organisers and players.

Next Saturday we entertain second placed club Old Wesley in a highly competitive AIL fixture, which if we wish to show our 1A credentials and add to our near record points tally for the league campaign, we must win our last two games. Ronan is highly motivated as is his team.  You keep your motivation well-oiled too, and make sure to get up in good time.  It will be a lightening game.

Remember, Come on Roar on Ronan

D O’Brien.

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