Ballynahinch RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
UB AIL Division 1 B
Saturday 13th April 2019.
Game and Wrap-up.
A natural assimilation of ideals and natures it appeared to be, as the two groups of supporters melted into a sizeable amalgamation. Even the challenging weather did not cool the animation or friendships developed between our two clubs, yet probably stirred the challenge within the players. Rugby has the incomparable ability to engender real understandings and deep friendships. We at St Mary’s College RFC have been fortunate to have merged into a sustained friendship with the Ballynahinch folk. It shall endure.
The eve of match socialisation, with golf at Royal County Down and later dinner at Brunel’s Restaurant was a perfect preface to today’s enjoyable lunch and match. Credit to the St Marys’ supporters who came in large numbers in cars and on the bus.
There was a cold, vicious diagonal wind sweeping across the well-tended, Ballynahinch pitch. This made ball control difficult. Although the home side were clear and deserved winners, the final score was probably somewhat flattering to the winners.
Ballynahinch have a particularly well-balanced side with a powerful pack and quality backline led by Johnny Mc Phillips, and with an impressive fullback, Ross Adair, who scored two tries. With this balance, they have the appearance of a side which could prosper in division 1A. They have been steadily progressing since revered, former Ulster Coach, Brian McLoughlin took over last season. All at St Marys will wish them well.
The visitors with 12 U20s in the lineout should not be disappointed, as this young side have achieved much this season and after last week’s brilliant and redemptive performance, it was understandably difficult to sustain that imperative. They lost Darren Moroney before kick-off with a groin strain. None the less there was a fascinating see-saw scrum battle and Marys were unfortunate on a few occasions not to score. The Marys’ backrow was highly competitive too and behind the scrum the potential was evident with Conor Dean’s passing excellent and Mark Fogarty again sharp and eager. He scored a fine try. The skipper, Marcus O’Driscoll who has been outstanding all year, was once again threatening in attack and unyielding in defence; and a superb counterattack break out, by him led to the first try. He was ever leading, encouraging and cajoling, and deservedly received the final SoftCo MoM award of the season.
The game was only two minutes old when Ross Adair at 15, made a fine break from 30 Metres and scored under the posts Hinch added a penalty three minutes later, 10-0. Fortunes swayed for half hour or so. Then, Flanker Lunney showed pace on the blind to make it 17-0 on 34 minutes. The half time score remained 17-0.
St Marys raised the pace of the game in the second half and soon were putting on pressure. After a break by skipper, Modser, and recycled ball, Nick McCarthy was held up on the line and three drives later saw Mark Fallon get over; it was now 17-5. Ten minutes passed and, when on attack, Hinch got the ball to McPhillips and he showed his class as he skipped through and scored wide out, converting his own try. 22-5. It was 62, minutes and Hinch struck again through O’Donnell, 29-5. After a good attack by Marys, David Fanagan received the ball in the Hinch 22, and danced through the defence to score a fine try, 29-10. On 79 minutes, Mark Fogarty saw gap and used his magic feet to slalom through and make the score 29-15. From then to the end Hinch added two more tries, one converted. The match ended 41-15. Hinch then received the 1B trophy from former IRFU president Steven Hillditch
March with Modser
Team (Rolling Replacements X12)
15 R Shields, 14 H Conway, 13 M Fogarty, 12 M O’Driscoll (Capt), 11 D Fanagan, 10 C Dean, 9 C Foley, 8 N McCarthy, 7 R Watters, 6 D Aspil, 5 L Corcoran, 4 M Fallon, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, S O’Brien, P Dundon, D Lyons, P O’Driscoll C Kennedy.
The wrap up
It is hard to believe that the AIL season is over for us. We will miss watching this exceptionally talented and committed group. We owe them gratitude for the hours of excitement and sometimes fear. There is no doubt that, if they stay together and continue to benefit from the coaching of Steve et al., they and we have a successful and enjoyable rugby career ahead.
Having been relegated and lost a number of players to various causes, last season, Rugby Council, with astute DoR, Alan Shirley and Kevin Conboy and Eoin Quinn, set about the tough task of rebuilding. They were prescient in gaining the services of experienced, talented and highly sought after coach, and former club president, Steven Hennessy, along with fast developing, Jamie Cornett and Barry Lynn. They also re-engaged the services of Scrum Coach, Seamus and S & C Coach, Robert (Chops). Both did outstanding jobs. Efficient and respected Manager, Paudge McGill and his assistants Peter O’Kelly and Ruaidhri Moran agreed to stay on as did referee liaison officer Ian Bloomer. They set themselves the task of developing a home grown squad capable of mid table this season and of progressing next. The prime objective has been achieved, giving us some beautiful, nigh mesmeric performances, with an odd dejecting moment.
Steve et al. set highest standards and lines, which served the players well. All have benefited enormously from their input. We are now on track to push onwards.
The adjunctive volunteers have also contributed importantly. Brian Holohan provided clear and invaluable video footage of all the games, later painstakingly analysed by the coaches. He faced rain, sleet and muck with a smile; a key contribution. Davy Lyons continued to supply a top quality physiotherapy service to the players.
The supporters have played a strong role, especially in close games and those who organise the bus, including stops for food, for each away game, do a great service to the club. Marie, Eileen and Joyce once again took on the task, with alacrity.
Our main sponsors, SoftCo, have taken a special interest in this team and generously supported events and trips that have helped develop that special camaraderie that now exists.
This all leads to the main reason why our club exists, rugby and players. In this case the players in question are those in the senior squad.
The bedrock of the team, that laid the foundation of success, was the formidable front row. It was remarkable, and highly fortuitous that none were injured and were available for every game, Tommer even, having been deservedly selected for the Irish Club International team, never missed a game. Paudge and Sobby too were ever there to step effectively into the breach. It is hard to believe that, that mighty young tighthead, Michael McCormack, is just up off the U20s. Niall McEniff too will be available. What a future all have!
The two young Liams were a revelation, one out leaping the other or both bounding like antelopes, ball in hands or supporting each other (or others). Sadly, their partnership was sundered due to injury, but then Hugo Diepman stepped in and he too fitted in with skills and heart, equal to the task. He too then was injured again, then versatile and skilled Mark Fallon moved from backrow to second and now and then the wonderful young Logie did the job and became the inspiration to Tiger.
It is breath-taking, looking at the backrow, a commando unit to strike fear into the mujahedeen no less; with each one as good as the next and all superlative. If the three, David, Ronan and Warrior Nick remain together next season, they could well make up the best backrow in non-professional rugby. Having Dan Lyons and Sean Heeran hovering in the background adds a warm reassurance.
Fortunate too were we with halfbacks. Cormac and Deano, consummate players and developing professionals, yet dedicated Marys’ men. Not only are they there, but Paddy O’Driscoll, a multi-talented team man that brings a calm urgency and guidance to a team, played a major role. Probably the most skilful and effervescent player in the squad, a prestidigitator of brilliance who can play 9 to 15 is David Fanagan. He is and was a match winner. Young Ruairi and Tim are in the same vein, with immense potential.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance, on and off the field, of Skipper, Modser. His proven attacking talent, his defensive nous, his bravery and leadership on and off the field made him a dedicated and natural totem. He was injured for a few games and his loss was clear. When he was present the team lit up and sparkled. His experience too was invaluable in tight situations; indeed his ubiquitous capability saw him score from mauls and rucks, as well as from individual and brilliant breaks. His usual partner was Myles. And Myles played up to the last two games when a shoulder operation kept him out. However, Myles played with that shoulder injury up to that and he was a perfect partner for his skipper, with natural outside centre anticipation, break and acceleration. He was a constant and potent threat. Good to relate he is recovering well from his operation.
Craig, Darren, Hugo, Mark, along with afore mentioned David, Ruairi and Tim, all moved around 11, 13, 14 and 15. Hugo, of course is a star in the making, endowed with power, pace, positional and spatial awareness, and hunger for the line. Craig is an asset on any team as he works for his team with courage and skill and he too has a hunger and ambition. Darren Moroney has been out most of the season with injury, but back now and for that short while reminded us of his great worth. He is a players’ player. He never shirks, is strong direct and fearless he works for his teammates and never gives up. A man you would want on your team.
Probably the surprise package of the squad, was Mark Fogarty. He came back from injury late. He fitted in at centre, fullback and wing as though he was playing there all season. Not only that but he was positively brilliant wherever he played; and he really enjoyed it all. He is a super talented lad.
Having glossed over the personnel, it is most important to say that this is a TEAM, it has the characteristics to make it a highly successful one. You can feel the understanding, camaraderie, and unselfishness of these young men. They exude sportsmanship and comradeship. They have a loyalty and confidence that is important but are not arrogant or esoteric. If they stay together, a real future for them and the club awaits. Of course, back up players are always needed and we do need to add some bulk, some avoirdupois to our pack, and some back up at a few key positions. However, we can all look forward with joyous anticipation to next season.
We owe great gratitude to all mentioned above and several others not mentioned.
Our president, Jack Ebbs, was an important support to his team and he feels great pride in them and their efforts.
Finally, I wish to thank Liam Birkett for checking my scripts and all of you who have commented and encouraged. If by chance any one of you would fancy taking over from me in writing these reports, I will be very pleased to hand over. One requirement is that you attend every game, home and away, during the season. You can let me know. D