It is something of a rarity that a Clongowes team has embarked upon a Senior Cup campaign with such little hype; the forgotten men ate a hearty dinner on Thursday night.
Although 30 minutes of the first-half gave Clongowes a sample of ad infinitum –they ultimately prevailed in Donnybrook with a definition of intelligence honed beyond the schoolbooks – common sense in action.
It was a frustrating game of pinball for much of the opening stages with both sides apparently eager to return the ball from whence it came. The sleek 4G surface at Donnybrook has its many plaudits but there were times when a spludge of sticky mud would not have gone astray.
Although Clongowes afforded them plenty of opportunity, to their credit The King’s Hospital began with a purpose that belied their status as rank-outsiders. From the moment the game kicked off, more and more purple territory was conceded to a point that the KH full-back would have been forgiven for interjecting with Adele’s “hello from the other side…” and even then he only ventured there on occasion.
Given their efforts it was inevitable that KH would be first to make an impression on the scoreboard (0-3, 15mins), but when Florence McCarthy bundled over the line following some good work by Patrick Nulty, it was hoped that the Wood had finally woken from their slumber. Ben O’Shea converted and it was business as usual (7-3, 24mins)… surely?
Through an evolving rugby infrastructure, The King’s Hospital have endeavoured to become a force on the schools’ scene. This performance will therefore have come as no great surprise to the Clongowes coaching ticket. Nevertheless, messrs. Igoe, Wright and Kenny were powerless to prevent a rangy and industrious KH pack force a pushover try and reestablish their lead just three minutes later (7-8). Indeed, but for their profligacy in the final third and an earlier intervention by Michael Silvester, the void should have been far greater as the break approached.
Despite the forgoing it was actually Clongowes who managed to stick their neck out in front prior to the interval – winning ugly, winning nonetheless. Tackling played a big part in so doing, and the likes of McCarthy, Sean McCrohan and Sean McMahon showed how useful they might be on the scene if a horse bolted. Uncomfortable under bouts of intense physical pressure, KH began to cough up penalties like the common flu and O’Shea duly obliged on two occasions (13-8).
While the scoreboard might not have offered a true reflection on proceedings at half time, KH’s eagerness to address the matter began to expose their inexperience at this level. A further penalty swiftly followed the restart and O’Shea’s boot gave Clongowes some breathing space, knocking more wind out of the Hospital in the process (16-8, 37mins).
The ability of this Clongowes side to transcend mistakes will stand them in good stead as they progress through this competition. Despite the dropped balls, loose passes and bad decisions that pockmarked the first-half, Clongowes had returned for the second utterly unaffected. Even when out-half Tom Monaghan was withdrawn through injury, they seemed unperturbed. Silvester stepped seamlessly into the breach and produced a performance that will go some way to exorcising the ghosts of cup season’s past.
Strong in contact and wily in attack, Silvester was a pivotal influence on Thursday’s proceedings. As keen defenders buzzed around the fringes, Silvester operated as a sticky flytrap and his outside men duly prospered. Miles O’Connor was one such beneficiary and he provided a moment that will dominate dormitory analyses over the coming days in evading the clutches of several would-be tacklers in a 50yard dash to the line (21-8, 45mins).
Finally the various personalities of the Clongowes dressing room began to reveal themselves. Sean McCrohan (who would not look out of place opposite Jamie Roberts next week) began to impose his considerable athleticism on the contest. Whenever his momentum began to build it was hard to see how he might be stopped – in that eventuality though one of his henchmen was always in tandem. Patrick Nulty was particularly busy all afternoon and was justly rewarded with a try on 52 mins, converted by O’Shea (28-8).
Prop Joseph Martin also began to get in on the act. Gathering the ball inside his own half, Martin ploughed into enemy territory with several foes hanging on for dear life. Having finally shaken them off, Martin opted to offload to one of his more agile colleagues. Naturally it was Nulty who assumed possession and he shipped it left to Dan Sheehan, before Silvester, O’Shea and O’Connor ensured Brian Maher had a safe passage to the corner in front of the Clongowes contingent (33-8).
This Clongowes side is not invincible, but they showed tremendous character and efficiency on Thursday. Those attributes, allied to their evident skill, make for a formidable coalition.
Clongowes Wood College: Michael Silvester, Fiachra Lynch, Miles O’Connor, Benjamin O’Shea, Brian Maher, Thomas Monaghan, Joseph Murphy, Joseph Martin, Daniel Sheehan, Edward Carroll, Jack Moore (Captain), Florence McCarthy, Patrick Nulty, Sean McMahon, Sean McCrohan.
Replacements: Tadhg Dooley, Arthur Odlum, Gareth Graham, Andrew Kelly, David Jeffares, Joseph Gilmartin, Conrad Daly, Reinis Lemess.