1st XV v Buccaneers (A) by D. O’Brien – 06.04.2024

Buccaneers RFC V St Mary’s College RFC

12                                 32

Energia AIL Division 1B

Dubarry Park

Saturday 6th April 2024.


Overall and All-over


With Storm Kathleen on the rampage, a walk in the park it was never going to be.  In fact one could hardly stand in the park or anywhere else, never mind walk or indeed run.  Well that is unless you were a chestnut colt, a young athletic rugby player or a referee.

We have always enjoyed the visits to Dubarry Park and it was sad to see that they had been relegated. However with the history of Athlone RFC and later Buccaneers you can be sure they will not stay down for too long and all at Marys wish them the best of fortune.

Besides the coaching and management group a good sprinkling of club dreadnaughts ventured to view. From the Templeville Road community support, there were the many of the faithful who usually make to the away matches. Of course many of the parents were there with the Watters, Deans, Corcorans, Careys, Kennedys, Hayes’s and O’Gara’s, Pierces (plus camera), Nelson-Murrays and the O’Reillys. There were many of the usual gang, such as Aoife O’Donnell, Dr Mick Farrell, Big Tom, Barney, MtM. TBM, Spike, Liam Birkett and Fr Brian McLaughlin, Declan Fanning, Jack Ebbs, Noel O’Dea and Ronnie Douglas were supporting.  Outstanding rugby proponent, Fr Denis Hooper had come all the way from Glenstall Abbey via Wexford, DoR Alan, with his brother Stephen Shirley and Kevin Conboy of RC were there on duty as usual. All round there was a happy feel and magnanimous mingling.

On the field

The first bytes of credit go to both teams.  This was supposed to be a dead rubber, a non-contributor, instead both clubs showed genuine respect for each other in putting forward strong teams and playing with total effort and resolve. It was, yet again, a credit to the club game. From the visitors’ point of view the first half was not as productive as was the aim, when playing with Kathleen’s heavy favour. The home side produced a most impressive defensive display. Overall there were many excellent performances from the Marys’ lads. The captain, Ronan Watters, as has been his wont since he first put on his Marys’ jersey as an outstanding teenager, excelled all game and early in the second half it was he who spicked the spark and started the harmonious crescendo. Everyone fell in behind him.

This was a day for the experienced leaders to ensure a worthwhile finish with the points number, 85, the highest recorded in AIL. Mighty Mick McCormack is one too who has never flinched nor flailed, since his first game in blue. He is highly talented and fiercely loyal to his team and teammates as he produces impeccable displays every game.  He is a feared scrummager, he supports all around him, carries with venom and defends like tempered steel.  He encourages, and leads into the fray.  Today he was at his best and brilliant.  The two particular backline leaders Conor Dean and Mick O’Gara are exactly on a par of esteem from players, coaches and supporters.  Two extraordinarily talented and dedicated Marys’ men, who with metronomic regularity produce the superlative. Today, with their captain, as on many occasions, they led the field early second half with variation and incisiveness. Mick was noted breaking out, making long acres and never losing the ball. His clamp tackling is a feature of his pedigree and his kicking is a highly valued bonus and one that has frequently meant the difference. Deano’s variation and his exceptional passing and chipping make a really dangerous and often unreadable threat to the opposition, he brought them into full use today. He has been the top outhalf of all clubs in this campaign.

Tom (Tommer) O’Reilly

An added feature of this game and this day, was the appearance of a player who has graced the AIL Arena, with ability and sportsmanship, for over 12 years. In 2011 Young Tom O’Reilly trotted up to St Mary’s College RFC, with a smile on his face and an affability that was inextinguishable.  He had been a star rugby player across the road in Templeogue College during his time there.  He was also one of the most popular pupils at his alma mater.   That easy affability and ready smile have never left him since he joined the club. In fact he looks almost exactly the same as when he joined.  To all, he is Tommer. Tommer quickly showed his ability as a prop and he had the advantage of being able to play loosehead (his usual) or tighthead or indeed hooker.  He built a justifiable reputation as a formidable scrummager, strong defender and fine open field player. He therefore earned an Irish Club international. In 2019-20, Tom was elected Club Captain and carried his team with dignity during the Covid first wave. Today, Tommer played the full 80 minutes and played in each of those positions in the second half. He was inspired today, throughout the game he worked nonstop, he carried consistently all game, sometimes looming out of a tangle to take the ball with fervour and with his drive and bulk, he made great ground, he was like a hyper-hippo, on the charge. He was also found as a bridging brick in a wall, repelling all comers, he was indefatigable. Whether it had been his fifth or 150th cap he deserved his SoftCo MoM Award.

All along, Tom has proved to be extremely popular throughout the club and also a noted leader.   Academically, Tommer has been successful too.  However, having obtained his degree, the lure of the family tradition took him, and he joined the fire and ambulance service.  He is now a senior Firefighter, following in his father’s footsteps. He loves to help all and be of service to the community.  No one who knows him, would be surprised at that. It is always a pleasure to meet him and a joy to know him. He is a credit to himself, his family and his club. His family and his fiancé, Lauren, are strong support to him too, and attend almost every game he plays. What is really remarkable is that Tom was playing his 150th AIL Match; some record.

After the match, President Bobby was there on the field with a fine St Mary’s College RFC, Rugby Cap with 150 emblazoned onto it. He presented it to Tommer, as his teammates formed a circle of delight. It was most thoughtful of the President (but typical of him) to commission it.  Tommer was overwhelmed with joy and was a little blushful.  His teammates were in raptures.  It was a special moment in the life of Terrific Tommer.

Congratulations Tommer.  And the good news is, he will be looking forward in time, to his 200th Cap.

The Game

As mentioned, the first half Marys played with the gale, they held territory and huffed and puffed and Mick converted a good penalty. However, Buccs defended commendably and almost impenetrably. But on 9 minutes after several hammerings on the line, the legs, the strength and the determination of Michael McCormack   got him across the line and so it was 0-10. Buccs grew in confidence and on 35 minutes they worked their way up and scored in the corner to make it 5-10.  Just on half time Peter Ford, who had slotted in well at 13, took his try very well using his quick feet to score and leave the score 5-15 at half time.

The second half there was an urgency about the visitors, with Ronan and a his backrowers, getting things moving and Deano putting pace on the ball, while Mick O’Gara was making incisions and good ground.  Ronan made a strong break from inside the Buccs 22, on 43 minutes, to score and Marys went to 5-22.  The men from Dublin were cruising now, with Tommer and Daniel, carrying hard. It was 50 minutes and after a scrum 30 metres out, Adam McEvoy, made progress and then sent a marvellous skip pass 20 metres to Hugo on the right wing. He beat his man on the outside, and the cover, to score far out and it was 5-27. It was 67 minutes and after heavy pressure and everyone now in top gear, Leandro and Daniel made great progress then Conor Pierce who was in, making a big impression, Buccs defence got into a bit of a muddle and no better man than brilliant, Exocet Ethan to take advantage. He ripped after the ball, which had gone back over the Buccs line, and scored, 5-32.  Near the end Buccs who kept going and never flinching, scored a converted try and it finished 12-32. 


The Squad

The earlier concentration on a few of the leaders today, is in no way to lessen or demean the wondrous squad and individual players who have lit up our season. There has to be special mention of the lads who joined from outside the IRFU realm, for they have been a tonic, bringing fresh thought, style and input.  But each have been a source of joy for all involved with the team.  They have integrated and bonded as of superglue and their infectious good humour and often brilliant senses of humour have added to the season’s casserole.

We will never forget the flying, terpsichorean feet of Leandro and Daniel, the grinding accuracy and endeavour of Jamie and Jack and latterly Cameron, nor the incessant and incandescent work in defence and attack of brilliant Ben. The flair and power of Leroy was sadly too seldom seen due to injury. But, how all added to our club ethos with cheerful affability having a major effect on the season and club esteem. Others from outside the club who have joined us over the past few seasons and who have been vital in our quest for Elysium were also well noted and appreciated, It is impossible to quantify the invaluable contributions of Ethan Baxter and Conor Hayes (Irish Club International 2024) in every way, on and off the field; also Stephen Kilgallen, Richie Fahy and Andrew Walsh.

We have been exceptionally well served over the past few seasons by home produced players, with Liam Corcoran having developed into a formidable and highly valued lock.  While two outstanding young locks, show new potential every week and recently have been complementing each other, Daniel Leane (with national recognition) and Ian Wickham.  Jack Reidy-Walsh has been a revelation as a loosehead and Conor Pierce as a back rower or lock, is flying up the ladder of ability and success; a real find from U20s this year. With him on that ladder is Finn Burke who is making an impression at six and seven. Adam McEvoy at scrumhalf, has been making notable progress building confidence and acumen.

Craig Kennedy has been out for most of two seasons but has been coming back in and when he gets back to his full potential he will be as his father and uncle before him a major St Marys’ player on wing or centre and or fullback. Peter Ford has been excelling at J1s and recently he has been playing with the senior team and is showing impressive ability in midfield and adding to the dazzling centres already established, Mark Fogarty and Myles Carey (whose younger brother Eoin is also rapidly climbing). Promising Senan Phelan, Max Svejdar, and Dan Lyons are getting valuable experience. Hopefully, Adam Mulvihill, will be back from injury next season.

There are fortunately many more with the mind and potential to make major contributions to our club, which is fast returning to its previous standing.

Not far away at any stage, was our president Bobby O’Connor, he has given his all, in facilitating and supporting every need.  He has the ability to understand needs and somehow to make things happen and needs be met.  He has invested enormous energy, drive and resources from the start, with the tour, and all along since.  He has formed locked bonds with his skipper, coaches and players (at all levels), and he has brought along the membership with alacrity. He has also been an outstanding representative of our club with his peer club presidents and our sponsors. No doubt he will have enjoyed the hard work and the success it has brought.  He deserves a bit of a rest now, as the club is abuzz.

The Voyage (How we got there and can we stay there?)

There is little doubt but that the surge of the past season has been the major factor in our success, but for the genesis of the revival, then it was  the incessant and dedicated work and deep knowledge of Steven Hennessy, Peter Smyth and Alan Shirley that brought rugby from free-wheeling to here. The surge in recruitments and special development programmes moved things along, it also ensured that we did not slip up during Covid. During Covid, Club Presidents, Michael O’Flaherty, Vincent Cunningham and Patrick Crawford, ensured support was there to keep the club and rugby stable, safe, secure and active. They are owed a big debt. During that time too, exceptional captains Thomas O’Reilly and Richard Halpin (X2) kept standards and spirit as they should be, and kept rugby just right at Templeville Road. Both are still involved.

Gareth Roche, president 2022-23 and then Bobby O’Connor, current president, with the support of their committee, the DoR Alan Shirley, and his Rugby Council drove things on; the club swung in behind them and things began to soar.  A new recruitment drive secured key players, a rugby tour was planned and executed with outstanding results.  In tandem was the introduction of Captain Ronan Watters, 2022-23 and 2023-24. He proved to be sensational, both on and off the field, as an inspirational player, leader and ambassador.  He gelled with players, coaches, administrators and supporters and he played like a god. Gareth and Bobby proved to be enormously driven and ambitious for the club.  Fundraising ensured the above and they pushed it that bit harder and along with Steven Hennessy and DoR Alan Shirley, recruited Sean Cronin, who was just retired from professional, International rugby and full of zeal and rugby nous.  This was a master stroke. They also ensured that he had the right rugby support coaches with him in talented Jamie Cornett and Marcus O’Driscoll, (former club captain).  The start of this season another bonanza came our way, Mark McHugh, our former 2000 AIL winning outhalf and a successful senior club coach, with a deep attachment to his old club, St Marys, joined Sean and click!   The combination of all together has been extraordinary. You have seen the results.  Unfortunately Sean had to take up a life career pathway, half way through the season, but has generously kept vigil since. We will never forget his work and dedication, including coming three times a week from West Limerick to Templeville Road. Mark has shown why he was so highly regarded and has, with all involved, delivered as desired. He will most fortunately, remain to bring his team to the top.

The logistics, organisation, man management and player welfare are vital parts of the successful Paradigm.  Those volunteer roles are filled by the manager and his assistants. We have been most fortunate that we have had management who are rugby knowledgeable. They are diplomatic but ever honest, which is an essential characteristic. They have a high degree of organisational skills, linked with real concern and empathy.  For many years, the current vice president, Paudge McGill and his assistants filled the role most effectively and was admired by his players and colleagues.  His outstanding assistants Paul Pender, Conor O’Neill, Paul Conlon and Ian Bloomer and Darren Walker, who has the difficult responsibility for J1 rugby, have evolved into the roles since the start of the season.  Paul Pender the senior Manager, has been a signal success. He has fulfilled all the required aspects with élan and on top of that has ensured the pitches and surrounds are in top condition with the help of groundsman Peter O’Kelly. Recently, Harry Ebbs has joined the management group and all are very pleased to have his expertise, diligence and energy. Paul and his colleagues are much admired by the players and appreciated by the club.  We are fortunate that all will continue to administer unto the needs next season.

Now we have to see if, having taken what we consider our rightful place in 1A, we can prosper. The answer seems a resounding yes.  The parts are in place and the style and pace of our rugby is ideally suited to 1A.  It will not be plain sailing nor easy but we will progress.  We may need selective additions, but all those involved as mentioned, know what to do and will do it.

D O’Brien.

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