St. Mary’s College RFC J2 2019/20; A season in review:
The 2019-2020 season for our J2s was a difficult pill to swallow in some ways, and in other ways a tremendous example of the calibre of players and coaching we had. We had two tremendous coaches in Gavin Thornberry and Ronan ‘Ronda’ O’Doherty, with some phenomenal help coming in from the injured Ciaran ‘Lenzo’ Lennon. Lenzo, who suffered a bad injury early in the season, joined in with management to stay involved in the team (thankfully he did). Lenzo lent a strong and guiding hand to our lads, while often barely even able to walk on the sideline. Gav who may be the most organised and prepared man in the world, Ronda who is undoubtedly one of, if not the fastest “retired” players in the club, and Lenzo who still has lots to offer on the pitch once he’s back playing - three lads who were the foundation on which the season was built.
I was fortunate enough to link in as manager after what I think was my 3rd retirement from rugby following another knee injury, and I was perfectly happy in my role which involved making sure the jerseys, balls, cones, bottles and anything else we needed were all where they were supposed to be, and that the three lads had what they needed for the match and training. On matchdays, all valuables had to be guarded, contact lenses protected and referees charmed - I was very successful in two of these objectives. Since I had accepted that Joe Schmidt had either lost my number or decided that Jordan Larmour was a better fit for his squad, I called it a day on my relatively short career and decided to stay involved with the club. Gav, Ronda, Lenzo and the lads all warmly welcomed me into the fold and I’m immensely grateful for that.
Without singling any player out, it’s safe to say that every player on our team, who’s age range was, on any given day, 19 - 40, gave it their all in every match. Our forwards went unmatched in scrums, mauls and rucks - a wall of immovable and unbreakable blue and white steel. Lineouts were successful more often than not and just to show how impressive our big men were; when playing against J1 and J2 sides, whenever a scrum was awarded, be it to us or our opponents, an audible groan was let out by our foes - they knew they were coming up against a team that could not and would not be stopped - one of our scrums marched our opponents half the length of the pitch in one match. Despite being the nicest lads you could meet off the pitch, our forwards were a force to be reckoned with on it - and every team in the league knew it.
Our backs, made up of a mix of new and old blood, veterans and rookies, were a sight to behold on the ball. Quick hands, loud voices and speed matched only by Barry Allen (look him up - he’s very fast). We had a plethora of choice when it came to choosing who to start. We had precise scrum halves, accurate out-halves, no dearth of fearless crashing centres, wingers who could sprint faster than a government u-turn, and full backs who could cause more trouble than a golfing dinner in Galway. Combine all of this with the assistance we received from our U20s and various other Junior Rugby teams, you can see why we had a team to brag about. (Side-note: Thank you to the management and coaches of the 20s and other junior teams, as well as the lads who togged out for us - your help was and will always be gratefully received and welcome).
To finish the season joint second (“technically” 3rd due to a points-difference of only 21 points), was a tough one - even just a draw where we had lost or had we played a little stronger in games we lost, could have made all the difference - or so we thought - but that's the way the game goes and there's always next season to aim for. The season ended after the last league game and before any play-offs or cup games got underway - little did we know that 6 months later we’d be back in lockdown in Dublin and unsure of when the league will resume proper. All we can do is try to keep fit, stay safe, follow the guidelines and hope we can get back to rugby in a safe and hopefully uninterrupted way. This season, in whatever form it takes will be different, but under the eyes of new coaches and Junior Rugby legends: David ‘Lyonsy’ Lyons and Graeme ‘GMac’ McInerney, and with myself and Aaron Hudson working behind the scenes to make sure we're fully compliant with IRFU and Club Covid Restrictions, we will ensure that it will be a successful one and hopefully we can can bring some more silverware to the Templeville Road.
So for now, stay safe, please wear a mask, wash your hands, and make sure that when you’re allowed to, that you get out and cheer on every team in the club you can. When the government says you can attend live matches in Dublin, put on your blue and whites, bring your mask, loudly cheer on the lads, and hope we can get back to normal as soon as possible.
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