Navan RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
Energia AIL Division 1 B
Saturday 5th October 2019.
The changing Season.
Blue, with mud and sweat, the jerseys stained and gory
Tell happiness or sad, the game and all its story
Clanking studs upon the floor, hissing of the shower
steam and mist, humid smiles, the weakness or the power.
And after yet the patted backs, else the eyes averted,
Added cheers and anthems sung, greatest they’re asserted.
Each week anew the nervous strain, hope to gain in league,
Later on, the points to tot, not feeling the fatigue
Gliding by, the season whirs, squad in joyous fusion
Each week passes further on, reaching glad conclusion.
At last the human thought exists, triumph to proceed
If not, next season will arrive, then we shall succeed.
This year, that little verse I did some seasons ago to reflect the unpredictability of outcomes, togetherness and the eternal optimism of sport, gets the AIL campaign underway. But far more importantly was an away win at Balreask Old, Navan, (let us hope we shall keep “winning away”) today. This was our first AIL game against the newly promoted club. It was uplifting to see the happiness of all involved, after this propitious start. Our president, Michael O’Flaherty, was ecstatic, and was voluble in his praise of his team and all involved. Well done President.
The successful work of our dedicated and talented head coach, Steven Hennessy and his colleagues Jamie Cornett and Barry Lynn, along with outstanding DoR, Alan Shirley and his rugby council (RC) in recruitment and later preparation for today onwards, has to be registered. It has left us with a much strengthened squad, a charismatic and exceptionally popular captain, Tom O’Reilly, and a retained management team, under calm and highly efficient Paudge McGill.
And so the scene is set, as we settle in to an 18 game, home and away league and possibly added two promotion-aimed matches.
Arriving at a well-furnished ground, with a modern clubhouse and four fine pitches, it was raining steadily. There was no appreciable wind. That rain played its part as both sides lost the ball from hands frequently, especially in the first half, leading to missed chances and frequent restarts. That said, from the visitors’ point of view it is good to report that the lineout worked for the main part efficiently and once again the scrum was strong and productive. Navan also have a fair pack and their vaunted scrum may have swayed issues marginally early on, but eventually Tommer’s Terriers ascended to control and even gained a penalty try. The backline looked sharp and will cause problems for defences.
Two newcomers to the backline, Mick O’Gara and Adam McEvoy (son of former, fine senior player Arthur) fitted in well on their AIL debuts; as indeed did the most welcome forward additions, potent Peter Starrett, returned from Armagh, who had a very fine game, juggernaut Jack Dilger, also returned and making an impact on introduction, and Cillian Dempsey, newly arrived and making a significant contribution. Steven will have been happy with the fitness levels of his charges and the player interactions. Although there were some expensive open field tackle lapses, hard line defence was organised and effective and, on the occasions when it was status orange on the line, they never flinched.
The teams were fairly evenly pitched, with both teams having periods of ascendancy, however, it was the visitors who eventually showed a clear edge and gained a deserved win.
There were some notable performances, with Leinster academy man, Cormac Foley, adding direction and vital control on the game from halftime, and “Mighty Micko”, Michael McCormack, (son of very popular and generous sponsor, Gerry, G.Mack), who not only scrummaged powerfully, lifted like a JCB, but was highly active in the loose, tackling and rucking, and carrying with penetration. One carry, critically just before half time, brought him, scattering tacklers on the way, from the 22 over the line. Although held up, the succeeding scrum was so overwhelming as to earn an immediately penalty try. His try without doubt. His all-round performance earned him the SoftCo MoM award. This keenly sought award, is again being kindly donated by our main sponsor, SoftCo. This is an addition to the overall sponsorship. This season each recipient’s photo will be tweeted by the club after the particular game. Others to catch the eye, in the backline, David Fanagan at fullback, making important incursions from fullback and number 14, Hugo Conway, who was ever a threat and vitally, scored a fine try, ripping through defenders; then with cool sense he weaved his way in under the posts for ease of conversion. And in the pack Liam Corcoran who soared, and of course, afore mentioned, Michael McCormack.
The early part of the game, due to continuous fine rain, was stippled with little errors. This meant settling in was difficult, however it was clear that this would be temporary. After eight minutes and already four scrums, our palindromic rivals converted a penalty, 3-0.The position and perception swung over and back until 26 minutes when a nicely held up pass put a Navan’s Evan Dixon, through a gap in midfield and he ran straight in from 40 metres, 10-0. That adrenalinised the Marys’ 15 and the tempo rose and ten minutes and many carries later, Michael McCormack made another of his strong carries, he ploughed through the Navan defence, from over 20 metres out and made the line; he was held up, but as mentioned, the ensuing scrum saw demolition of the Navan scrum and a penalty try making it 10-7.
A few minutes later a blocked down defensive kick, led to a siege of our line but with granite grit our defence held, until a penalty gave the home team a halftime lead of 13-7.
The second half saw the appearance of Cormac Foley and his strategic kicking gave us threatening positions; and our ball holding improved. After some heavy duty pressure Navan conceded a penalty on 48 minutes, which Rhuairi Shields converted and it was 13-10. The tempo stayed high and you could feel the pressure and with it the excitement grew; we could feel the current flow. Then a “clothes-line tackle”, with a penalty only awarded on 56 minutes, Rhuairi made it 13-13. Marys mounted a sustained period of pressure. A dropped ball and a Navan break out turned the tide. Then we conceded a silly penalty; they kicked to the corner, took the lineout and when held up, recycled and when the ball came to van der Vyver, he skimmed though our defence and scored a very good try, ominously it was 18-13. However, we returned to the fray undaunted. A well directed kick from Cormac Foley towards the corner was not cleared and hard running Hugo scored his try under the posts. After the conversion it was 18-20. Then after a conceded penalty by Navan, Mick O’Gara scored a long range penalty to make it 18-23. That was how it rested and so that much sought after away win was achieved.
Next Saturday, Armagh City RFC come visiting after their win at home to Naas. Last season, we both won our home fixtures, so we will be expecting a close encounter of the rugby kind. Having Ronan Watters back from Leinster duty should strengthen further our resources and we look forward to an exciting day with the Ireland V Samoa game on TV as the curtain raiser. This year get into the habit of attending home and away fixtures; its great fun and you are really helping the team.
And feel free to contact me anytime regarding these reports, also, for a bit of fun, I am inviting anyone who wishes to send their score predictions each week for the following game, we will include here, any correct results and we will see who does best over the year. firstname.lastname@example.org
Team up with Tommer
Team (Rolling Replacements X12)
15 D Fanagan, 14 H Conway, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 C Kennedy, 10 R Shield, 9 A McEvoy, 8 N McCarthy, 7 C Dempsey, 6 D Aspil, 5 L Corcoran, 4 P Starrett, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly (Capt), S Healy, N McEniff, J Dilger, L Curran, C Foley