If last week's notes reflected a great week despite the lack of silverware, than this week we find it very difficult to keep track of what we have won this week such was the veritable avalanche of successful finals over a very short space of time.
There's absolutely no doubt as to what our highlight was, not only of the week, but our entire season.
We've won Senior All Irelands, 2nds All Irelands, Ladies All Irelands and U/20 All Irelands in the past, and now we can add U/19's to that group of high achievers. Club history was created in Naas last Saturday and we can only stand and salute that monumental achievement from the boys of Shannon and St Marys. The story has been told repetitively as to how the merger began last season and how this group of players have boned to form a formidable outfit.
Had this group of players never won anything, they being would still be considered a success, but from the embers of dwindling U/19 squads from either club came a knight in Shining armour , Brendan Mc Namara and a trusted lieutenant in his son Barry to mould what are now the undisputed U/19 All Ireland champions. It's nothing short of a miracle what had been achieved and last Saturday in Naas, we bore witness to the fruits of their weekly slog since last September.
To a man, our players were heroic, and the pride that the large travelling support had in them, was at bursting point. There was always a feeling that we had a good side ever since they made ripples last season. Perhaps this accolade may have come back then had bureaucracy allowed them play their part in a Munster final, but that was then, and from that ultra disappointment, the seeds of determination were sown to prove their worth. A Munster title was their goal, an All Ireland, an aspiration. Brendan Mc stood in almost disbelief last Saturday on the Co. Kildare pitch. He never doubted his boys, but yet it was almost incredulous to him that they had come so far to claim the All Ireland title. Believe it Brendan, believe it.
We've reported fully on the game, which can be seen on the website, but in brief, we thoroughly deserved victory of an excellent Malone side, but by God, we were in a state of near pandemonium in the closing stages. The Twitter feed went silent due to fiddly fingers shaking, that and forgetfulness due to the tension. We lead 21-6; we looked comfortable with injury time looming, but an Alex McNamara yellow card signalled an almost epic revival from Malone. The considerable loss of our mid field colossus gave Malone space for exploitation and that they did, with two tries to bring is to 21-16 and injury time progressing almost 7 minutes beyond the 35 minutes allocated for the half. The hatches were battened, bolted and welded shut for the short time that remained and the heavy hits just kept coming from our lads until finally, on the far side of the pitch a dogged combo dragged a Malone lad into touch. The ref looked hesitant to blow, but perhaps our "gentle" verbal persuasion on that far side assisted him, and all hell broke loose. Good hell though! It took almost five minutes for the cyber followers to hear the news; such was the excitement, so apologies to tweeps and face bookers
For the record, Craig Mc Callum, and Dave Evans scored tries, while an almost flawless kicking display from Conor Burns added the remaining 11 points. (He missed one, but we'll let him off).
The trophy presentation reflected the unity of the team. Simon Gallagher from Saints in his blue and white hoops, and team captain Gearoid Heelan lifted the impressive statute, and then we had the singing. The, ahem, reluctant Vinnie Ryan lashed out the Isle, Brendan Mc , St Marys anthem and we just lapped it up. History, Glory and Pride; that's the story of the day and these young men brought all three to their respective clubs.
We could go on and on in respect to the qualities of this team, but we have more good news to preach and it involves the U/19 squad also
While we were in Nass, some of our seniors were representing us in the Munster 7's in Bruff. In truth, few knew we were entering a team so imagine our surprise when the news filtered through that we actually won the competition. The hasty and late entry was the brainchild of Alan Bennie and he managed to muster seven hardy souls to take part. Expectations weren't what could be described as high, and that's coming from the participants themselves. It was all a bit of crack and fun, until they suddenly realised that they were winning and had the chance to do well. Attitudes changed and supremeo Eoin Cahill began that tactical games and it all worked out. Isn't it great when we get nice surprises , so well done to the magnificent 7 , Alan Bennie, Mike Darcy, Dan Heffernan, Richie and Leonard Mullane, Paul Curtiss and John Deegan and the Vince Lombardi of sevens rugby Eoin Cahill.
It's now onto the All Ireland series next week in Athlone, and with an Amsterdam trip on offer for the winners, it's going to be a serious expedition from the off. News of the progress and the potential rewards seems to have tweaked the interest of a few of the other lads and there seems to be a bandwagon beginning to assemble, (present writer included and a recent retiree...DQ) looking for the glory. We may have missed the boat though, but in all seriousness, it was a great achievement and let's hope we can go one better.
Sunday saw the open cup finals and we had another presence in both the U/19 and U/17. Although it was the same Shannon/St Marys on top of the team sheet for the U/19 game, it was practically a whole new side with a few replacements from the previous day. All our schools players were out in force for the game, which was just as well looking at the state of all Ireland revellers (all deserved) in the canal Bank.
Old Crescent were equally stacked and we were treated to a rip-roaring contest. The pace of the first half in particular was spectacular and we had a seven-try thriller over the course of the game. The wind was considerable and we had its advantage in the first half, but initially it made no difference as Crescent took the lead. The pace was intense, the handling skills were exquisite, and it didn't take long for us to respond when Clongowes Jack (McDermott) dashed over. Ronan McKenna's added a penalty before Ciaran Power barged his way over for a superb try.
It was Crescents turn to cross for an unconverted try and then it was our turn. That was the jist of it really, such was the ding dong nature of the game .Prop Conor Glynn, who looked extremely impressive increased our lead at the break by showing a clean pair of heals for a try that Ronan McKenna converted.
The pace of the game understandably dropped, but still we were taking the initiative. Jack Dineen was a thundering powerhouse though out and his continuous go forward ball gave us the opportunity to spread it wide in the face of the wind. It took a serious defence effort to keep Old Crescent of the second half score sheet, and it was our own Tom O'Neill that extended our lead to an unassailable 27-10. A late flurry from Old Crescent saw them cross for a converted try, but it was too little too late and we celebrated s second U/19 trophy in as many days.
Prior to that match we had a much more tense and close game when both clubs once again battled it out in the U/17 open cup decider. This game only produced one try throughout, but we didn't really care because it was our own Will Leonard that scored just before the break. Again, the wind was a factor and Old Crescent failed to utilise its advantage in the opening half, but we had a similar issue after the break. Scoring chances were at a premium, thanks mainly to the strong defensive efforts from both sides. Although we had a dearth of possession in the second half, Old Crescent found getting out of their own half a great difficulty mainly due to the back row prowess of the Shannon unit. Kelvin Brown , Dathai Collins, Conan Humphries were on hand to stop Old Crescents progress, but neither they or their teammates could stop Old Crescents momentum to get up to our 22 for the final 6 or 7 minutes. A swift breakout saw Crescent camped in our 22 for the closing heart stopping final few minutes and they were managing to get the decisions at scrum time, but the wind didn't allow shots at goal. They relayed on a pick and dive, but they were held at bay and our boys held on valiantly for another great cup success.
Great credit has to go to Padraic O'Brien, coach to the lads who came in late and managed to get them to their cup triumph through his well-known work ethic from his playing days. Another former senior player Frances Broderick and Martin Power gave a huge hand and he too can share the plaudits. They have the makings of a good coaching team looking to next season. So again, we offer our congratulations to the U/17's on another notch of success at the weekend.
Amidst the euphoria, we did have disappointment, but no shortage of pride. Our U/14's were the first of the final teams in Friday evening and they were up against arch nemeses UL/Bohs. Already the Red Robbins beat them in the league final, so the odds were stacked against our lads, but they battled 'till the end and can stand proud in their 19-10 defeat. They gave UL/Bohs an early 12-point lead and against any side, it's a huge claw back, but UL/Bohs are a fine side and the task was enormous. However, the lads fought back and perhaps one incident defined how the game finished. Ian Browne looked odds on to score a try in the second half. He had cut through the swarm of bodies and headed towards the line. One man to beat, but he was dragged down by a high tackle. Penalty try was the shout and not unwarranted, but just a penalty and no card for the perpetrator. Had Ian scored momentum was with who knows, and us but that's rugby. Decisions go with you and against you and you take the good with the bad.It was a pity for the U/14's, but I have no doubt their day will come, sooner rather than later.
Tuesday evening brought another final, but this U/15 game against Young Munster didn't come to a conclusion because of an injury to one of their players. We were leading prior to the hold up by 12-5, but in such instances of serious looking injury, caution is always the name of the game. An ambulance was called, for what we hope was a mere precaution and we send our best wishes to the young man. The rescheduled final will now take place on Friday evening in Coonagh at 7pm.
The drive for five titles for the U/19's came down like the house of cards on Tuesday evening when Garryowen managed to beat them in the closed cup semi final by 15-3. Although the lads were well up for the game, it was always going to be a very difficult task for mind and body after last Saturday and Sunday's exploits. The very short turnaround was always going to be a tough task, but with the ultimate prize already in the cabinet, it was no surprise that the performance was a little flat. That said, Garryowen could only play what was in front of them and they were deserving of their final place. We had the first half wind, but only managed a 3 pointer and the light blues soon added a try and penalty after the break. At 8-3 down, we were still in reach and we tried hard to get the vital scores, but in the attempts, we spilled the ball and Garryowen hacked ahead and managed to win the race to the line. The conversion was added and the whistle blew immediately to bring a disappointing result but an outstanding season for the u/19's to a conclusion.
After all that, we remind our members of the AGM, which takes place on Wednesday 23rd of May in the clubhouse at 8pm. The usual nomination and motion submission procedure applies (i.e. no later than two weeks prior to the AGM)
Last Game of the Season, get out and support the lads
Friday 4th May
Under 15 Cup Final - Shannon V Young Munsters 7pm Coonagh