St Mary’s College RFC 21 V Old Belvedere RFC 32
Energia AIL Division 1 B
15th April 2023
Club Rugby is an exciting exposition of social expression and youthful exuberance. It is a cohesive and valuable force for interactions and life friendships at all levels and degrees of involvement. It brings a cathartic release of kinetic energies, and moulds character; that would be the episteme within the game. Today, 15th April 2023 is a definitive day for club rugby, all over Ireland. It is the day of fulfilment of the all-Ireland League (AIL), as such, in all divisons and annexes; before the playoffs.
Here at Templeville Road, as though metamorphosing from winter, today real spring visited as a bright and warm sensation, a joyous coming together of sun and light breezes, and mingling of Maros and Belvos and colours and smiles.
Inside a teeming throng of same, filled seats and guts, amid happy meets, half-forgotten friends and whole-forgotten names; and stars from past and future.
Honorary Secretary, Aoife, introduced proceeding once more with an oratorical gem that set the scene for an excellent pre-match lunch. President Gareth welcomed and thanked all, in his lively and uplifting fashion. His counterpart from our visitors, Frank Quinn (a name of great import to Belvedere) replied with a pleasantly knowledgeable, witticism-dappled, tribute to St Marys. This was the last AIL lunch organised by the brilliant, greatly admired administrator, Marie Hammond. She got a most well-deserved bouquet, a tribute from the president and a thunderous and prolonged standing ovation. She is admired with affection throughout Irish Rugby. The club owes her everlasting gratitude.
Outside the sun shone and sparkled and lit up the green coiffured pitch, as though a palette, on which the players would spread their artistry.
Ronnie, in plangent tones, read the names of the youthful competitors of the successful teams of recent competitions, who paraded at half time. A deserved recognition of an important achievement for the club, as these are stars of tomorrow and future staunch Marys’ men.
On the Pitch
It was time for the joust. The two clubs have a tradition of warm friendships and rivalries, as was again to unfold. On this occasion Old Belvedere had much to gain, with a home semi-final for the playoffs dangling. The home side had the honour of their club to defend, and how well they did that.
The terraces were crammed with members and supporters from both clubs. It was a match of high quality and pace. Both teams presented with rapid outside strikers and a mobile team overall, playing with fluidity. The Belvo pack were considerably heavier but were well matched in action by the Marys’ eight. The game swung and swayed throughout. There would be little to separate them, with Belvo probably taking all their chances and guarding the ball a little better. Both defences were as impressive as any noted all season, the set pieces were clean and true. Marys got opportunities to win the game, but possibly used the boot too frequently, especially when in prime positions. It has to be said that they came out on the wrong side on some decisions; a few belonging to the list of sorrowful mysteries. That said there was no complaint, Belvo deserved their win and scored some delightful tries. Added to a fine pack, with a high quality Eight, Kale Thatcher and efficient halves; in Robles and White, Belvo have two match winners.
After a disappointing finish to the Malone game, Ronan’s team were determined to perform to their apotheosis. It was heartening to see a team play as one, where each one contributed notably adding to the colour or texture of that palette. The pack was excellent today with the backrow coruscating. Niall Hurley came to particular notice this time last season and this season he has under Sean’s tutelage, improved with every game. He can play right across the backrow. He had fine game today, showing up particularly in defence, as a good Six, but also as a jumper and he achieved some important turnovers and supports. He has real ability. Ethan Baxter once again was multi locational and indefatigable, an Exocet Missile. He is oblivious to danger and deadly in accuracy. He may not be the biggest in the pack but his power to weight ratio is extraordinary. He effects important steals. He may be seen out on the wings sometimes, but he is there lurking with intent; his pace is impressive. He has been a most welcome addition to the squad this season. Today his effective work rate with and without the ball (there is here, a refusal to use the cliché both sides of the ball) was outstanding, and he received the SoftCo MoM Award.
To mention Skipper, Ronan Watters is to mention the epitome of an elite athlete and sportsman. He was the pillar around which today’s performance and indeed the season’s quality was built. He is a natural leader and has undying grit and determination he does not know the words quit or surrender. At AIL level he is phenomenal. Today he led in all respects, he carried consistently and effectively, he was excellent in the lineout and he took two pivotal turnovers. He scored two fine tries, one a brilliant effort off the base of the scrum, breaking blind from 30 metres and scorching the defence. A genuine St Marys great, and a commendable young man.
The secondrow performed smoothly all match supplying good ball and working hard, It is a difficult place to play if you are playing for show, however if you are willing to work and take the bangs and achieve much for your team and club, this is the place to be. Today Peter Starrett worked with precision, he did as he does, tackled unerringly all game, worked in scrum, lineout and maul, and made a significant contribution. When Peter came to the club, he had to wait to make his mark and was willing to do that and put in the big shifts for the club, often at J1, and often in difficult conditions. He never complained, he did it. In time, he became a most valued member of the team; and the entire squad and beyond admire and appreciate Peter greatly. Working alongside Peter is Daniel Leane, a brilliant young player, at 4, 5 or 6 he is dynamic and highly skilled, he is brave and unrelenting. That was how he was today, incessantly, gliding around at pace working. Ian Wickham, too is a young man who plays Five and Six and is developing very nicely, he fitted in today for his spell and will have been happy with his performance. Conor Pierce, a young 8, who is highly regarded and had an auspicious debut V Malone. He had a cameo today, to good effect and enjoyed it He is another one for the future.
We have been fortunate all season to have strong scrums due to astute coaching and the quality of our hookers and all our senior props. Hookers are in a strange role they are expected to be master marksmen, hardened harriers, galvanised grafters, courageous carriers, and cute hoors in the scrum. Our two main hookers this season, Richard Halpin and Stephen O’Brien, fulfilled all those criteria. Today, very sadly playing his last game for the club, Richie, once again was outstanding, as is his wont, he was vying for most tackles made, on top of carrying out all the demands of his position. He has made the most admirable contribution to St Mary’s College RFC as a player, as Captain, and as ambassador. With the dedication shown it is very probable that in the future, he will make other notable contributions to the club. His family too have given commendable support. Stephen who has also played much of the season with distinction, will we hope, be part of the team for future seasons. Today against a big strong Belvo scrum, the Marys scrum was rock. Credit to both scrums they got on with it without shifts, slips stands or manoeuvres. When you have Mighty Mick McCormack there at tighthead, well he is never going to shift. He was most unfortunate to lose a fair piece of the season with illness, when he recovered he came back, and been coming back to his best. He was at that today. Props do so much more than old perception held. He could stand in for a hydraulic hoist, he lifts so efficiently. He showed his good hands today and put in some shuddering hits and rucks. What can anyone say about Niall McEniff?, he is astounding, everyone knows he is multitalented, but even for him, to come back today having been out injured since before the AIL commenced and star in the last game of the campaign is dumbfounding. How could a report be complete without a mention of former super Club Captain and daring firefighter, Tommer O’Reilly? He played a significant part of the game in his usual high quality fashion, contributing in every facet of the game and scoring a try. Missing today, is another star of the future, Adam Mulvihill, who has been stratospheric all season. With Jack Reidy-Walsh developing well in the wings and the Team Totem, Podge, ever ready, we are well prepared for the future in the Grrr and grunt department.
A shift down in weight but not gravitas, the halfbacks are a vital element of the game and were of course today. Many decisions emanate from the halves and in ways they control game destiny. Richie Fahy has been with the team for half the AIL campaign. He has developed rapidly as he adapted to the style and moves of the Marys’ game. Today he gave a steady stream of good passes to his partner, he varied his game with astute kicking and sensible cover. He has shown his value and commitment and we are fortunate to have his continued involvement. We are also fortunate to have young Adam McEvoy, he has been involved most season with one spell out with injury. He is a talented player with pace and guile, he passes well, he is a good decision maker and is developing rapidly. Andrew Walsh, has been out of the team for some time now, but played a significant role during the early season and was on the bench today.
Conor Dean, who is fly-half and player coach. He too has had a fair spell out with injury, he is returning to his highest quality standard. His contribution to the team is seminal. He seemed to enjoy running the game today and was unfortunate not to score early in the game, with a fine break and then with one of his delicate chip and collect moves. He passes like a joy and is central to the plans. Aaron O’Neill has talent in legions and is learning fast from Conor, he is valuable player who will mature to gold. So too will Senan Phelan, who has had an astral path up thorough age graded rugby, and with patience and application, is destined to be a virtuoso.
If one were to select the most consistent and valuable back over the season Mick O’Gara would be high on the list. He plays with such power and courage it is awe inspiring. He never shirks, he is loyal and dedicated. He is also a talented rugby player who can move in or out from 12 and still be superb. He was to the fore today and of course has developed into high percentage place kicker, a real bonus. Conor Hickey kept the opposition on their toes today as he probed for cracks and chinks, shifted ball as required, and hemmed in his opposition. Conor came to us from Australia, and he played at 10, 15 and centre. He found his true home at 13 and has been terrific there since. Ryan O’Loughlin, missing today, who has been top class for the club over a number of years now, has been in excellent all season and hopefully will continue his rugby career next season. We have the two Careys to add to the centre melange. Two real talents, Myles who is our proven star, we hope will be back from Australia in the summer and Eoin has been developing on U20s.
Mark Fogarty is insuppressible, he has acceleration like an EV and steps like a fleet footed cougar; he has that controlled urgency needed in a winger and the feet to go with it. He loves high balls; and tackling a titan is for him, a good snack to be snaffled. He was highly active today and made his usual high octane and valuable contribution; a real asset. Max Svejdar, a promising and developing back three player, has come into contention, with the terribly disappointing injury to top gun and super winger Hugo Conway, whom we hope will be soon well and back to training. Max, who is usually a centre, has taken to the challenge and answered the call with alacrity. He did all asked of him again today. Stephen Kilgallen has come to Marys this season and made his mark as a flying back three player with much potential and also a particularly affable and polite young man. He has been showing that ability on the wing but now as a fullback, his true and exciting ability has come to light. He did not get as many opportunities in attack as usual due to the fine and very tight Belvedere defensive system, however he had a fine game and contributed well.
There are several other players of importance and ability who would be normally involved but due to injury were not. The two very talented Liam (who played several earlier games) and Conor Corcoran, Harry MacDonald from New Zealand who has been a regular in the match team or replacements, and has been a valuable and cooperative addition to the squad. There are a number of other players who contributed over the season, and of course the entire J1 and U20 squads played invaluable roles in training and preparatory work for matches. A notable feature of all of Ronan’s squad is their camaraderie and happy demeanour. They are an inclusive band who play rugby and socialise together. This augurs well for future development and successes.
The game commenced as it continued, at pace. After a break by Deano on 11 minutes, the ball was then sent back and the Ronan took it at top pace, on an exquisite vector and thundered over, 7-0. Play fluctuated until 23 minutes when Belvo set siege to the Marys line with continuous pick and drives, eventually a breach let them in and it was, 7-7. Soon after, Belvo converted a penalty and it was 7-10. Another penalty on half as hour made it 7-13. On 34 minutes we had a penalty to the corner, a maul and picks and drives with Tommer getting over close in. 14-13. And on 40 minutes Belvo had a mauled try so, Half Time 14-20.
On 52 minutes and a strong attacking platform, Deano made a fine break he worked the ball on and when attacking the line at pace, 7 or 8 metres out in Carvill Corner we kicked the ball, Robles gathered and used his pace to go out wide behind the cover and up along the clubhouse side. He transferred the ball which was hoofed ahead and scrumhalf O’Beirne got there first to score a very fine try. 14-27. Two minutes later we had an attacking scrum 30 metres out and near the touchline, Ronan picked and went, he fairly skimmed along bursting a tackle and going over in Carvill Corner, Mick did the job and made it 21-27. We then attacked pretty constantly and looked as though we could get there, but when attacking on 80 we lost control of the ball at a ruck and Belvo snatched it and ran the pitch to score. It ended 21-32.
Post-Match:- and beyond
The supporters mingled happily together afterwards and although disappointed to lose a game that we could well have won, all shared the joy of Belvo and a superb night followed. When the club called last, G-Mack, generously entertained 41 players and auxiliaries until late in the night/early morning. That is part of the spirit of rugby.
There has been a reasonably successful season, leading to a strong positon for the future. If you wish to check the results, progress and details, the reports for all match are available on the St Mary’s College RFC, website. St Marys feel the need to play at the top level and so there is some disappointment, but there is knowledge that the pieces are falling into place and destiny awaits.
It is the end of the season and as is the tradition and need, the king is dead, long live the king. The club prepares for next season. But recognition of those who make it all happen is important. We cannot recognise the entire organisation. However, the President, Gareth Roche, who was close to his group, (including, invaluable junior rugby) supported his men intensely, felt every tackle and score, every miss and pain, of players and mentors. Gareth must be congratulated for his dedication and work all season; he will need a rest soon when the season is over, for there is some important unfinished business at junior level and he will live their hopes too.
It is clear that there is a healthy, optimistic, talented group of players filling all positions. There is of course always need for reinforcements and dynamic Vice President, Bobby O’Connor is working hard on all aspects of development, on and off the field. Having Sean Cronin as head coach, also Jamie Cornett and Conor Dean and Marcus O’Driscoll involved is reassuring. Sean has done a wonderful job. He is highly professional and yet empathetic, he is meticulous in his preparations and the club is very fortunate to have his and those colleagues’ expertise. They were backed by a marvellous and experienced management team headed by superb Manager, Paudge McGill, who has been the much admired and successful Manager for ten years. He now becomes Vice President and all wish him well. One of his assistants and close friend, Paul Pender, takes over. Paul is perfect for the job, he has coached and overseen, mini and youths rugby right up, and has been at the club for many years now, working on aspects of the club infrastructure, including managing house and grounds. He is also a member of the executive committee. He is a get stuff done man, who understands the needs of young persons and tries to help. He will be successful, no doubt, and will have Paudge in the background to call on if needed. He will also have his fellow assistants to support him, Paul Conlon and Conor O’Neill who are proven rugby managers, both will be there. Ian Bloomer, long time member and Referee Liaison Officer, will remain in office. He is most experienced and respected. He also assists in other logistical aspects of rugby. He is very popular with players and visiting referees and officials.
Overseeing the running and developing rugby at the club is a basic and most important function. It falls to Rugby Council (RC), headed up by Director of Rugby (DoR) and chairman of RC, Alan Shirley. He is an outstanding Marys’ man who has megatons of rugby experience and nous and is an insatiable worker. He is decisive and fair and works well with colleagues. The other members of that hard working group are, Kevin Conboy, Eoin Quinn, Stephen Shirley, Paudge McGill and Dave Lyons.
Never seen, but ever seeing, is Brian Holohan, who continues to make the match videos that are so important to Sean and his colleagues, and the players, for analysis.
The medical back up is vital and treasured by the club. The Medical Officer, Niall McEniff, gives his very valuable time freely and voluntarily to organise the doctors’ (including himself) rota. We are fortunate to have him and other eminent men such as Professor Michael Farrell, give up their Saturday afternoons to look after our players’ in case of injury or medical emergency. Allied is the physiotherapy unit, with exceptional head physiotherapist Davy (Dougal) Lyons, revered throughout rugby and GAA.
To the sponsors who have been very generous and so allow the club to do many of the important things, we otherwise would be unable to do, an enormous thank you. You are the elixir that keeps our and other clubs, viable and competitive. It is hoped that any successes or honours we may receive will reflect well on you.
The parents group have been again this season, very active and supportive in many ways. Finally, thanks to all the supporters who faithfully go to matches all over the country and ensure the fillip needed on occasions to get out of a trough or over the line.
Team (12 rolling changes)
15 S Kilgallen, 14 M Fogarty, 13 C Hickey, 12 M O’Gara,11 M Svejdar, 10 C Dean, 9 R Fahy, 8 R Watters (Capt.), 7 E Baxter, 6 N Hurley, 5 D Leane, 4 P Starrett, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin,1 N McEniff. J Reidy Walsh, T O’Reilly, I Wickham, C Pierce, A McEvoy, S Phelan, A Walsh.