1st XV v UCC (H) by D. O'Brien 21.04.2018

St Mary's College RFC V UCC RFC

24 36

AIL Division 1A/1B play-offs

Templeville Road

Saturday 21st April 2018.

Outcome

Congratulations to UCC RFC for a deserved victory. In 2005 in Division 2, we beat UCC RFC 8-5 and went on to regain Division 1 status. Now, 13 years later UCC gained revenge and a good chance of promotion to division 1A. They have to play Bambridge RFC next Saturday 28th April for that honour. It could be a very close encounter.
Yes, of course it is a very sad day for our club and a setback in our development. However, we remain one of the foremost clubs in the country and will continue to play rugby, albeit in Division 1B, at least for next season. We have a vibrant structure right down to mini rugby, so it shall remain.

There was not one St Marys' player who was on the field yesterday, who did not give of his last atom of energy and effort. There should never be shame in being beaten when you have done all that you can. Ciaran Ruddock, the captain, has been a great credit to his team and his club, there has never been one who has given more of himself in every way. Thank you Ciaran.

The president, David Fanagan too, has been total in his support to his players, all season. Coaches, Peter Burke and Steve Bradshaw have been exceptionally dedicated in their efforts and worked incessantly all season. They deserve our gratitude, as do manager, Paudge McGill, Assistants, Peter O'Kelly and Ruaidhri Moran, who toiled through a tough winter.

The game

It was one of the most idyllic April days on record, with light breezes and warm sunshine. Unfortunately, there was not the crowd the game deserved, and it seemed that UCC had more supporters than the home side.

The game was only two minutes old when UCC burst through to score and convert. It became very clear from early on that if the ball was kicked to them or given away, they knew how to use it, and hurt; and hurt they did. Like a good university side they ran from everywhere and were excellent at the breakdown. The first half was the visitors'. In the 18th minute they made it 0-14, 24 minutes, it became 0-19 and when the ball was again given away on 34 minute, they stretched it to 0-26. Exactly on 40 minutes we attacked from a ruck, with Paddy O'Driscoll, who had a strong game, slicing through from 40 metres. He found support from the excellent Ronan Watters who forced himself, at flying pace through two tacklers, to score and so at half time it was 7-26.

The second half started and it looked as though we had found the key. The pace went up, the ball was controlled and we started to run hard at the opposition. It was only 42 minutes when we had a sweeping movement ending with David Fanagan, who stepped brilliantly, three players and scored in the cabbage patch corner. Seanie Kearns converted beautifully; it was 14-26 and we held our breath. The sun seared, the wind held its breath, and we went back for more. We sent up a wave of attacks around the 22, then Marcus O'Driscoll took a superbly acute vector and split the defence, to go under the posts, 21-26, it was 48 minutes. Was a miracle to happen? We hoped, we thought so! But, on 51 minutes we kicked away ball, conceded a penalty at the breakdown, and it was 21-29. On 55 minutes, Seanie got one back, 24-9. Soon after, on 64 minutes, a water break was called, just as we had a lineout five metres from our line. When play resumed, we won the lineout and mauled. Somehow, a UCC player emerged from the maul with the ball and charged over, 24- 36. Disaster!

Try as we might, and did with great intent, the bubble had burst and there was no way back. The game ended 24-36.

As mentioned, UCC deserved their victory, they had more possession and played with poise and purpose. Their handling was excellent and they turned over several balls, some critical. That said we could have nicked it.

There were too, some strong performances from the home side. Behind the scrum, both half backs, Paddy O'Driscoll and Conor Dean, did all they could to make things happen and further out, Marcus, Darren Moroney and David Fanagan were always a threat. All in the pack worked to the fall down. The backrow put in a high powered effort. At Eight, Nick (the Warrior) Mc Carthy showed the bravery, persistence and skills that kept hope alive, he soared up and secured several kick offs and again in the lineout. He covered every millimetre of space and tackled to drop. He epitomised the bravery required in modern rugby, and he received the SoftCo MoM award.

The hard Road ahead.

There will be many questions asked, with many theorems and theses promoted. Twice before, we have gone down a division and twice came back up the following season. There is little doubt but that that is the best chance, however, every season it becomes more competitive in all respects, for resources and results. The vital factor is cohesion. We are fortunate that the core group is young and developing. If this group stays together and some reinforcements are added, we shall have our best hope. Clearly there is more to it than that, but Rugby Council will deal with that. We have a quite outstanding DoR, and now we must all support him and let him get on with it.

All members and supporters, must look to see how we can help, not criticise, if we do that, it adds to our chances of getting back to where we want to be. We have a proud history of closing ranks and working together for the good of the club. Never more has that been required. There is an additional imperative next season, as critical league changes may emerge the following one, and we must be well placed to make the best of them, and not lose out. It was heartening to note, many from local clubs were there in our support; and afterwards messages of commiseration and support flooded in from many Dublin clubs.
We are also extremely fortunate to have sponsors, SoftCo who, through Jim Coffey, have committed to stay with us, as they did the last time we were relegated. Not only that, but they have increased that support through a very generous fundraising initiative.

We have a lot to look forward to next season, we will have new challenges and new places to visit and new friendships to make. Our club, over 118 years, has always welcomed challenges and now we shall again, embrace them.

Finally thanks to all of you for support for these reports, especially Liam Birkett for checking the text each week.

D O'Brien

Team (Rolling Replacements X12)
15 S Kearns, 14 T Kennedy, 13 M O'Driscoll, 12 M Carey, 11 D Fanagan, 10 C Dean, 9 P O'Driscoll, 8 N McCarthy, 7 R Watters, 6 D Aspil, 5 D O'Connor, 4 C Ruddock (Capt), 3 A Coyle, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O'Reilly, H Kean, E Ferron, C O'Flaherty ,D Moroney. R O'Loughlin C Kennedy, M Tymmons, D Mc Donnell