The word is out. You can here it whispered waiting in line for chèvre at DF or over pints of weissbier at Kiely’s or between lurching slurps of latte on the DART… I even heard it shouted on the LUAS Red Line by a crazed and inebriated Castleknock alumnus, yet to find his way across the Liffey and home: St. Conleth’s rugby is for real! Yesterday, Gav’s boys casually dispatched the High School, Vinnie Murray regulars, in their own mud… and no-one even raised a coiffured eyebrow in surprise. Kevin Dolan and Co. now dole out the “Hard luck, well done” post-match condolences with nary a smidgen of condescension. After all, they are already thinking of the next ‘big rugby school’ scalp to be added to the collection swinging from HOS Maguire’s belt.
The conditions were terrible, miserable. They seemed to favour the big boys and the big school. Wrong. Conleth’s are no longer just fancy passers and intricate line-outs: they can do muck-savage, smash-mouth rugby as well. The display of raw power brought tears to the eyes of Trenier and Bolger, noted connoisseurs of directness in everything they do. But alongside the brawn, and despite the conditions, there were still Gav’s habitual displays of style: Ben Doggett slotting an early penalty and Pogie touching down after a nice chip kick by Lil’ Lukie McKay. As the match went on the pitch got muddier and muddier but the boys kept playing the rugby they enjoyed. Colin Duffy politely but powerfully pushed back their defensive line every time he touched the ball. Cameron Ross-O’Reilly once again went on one of his patented madman runs: the HS forwards nor backs could stop him. Neither could his team-mates, the linesmen or the fans. He ran right off the pitch and out the school-gate. He was last seen near the Wicklow foothills: legs pumping, blonde hair flying, not a care in the world. The back line were quick and as slick as normal. Sean Frison-Roche had a great game and really made the most of his opportunity, making moves with typical Gallic flair. But really this game was a game for the forwards and they delivered big-time, with Colin, Mati and Pogie all getting on the score sheet. This was an inspirational performance beating a team that plays in a league above us and beating them in convincing fashion. And when we lost our play-maker Ben Doggett, Ross Murphy answered the call. He checked the tanline and brushed his hair (to the audible gasp of the female HS supporters) and descended from his chariot into the mud. Nicolas Foreau refused to let the backline be forgotten and made another scintillating run, joining Sean in that rare group of Frenchmen who have actually gained territory. Another day, another ticket stamped for a final!