St Mary’s College RFC U20s V Old Wesley RFC U20s
Purcell Cup Final
Sunday 28th April 2019.
A special kinetic aura vibrates around the youthful assembly, players and supporters tremulous and frenetic. An added competitive frisson permeates every Marys’ person entering Lakelands Park, as myriads of memories, of games gone by, against the host club Terenure College RFC, flood the thoughts. The parents, acting blasé, covers inner fearful trembles; each one a private apprehension. The stillness of the air too, brings a pre-match hush.
The match that follows does justice to the occasion and the result is an enormous boost for the St Marys’ team and the club. Parents can now let their breaths out.
Indeed, this game was full of uninhibited adventure, backed by brave defence; both sides filling the day with effervescent excitement. St Marys deserved their win although it was hard fought against worthy opponents. The set pieces worked out fairly evenly, with Wesley ahead in the lineout and Marys, the scrum. The balance, (backs and forwards) of the Marys’ team made a difference
Having faced ominous pressure for the first 15 minutes and looking as though the anatomical conformation differential might be too big a burden. During this stage the defence was admirable and adamantine, with the back row in particular superb and kept us in it. Marys then settled, got to grips with the game and started to impose their well-coached system on it. It was 11 minutes when Wesley opened the score, 0-3, with a fine penalty, Sean Bourke equalised on 15 minutes. On 29 minutes it became 6-3 following a Sean Bourke penalty and on 34 minutes he made it 9-3. It was 40 minutes gone and Wesley brought it back to 9-6. One minute later following a startling run at whiz pace Mk1 up along the touchline by Hugo Conway. He was stopped just short of the line have skittled half a dozen tacklers. The ball was recycled, when it came right to left, to Sean, he spotted the defence up outside him so he swayed inside a defender, then straightened and went in under the posts; and converted. A16-6. What a marvellous way to end a half. The air was thinning for us and the breathing was less stertorous, still there was fear.
The second half was six minutes old when Wesley got themselves back to 16-9. However, we were more in control and on 56 minutes Marys forced hard on the Wesley line. We kept them in the corner and eventually won a scrum. Sean Drew out the defence and when our scrum, which had been strong all game, held steady, the ball was fed from Daragh to Hugo coming off his wing, like an Exocet missile on a direct vector; and nobody was stopping Hugo. 23-9.
It was 64 minutes, Ruairi Shields ran back a ball from defence he slalomed through and when stopped short, it was recycled, the ball went blind, two passes to reach Jamie Coolican, and he showed pace from five, to skim over in the corner. 28-9. A pivotal score!
That was how the score ended, we continued to press until the end, for a deserved victory. It was tough and relentless but once St Marys got ahead they had the nous and ability to control the game. A wonderful win.
The Marys’ team overflowed with talented lads who showed their love for their team and their club. Without a strong scrum we should have struggled for Wesley had a very large team and a super-sized pack. The sprinkling of lads who had played senior rugby added valuable experience and confidence. This was a real bonus especially later in the match when game management was telling.
The front row of Sean O’Reilly, Gavin O’Brien and Jamie Coolican were hewn from Celtic granite and locked the pack in chink-less chains, immoveable. They took never a step back and Jamie Coolican impressively scored what may have been the defining score. The second rowers were, as a duo of skilful swallows, soaring and swooping, Eoin Byrne and Daniel Jennings both shone. However, for resilience, skill and hard graft Eoin had an edge. He took down balls in the lineout and in play that showed deft dexterity and courage. He is not heavy but made a weighty contribution in attack and defence, in the tight and in the loose. In a team of excellence he excelled. Watching with Declan Fanning and Eoin Quinn, we believed his effective and unrelenting efforts deserved the MoM accolade.
Without a top class backrow in the modern game, the cause is blighted. This backrow, and the replacements involved, were vital to the cause. In the early part of the game St Marys came under extreme pressure and it was the backrow, time and again, saved the day, winning turnovers, making the tackles, hitting the rucks, slowing the ball. They never wilted or shirked all game; a commendable contribution. They made an ideal commando unit under Captain Sean Heeran, who was impressive in his earlier performances with the senior squad. His wingmen, Matt Dillon at Six and Daniel Delaney, Seven, were dynamic. And Coming back from injury, highly impressive Niall McEniff, son of former St Marys’ player Niall, added to the backrow in the second half with his dynamic skill and power, helping sweep St Marys on to victory. Gavin Potts, son of another former Marys’ player Colin, also added most positively to the pack in the latter stages, as indeed did Jamie Shaw and flying Harry Mc Sweeney.
The quality and effectiveness of the linkage between the pack and the three quarters often defines the outcome of a game. Today, St Marys had two gems in Daragh McDonagh and Sean Bourke. Not flamboyant nor flashy but cerebral and controlled, both played their part with alacrity. Conor Johnson who came on at 9 later in the second half, likewise contributed positively and nobly. Daragh varied his game, he read the game and kicked well. Sean who shows fine potential, controlled the game well. He kicked from hand with accuracy and maturity, and, when you note that he scored a fine try, converted it and another, along with three penalties, an18 points personal tally, you realise his winning worth. Not a bad contribution!
The centre comprises the main highway of rugby, maybe even the F1 track, with high speed, high quality traffic in both directions. We had the F1 vehicles to travel and control these high speed lanes. Tom Murray at 12, carried willingly and strongly, his distribution was good and his defence secure; a fine performance from a strong team-man. Tim MacMahon, playing 13 today, was a schoolboy star last year, and continues to show that star quality level of skill. He is deceptive, with pace and is strong in attack, and brave and effective in defence. He reads the game well and has big potential. He made an important contribution today.
The back three, what a back three, were top class today. Sadly, just after a couple of minutes or so, Luke Mannion had to withdraw injured. It was a terrible disappointment for the lad, before he got a chance to shine. It was more than fortuitous that highly talented Hugo Conway was on the bench. He came on and was exceptional in all respects. A run he made almost saw him score; then on recycle it did lead to a try. In the second half, he scored a power try. All through the game he kept real pressure on the Wesley defence and covered astutely as required. He will be a future star if he continues to develop as now.
On the far wing was Craig Kennedy, another whose father Frank, was a distinguished player at the club for many years and a former club president. Craig has been a constant on the senior team this season and he showed why today. His clever defensive organisation and his close control in attack were a major bonus to the team and with another current senior player, Ruairi Shields, at 15, the back three were a menace to Wesley all through. Ruairi dealt effortlessly with all that came his way and judiciously entered the offensive line, making incisive vectors. A very fine team, in all respects.
After the game our own Rynner, our representative to LB.IRFU presented the trophy to the captain Sean Heeran and our president Jack Ebbs. He spoke very encouragingly to the young players from both sides, congratulating them and urging them to embrace their clubs. He extolled the virtues of rugby as a game. He did seem a somewhat pleased that it was to his own club he presented the trophy.
The Power behind the Throne
Of course none of this could happen if it were not for all the administrative members in the club, but here specifically, the coaching and management team behind the squad. People who spend hours in the rain or sleet as required. People who work on plans and moves, watching videos endlessly, people who fund raise, people who study the game, impart knowledge, make hard decisions and defend their area as though a mother lion, people who organise travel, gear, replacements, treatments and so many more necessities.
The Senior Coach, is former professional player, club captain and AIL winner, Robert (Chops) Sweeney. His work with this squad has been phenomenal, he has moulded a team of great skill and in true Sweeney fashion, discipline. This was clearly in evidence and invaluable today. The strength and conditioning has also been due to his great expertise in this area. He is a treasured and envied coach with a real future in this area. Without Chops there would not have been this prized result.
Coach Ian Robertson, who is greatly admired by the players and those who know rugby well, has worked assiduously all season up to recently, when he left to go to New Zealand. He had just arrived when he was picked up through Ronan O’Gara, for the famous Crusaders. His imprimatur is still clearly tattooed into the players’ DNA. He has done a superb job and is acclaimed for it.
The director of U20s rugby is John Muldoon, a very popular former senior player and dedicated club man. He acts as a benign uncle to the players, but he is also a shrewd judge of players and rugby and is not afraid to make decisions for the overall good. He has built up a commendable interaction between management, coaching and the squad. He deserves big credit.
There is no one more important in the entire U20 set up, than Manager Vinnie Murray,
There has never been a manager, more enthusiastic, committed, nor hard working. It is true to say that it is his passion. The club has been fortunate to have allowed his natural ability and enthusiasm bloom. He is everything a manager should be and the players know that and appreciate it. An added bonus, freely given is that Vinnie is the main sponsor to the U20s. This is a crucial area. Without sponsors the club would sink into oblivion. One of our most unstinting club sponsors and dedicated Marys’ man is Gerry (G-Mack) Mc Cormack, who is very generous to the U20s.
Having shrewd, veteran rugby man, Brendan Foley (alias Reggie) as assistant manager is a real bonus, for he is sage and humorous, his wry humour is fabled. However, that is not just Reggie, for he is willing, agreeable and a perfect facilitator, with a sharp mind to see the way through problems. Reggie will also show the young tyros the values and ethos of his greatly loved Marys.
With Conor Corcoran, a young physiotherapist available it has been a great support system for the U20s and he deserves gratitude and appreciation.
Finally to the parents may I say thank you for all your support for the team and the club. You have made a big difference. The club, would love every one of you to join St Marys (as full members), enjoy the innate camaraderie of the club, and its facilities. We need you to be part of the system, supporting your sons’ and daughters’ teams. We encourage you to use the facilities which are of the highest quality. We encourage you to get involved, help arrange trips and tours; and when you can support financially as well as other ways. Keeping rugby clubs in existence now is ever a heavy struggle and we need more involvement from our local communities, schools and individuals. I know that you will find you are part of our club exactly as those who have been involved for very many years. We do need you, so make Marys yours. Now off you go and celebrate!
Team 15 R Shields, 14 L Mannion, 13 T McMahon, 12 T Murray, 11 C Kennedy, 10, S Bourke, 9 D McDonagh, 8 S Heeran (Capt), 7 D Delany, 6 M Dillon, 5 D Jennings, 4 E Byrne, 3 J Coolican, 2 G O’Brien, 1 S O’Reilly, 16 N McEniff, 17 H McSweeney, 18 J Shaw, 19 C Johnson, 20 G Potts, 21, H Conway, 22 P Masterson.