12 Dec, 17:21
Munster Rugby recently held a Clare Schools U16 blitz at Ennis in Lees Road, Co. Clare.
It seemed fitting and apt that the whirlwind conclusion to our official season, ended in a whirlwind of excitement in Coonagh last Friday night, as we witnessed yet another display of Shannon of pride and honour from an underage side.
The frenzied excitement in the concluding stages of the U/15 mirrored the previous three weeks when our youth sides rescued what could be described as a mediocre season for the club and transformed our thoughts and feelings to the bright future that lay ahead.
The first attempt at declaring and U/15 cup winner was cut short on the previous Tuesday night when a Young Munster player required the attendance of an ambulance. Thankfully, we hear that the young man is fine, which comes as a relief to all concerned.
Round two on Friday evening in Coonagh didn't really follow the nature of the first game, which we were leading by 12-5 when the abandonment came. Young Munster were in the ascendency for almost 80% of the game. But we speak always of character and commitment, especially in the face of adversity. Whatever the merits of winning and losing, there's few feelings of worthiness bettered than when those attributes are applied in tough circumstances, with a victorious outcome. There's a sense of enormous relief when you carry the day, not only at the mere victory, but also as the subsequent days, months and even years turn to reflection, than that sense can turn to enormous pride in your efforts and achievement.
Our U/15' will certainly look back and feel all this things. They looked as if they would once again be denied at the final hurdle, an unwanted fate seemingly bestowed upon them from their earlier attempts at silverware.
The closing stages saw a multitude of traits we love to see all the time, especially in young men whose life path is still being moulded, and can often be influenced by such events. Character and temperament as traits are a huge advantage in the frantic heat of battle when faced with a seemingly impossible task. But on Friday, we had another display from the U/15's, which resulted in the clutches of defeat replaced with the joy of victory after a collective and spirited effort, which turned an5-3 deficit into a 10-5 victory.
The 3-0 half time lead for us, thanks to a Conor Fitzgerald penalty masked the truth of a Young Munster dominated half. The wind was in our favour but the dominance of Young Munster could not be denied. They practically owned the ball and the infrequent periods, which saw us with possession, were often marred by an impatience that saw opportunities lost.
When The Cookies barged over in the second half for a try, there was inevitability about it, and it looked as if they had the aptitude to hold their slender lead. Time ticked on. Three minutes of normal time was left, but there would be a substantial addition for lengthy stoppages. As we went searching with enormous purpose for the score, we silently begged for that added time to be lengthy. Little did we know that a few seconds later we would be urging the referee to blow it up
There was something special about seeing young men with a purpose face an apparent impossible task and turn the likely outcome on its head. This U/15 team have been instilled with the Shannon ethos from a man whose very fibre is Shannon and it served them to the zenith on Friday night. The barge for the line began way back when it needed a huge defensive effort to deny Young Munster a score that would leave the result in no doubt. The lads managed to get up the pitch, and when the surge finally saw Darren Gavin dart in for a try that Conor would convert it eventually lead to wild and enthusiastic scenes of celebration. However , there was still the matter of the additional time, and the courage shown in managing to score the try was equalled , if not bettered in maintaining the lead. Seven minutes of almost relentless Young Munster pressure had to pass before the celebrations could begin, but pass they did and finally the feeling of victory could subsume the U/15's.
It has to be mentioned that two teams took to the pitch with equal determination, and Young Munster and their coaches have to be congratulated for their courage and commitment throughout the game. Their qualities as a fine side are in no doubt and had they lifted the cup, complaints would be practically non-existent. We already look forward to games between the sides in the coming years.
However , this was the moment that our lads had waited for such a long time and it showed in their exuberant celebrations. They gathered in the now mandatory post match huddle, and the voice of experience reminded them of the promise he made as to how they would feel in victory. Pat Brown spoke with emotion and pride, as a coach who had finally seen his boys get their rewards. Along with fellow management ,Joe Maloney and Gene Leonard, he too deserves the plaudits for the commitment extended to this group of men for the past seven years.
It was a wonderful evening and a glorious end to a season, which we'll look back on in next week's final notes. In a short space of time, we had two U/19 trophies, U/17 and now U/15. Not a bad return . Not bad at all.
Well done to all the lads at underage, those in victory and in defeat, and remember a shiny cup does not always equate to a great season, there's far more to it than that.
We said at the start that we concluded the official; season, but that's not entirely accurate. On Saturday, the All Ireland sevens sees our inclusion thanks to the efforts a few weeks ago and who knows what will happen. It's great for the seniors to be represented at this competition and we wish chief instigator Alan Bennie and the "magnificent seven", (although we'll surely have the full complement of 10 this time) all the very best. We'll keep the updates going in twitter and facebook as to the progress throughout the day.
By now, notices and nominations are in for the AGM, which takes place on Wednesday the 23rd of May at 8pm in the clubhouse.
Eddie Price has asked me to remind anyone with outstanding Sponsorship cards to please return them to him as soon as possible. A presentation to Milford Hospice will take place in the coming days and the final figures need to be totted up. Eddie can be contacted on 087 6125299
Next week will see the last notes of the season with a review of the events at the sevens in Athlone and a quick look back at the season past.