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Lansdowne 6 – 12 Old Wesley

Dreams of a return of the much-loved Albert O’Connell trophy to the club cabinet were dashed on Saturday as Old Wesley used all their seasoned guile to prevent us playing our open running game and so took the spoils with four penalty kicks to our two.

And that’s pretty well all there is to say about the game.  They disrupted and rattled our set pieces and quenched our normally fiery attack with clever defence. But in the past they would also have run in several tries – not this time.  Our defence was as steadfast as it’s been all season and so the visitors had to resort to penalties to gain the edge on us. Indeed, it was their defence that was stretched to its limits as we hammered their line in the last five minutes of the match, showing the hunger, character and class that has defined this group all season, with exceptional results since Christmas.

There’s no escaping it, the defeat was and remains bitterly disappointing.  Bringing Albert home would have been a wonderful crowning of the best season for the J2’s since this correspondent has been involved.  But that’s sport. The highs wouldn’t be so great if they didn’t rise from the ashes of lows like this.

A Season to Cherish

And though victory on the pitch is at the heart of everything we strive for in Lansdowne, this season has been such a success in so many other ways.  The attendances at training grew from the mid-twenties a few years ago, to over 60 some cold and wet nights in HQ and elsewhere.  When we might have struggled to put two teams out on weekends in recent years, with several players bravely “doubling up”, this year we frequently fielded three teams, usually winning each game. And if our attendances at training and in competitive matches were good, our performances in the Après Match were phenomenal.  As the season progressed, more and more players, supporters and happily, also opposition stayed in the club to socialise after games, win or lose.  In the several happy decades since this correspondent first enjoyed the fruits of Lansdowne sociability, I’d say this 150th anniversary season was the best fun ever.  Sure, Ireland winning the Grand Slam and a certain other green-jersey wearing team winning the schools’ cup were great nights, but who can forget Paddy Butler’s last night, or the rollover after the J3’s won the league?  Life-affirming and as Ross Barry also sagely points out, “life-shortening” fun!

So as this correspondent signs off for the last time, please indulge me in a few final thoughts, with sincere apologies to anyone I’ve left out.

Passing the Baton

To captain Rob Kelly and vice-captain Aaron Daly, it’s been a special joy working with you. These reports have given testimony over and over again not just to both of your leadership and heroism, but also to the more tangible fact that you played so bloody well! Progressively better and better as the season wore on. Keep her lit!

Other epic clubmen on the J2 squad included all the McEvoys of course, JJ, Stewie, Andrew MacInnes and his sometime partner Choran and stalwarts of our defence forces, Dave Kavanagh and Donal Liddy.  It’s been a thrill to watch you and write about your performances. And speaking of the military, our Swiss Army knife of a player, Bill McNamara played every position in the back line at some stage and did most of the kicking. He was a revelation this season and brilliantly personified the commitment, talent and heart of the whole group.

And the future is in good hands too, with lads like Luc Van Cauelewart (God, I won’t miss trying to spell that name week after week!) and Johnny Barry. I have watched come up through minis and youths (with that other legend, Mikey – sorry, I couldn’t resist!) to come of age this season as full grown club men with legendary performances on and off the pitch.

This great season has been a few years in gestation, of course, and it’s on the shoulders of many who’ve moved on that it was built. Great clubmen and indeed tourists that come to mind are the epic centre pairing, RBK and Dallas and that menace, Grogan.  Another Swiss knife positionally, Oscar O’Cleirigh and further back in the past John Flynn come to mind too. John and Oscar (and as I think of it, Andy O’Reilly) rarely let a weekend pass without playing least one and half matches, no matter how hard they had partied.

But fielding teams takes coaches, managers and of course fixtures secretaries too.  Let’s not forget the “hard yards” put in by “Doctor” Phil Donnellan all alone in the early years, but when Beanser pulled together a full complement of coaching talent, things really started to move.  This year the work of John Sparks and especially Ross Barry was transformational, under the watchful and loving gaze of the inimitable wunder-coach Dave Tunney!  With Mark Quinn, Shane Dalton, Adam Curry and James Caslin taking up the baton next year the future is in very good hands.

 

But for me, it’s adieu, for now at least. It’s been a joy and an honour to be involved with junior rugby in Lansdowne for these last few years.  You’ve reminded me of the joy of rugby, team mates and of course, our wonderful club.  With the new property in Cleremont Road, players and management like this, the future of the junior club looks truly exciting.

Bon voyage!

Brian Whelan

 

In Addition:

As always a beautifully written piece from our outgoing manager, waterboy, head of administration, Head of Operations and Chief Morale Officer, Brian Whelan. Brian came into the role after being emotionally blackmailed from then President, Kieran Mulligan. At first, Brian was unsure of his role among the group but very quickly took to every task in hand with consummate ease. His ability to multitask is second to none – often fulfilling the role of team manager while acting as touch judge, updating various WhatsApp groups with the latest on the pitch all the while with a smile on his face.

Brian is a large part as to why this group has grown close on and off the pitch. He always had everything prepared for the lads on match day. He is a proud Lansdowne man but I think his proudest moment was seeing his taller, better looking son Michael line out for the Juniors. Brian, you’ll be sorely missed but no doubt you’ll be down to support these lads as they continue to go from strength to strength.

Finally, a word of thanks to all those in the background who have always offered support to this group  – Elayne & Stephanie for putting up with endless requests for post-match pizzas and all your organisational skills, Dave Mangan for his endless wit while listening to the lads singing late into the night, Darragh Mangan for his work on the pitch as physio (often doubling up for the weekend’s games) and off the pitch behind the bar. Our fixture secretary, Ricky Geraghty, performs miracles in getting the games played on any day but Sunday. The Junior Squads growth has coincided with Enda Bohan’s introduction as Chairman of Rugby. Long may it continue.

See you on the balcony soon.

Beanser

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