This has got to go down as one of the most satisfying victories in years. And I include the UBL final win in that assessment. We have always known that there was an abundance of skill in the Clontarf squad. We knew they had heart and application also but until, you are truly tested in the most trying of circumstances the jury is always out on the depth of that particular well.
On Saturday the Clontarf squad reaffirmed why we do what we do; why the older guys bumble around organising things and raising funds and carrying bottles and making calls and doing all those thankless tasks that rank in club management terms alongside painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Running a club is an endless circle of revolving duty. It just keeps having to be done again. Every now and then a squad performance is required which reminds everyone that it is all worthwhile, that we are not making fools of ourselves, going nowhere, whittling frantically at a stick which turns out to be a steel bar.
On Saturday the Clontarf squad put in a performance of massive commitment and intensity on a day when you would be condemned as heartless if you put out the family duck. The rain started at 10.00am and grew steadily worse as the game time approached. The mild sense of irritation at the weather was heightened by the knowledge that the game could have gone ahead at 2.30 on the G4 but for the reluctance of the Cork visitors to adjust the IRFU designated time. To be fair it was entirely their call and they were fully informed and entitled to consider all possibilities in making their decision.
What no one could have predicted was that Clontarf would hurl themselves at the visitors with the fervour of Crusaders at the siege of Jerusalem. As Con attempted to apply the power game Clontarf responded by gang tackling the visitors on the gain line with psychopathic intent. As the pressure turned over ball the home side had the audacity to spin it wide where, against all odds, crucial passes stuck. In particular, Rob Keogh took a ball off his feet for the opening try with the dexterity of Inspector Gadget. Con responded with a massive maul that looked like a muddy white avalanche and Rob Keogh hammered in again to make it 12 8 at half time.
In the second half a penalty to Tarf and an unconverted try to Con made it 15 13 and the visitors started to grind on the power towards the car park as the game moved into the final quarter.
The final 15 minutes were glorious frenzy both on and off the pitch. The supporters (We few, We happy few, we band of brothers)*, who had been huddled against the elements like king penguins in the stand became roaringly animated as the Con pack upped the ante at the Tarf 22 searching for the winning score. When another enormous Clontarf wallop loosened the ball, and quick hands found Mick McGrath, the roars were of religious redemption as the winger stormed down the park into the Con 22 where two quick phases released him again on an inside pass for a certain 7 pointer by the posts. At 22 13 the game was not over but the hill for Con was now very steep, and very wet, and very muddy, and very very noisy!
Tarf were roared home by their support and all were heroic. It was a magnificent performance. Brave, calculated and amazing skilful considering the conditions. Special mention to James Doyle who made his UBL debut and didn’t drown!
- Shakespeare , Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii