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The Resurrection (Skerries vs NUIM Barnhall, January 2013)

01 January 2013

The old rugby ground at Holmpatrick in Skerries has hosted many memorable matches over the years. One immediately thinks of the victories of the great Towns Cup teams of the 1970s with stars such as McMahon, Thornton, O’Shea, Glennon, Toye, McGuinness, Carroll, Hegarty, Jenkinson, the Dempseys, the Murphys and of course Colm Sherlock.

Then there was the outstanding performances of Shay and Willie’s super team of the 90s. Who can forget the glorious cup run with victories over Mary’s, Clontarf and Terenure on their way to the final in Lansdowne Road? That team is right regarded as Skerries’ best ever team, boasting players of the calibre of Mulcahy, Horan, Giles, Early, Dempsey, Lawless and all the O’Sullivans.

But yesterday’s stars do not win todays matches! In rugby, as in other sports, each generation must strive to achieve its own successes. The present Skerries team does not have a dominant powerful pack of forwards while (according to some) very few of the backs could be compared to those stars of previous teams. Yet John Murphy’s men have added their own page to the history of the club. Last season, they took Skerries back to the All-Ireland League – winning the Leinster League and ‘Round Robin’ trophies along the way. They became the first holders of the Leinster Senior Shield after a great win over Naas before Christmas. At the presentation, the President of the Leinster Branch remarked that they were the first Skerries team to ever win a Senior trophy. “So far so good” one might say!

However, their 2nd half performance last Saturday against an excellent N.U.I.M. Barnhall team must rank as one of the most dramatic by any Skerries side for many a day. By half-time they were trailing by a whopping 21 points to a very talented side who racked up 50 points in their previous outing against Instonians. Skerries seemed dead and buried. Some spectators decided they had seen enough and went home, other supporters retired to the comfort of the clubhouse to drown their sorrows and to express their frustration at the performance. Some spectators, who are used to watching professional rugby players on TV, often don’t allow for the fact that our lads are not professionals and have all the pressures of work, study and family commitments during the week. They devote a lot of time to training and some even lose money by committing to the team! However, you question this team at your peril!! They dug deep in the second half with every player, to a man, tackling as if their lives depended on it.

Using the wind intelligently, they put Barnhall under relentless pressure. With Glennon and new boy Martin Provizers doing well in the line-out, the pressure began to tell. Skerries scored a try in the corner after excellent hands form the backline, with Kevin McGrath diving over – it brought a glimmer of hope to proceedings – some supporters would now gladly settle for a “respectable defeat”. Then another converted try followed, another one for young McGrath after a lovely reverse pass from Conal Keane. After another Keane penalty Skerries were now – unbelievably – only 6 points behind the Kildare men… a converted try would do it! The supporters began to hope and to wish…but there were only 4 minutes left and the Santa season was long gone!!

Then it happened. A powerful maul from the Skerries forwards brought play to the Barnhall five metre line, deep into injury time. Mikey Sherlock came off his wing and crashed over the line. After lengthy consultations with his touch judges, referee Beggs awarded the try. Queue pandemonium around Holmpatrick. But Skerries had yet to get the conversion…and it wasn’t an easy one with the swirling wind, rain and tension. There was dead silence…. I’m sure Sandy, Leo, Christy and others in the nearby graveyard were praying with the rest of us! Conal delivered and the resurrection was complete!

The final whistle heralded some of the most emotional celebrations ever witnessed in the Holmpatrick ground. The loyal supporters, who must have experienced so many different emotions during the game, will remember this comeback for many a day.