Young Munster take it to Mary’s in Ulster Bank League title decider

November 7, 2018

Leading by example, our captain Shane O’Neill was a dynamo in the lineout dominating in the air. A break up the left wing in the third minute showed Darragh O’Neill looked like he would cause problems for Mary’s but in the fifth minute, the problem was our own as O’Neill was sent off for a tip tackle. While the tackle was obviously without malice, referee Peter Fitzgibbon produced the red card on the advice of his touch ref. The tip tackle is the subject of much debate at the moment in rugby corners with the IRB stating that a tackle of this type should be punished with a straight red card. While many quarters feel the referee should be given a degree of freedom to rule on the level of punishment depending on the intent or malice of the tackle, this debate did little to help our cause last Saturday as we found ourselves a man down after six minutes.

Instead of taking the wind out of our sails however, the sending off seemed to rally our troops on the pitch as each man stepped up to the task of working that much harder to replace the man off the field. Our pressure was rewarded with a penalty after 8minutes, a long shot just inside the Mary’s half with swirling wind to contend with but Staunton lined it up regardless, the kick not connecting properly with the ball to let Mary’s off this time.

The team was reshuffled somewhat for the fixture with Ray Moloney stepping in at first centre joining Andrew Burke outside, and last year’s school’s star Brian Haugh starting at scrum-half with Mike Prendergast not naming himself for the second week in succession.

We were first off the scoreboard 9 minutes in with a penalty slotted over by Willie Staunton. Staunton launched a long pass out to Decy Bannon on 13 minutes and Decy got a great little grubber kick through, chasing towards their 22, before being cut off by the Mary’s full back who received a yellow card for interfering with the chase. Staunton knocked it over to make the score 6-0 in our favour.

Our boys were immense at the breakdown on the day, especially the back row of Liam Og Murphy,James ‘Ham’ O’Neill and Mark Rowley who were contesting at every opportunity.Mark Doyle and Neville Melbourne were the same, and in the first quarter their hard work at the ruck turned over possession, presenting the loose ball for prop Ger Flaherty to clean up. Another turnover minutes later set up a Young Munster attack into the Mary’s 22, and several pick-and-gos to the line nearly saw us over though we were just denied when penalised for holding on to the ball on the ground.

The first try of the game came on 23 minutes when a lineout just outside the 5m line saw Shane O’Neill bring down the ball and set up the maul, O’Neill orchestrating with Ger Slattery at the back with the ball in a clean set piece straight off the training pitch. The pack pumped the legs to drive over the line and Slattery got the touch down which Staunton converted bring the score to 13-0 to us, in a hushed Templeville Road.

St, Mary’s threatened a break at our line five minutes later but Ray Moloney had it covered. We proceeded to win a penalty at the scrum in our own 22 to take play out of the danger zone and Brian Haugh cleared to take play up to halfway.

On 32mins a Mary’s attack looked ominous as a break saw their winger head for the corner but Willie Staunton showed his tremendous pace to get back before the Mary’s man reached the corner, putting in a super tackle, and, with the support of Declan Bannon, Staunton held up both man and ball over the line and saved a certain try.

Buoyed by this attacking chance, Mary’s upped the pressure till the end of the first half as we had to withstand 10 minutes of increasing pressure before half time with only 3 points conceded when our openside flanker James O’Neill interfered with the ruck and received ten minutes in the bin.

Another long range penalty kick didn’t find its target for Staunton before the break when excellent work by Declan Bannon and Ray Moloney earned us the penalty. Halftime score was St. Mary’s 3 – 13 Young Munster.


We weren’t long into the second half when our rolling maul found its momentum again, stopping just 5m short and we may well have threatened their line as all the signs were on for it, were it not for a knock on from the volley pass from Murphy to Slattery.

We had another penalty find its target from Staunton on 49 minutes but, two minutes later,Mary’s finally found the gap with the extra man as Sexton sliced through our defence and over the line. Dunne converted to make it 16-10 to us.

A turnover in the57th minute resulted in a penalty for us in front of the posts which Staunton saw to with ease (bringing his personal tally to 199 points for the season, the highest points scorer in the league) but Dunne got one back moments later, and on 66 minutes another penalty for Mary’s brought the gap to just three points at 19-16 in our favour.

A great break from Mark Doyle ensued that looked like we could be about to set something up again, and was followed by a well read lineout steal by Shane O’Neill on 69minutes. Our possession didn’t find touch however when kicked downfield to the corner, and the reply kick was collected but not cleared by Staunton or Bannon as both half backs were put under pressure in our own half.

As we faced into the last ten minutes, the effort of stepping up the workrate to fill the gap of the extra man must have started to take its toll on our boys. Not that they showed it, Mark Doyle executed a stupendous turnover in the 73rd minute, and Aaron Carroll’s cover tackle sent a Mary’s player into touch in the right corner, dislodging the ball and saving a sure try.

Into the last five minutes and Mary’s heaped on the pressure, we held them short several times before the killer try came, but it eventually did, six or seven phases later, their super-sub Sexton scored again, and Dunne converted to bring the score to 23-19 to the home side, and that was how the game finished.

There were dejected faces on the pitch in black and amber,and in the dressing room afterwards, but our boys have to take some solace in that performance. Liam Og Murphy got the RTE Man of the Match award, and we all know how rare it is that these awards go to the losing side. The fact that they got a standing ovation from the Mary’s supporters as they left the pitch in the heart of South Dublin is testament to the effort each player put in that day,and the heart and pride each showed.

It was a great day for club rugby, and a great day for Young Munster. Not our best, we would always prefer to come away the victors, but definitely one for the storybooks. Now if we had beaten Mary’s in Dublin with just 14 men… that would have been the stuff of legend – we’d have been talking about it for years! It wasn’t to be, not this year. But we have to take the positives, and we showed what we were made of last Saturday. Congratulation to St. Mary’s, and congratulations to our coaches Mike Prendergast and John Broderick on a great season; third in the league, and the top club in Munster. And the Charity Cup in still at Greenfields. Not bad at all for a season, we’ll take it. And we’ll be back at full throttle next year!



Young Munster:

Try: Ger Slattery; Con: Willie Staunton; Pens: Willie Staunton 4

St Mary’s:

Tries: Mark Sexton 2; Cons: Gavin Dunne 2; Pens: Gavin Dunne3


Young Munster:

Declan Bannon; Mark Doyle, Andrew Burke, Ray Moloney, Darragh O’Neill; Willie Staunton, Brian Haugh; Ger Flaherty, Ger Slattery, Hugh McGrath, Neville Melbourne, Shane O’Neill (capt), Liam Og Murphy, James O’Neill, Mark Rowley. Replacements used: Aaron Carroll for Haugh (54 mins), Sean Duggan for Melbourne (64), Ger Bourke for Slattery (73), Craig O’Hanlon for Moloney (76).


St Mary’s:

Gavin Dunne; Darren Hudson, Stephen Grissing, Marcus O’Driscoll, Conor Hogan; Philip Brophy, Matt D’Arcy; Colm McMahon, Richie Sweeney, Rob Sweeney, Damian Hall, Stephen Bradshaw, Barry O’Flanagan, Gareth Austin, Hugh Hogan (capt). Replacements used: Ciaran Ruddock for O’Flanagan (24 mins),Mark Sexton for O’Driscoll (49), Chris Lilly for Dunne (80+1), Barry O’Flanagan for Hall (80+3).