PS: AIL Final Round: Bruff V Clonakilty, Sat 10th @ 2:30pm. For anyone not heading to Thomond Park, there is talks of a bus being organised by Mike O’ Connor. Ring on 061-382388.
Bloody Hell, they just have to do things the hard way.
My only statement to the players today after the game was, “How am I going to write this one up?” (The language was a little different at the time, but you get the gist of it)
After a performance filled with drama, Bruff joined the ranks of the small number of teams to make it all the way from Junior into Division 1 today after one hell of a heart-stopping game at Kilballyowen. Anyone who though that Malone RFC were travelling to make up the numbers were badly mistaken. The northern team travelling with 5 wins out of their last six outings had one thing and one thing only on their mind. They were going to try to upset the party.
Into the face of a very strong breeze in the first half, Bruff took the lead just four minutes in with a Brian Cahill penalty. Fourteen minutes later he put over Number two, right into the teeth of the wind, from between the ten meter and twenty-two right out on the left hand side. It crossed over the horizontal with only about 24 inches to spare. 6 Nil and cruising, making most of the attacking, their defence as strong as ever, but lacking the edge of previous games in the League. Bruff seemed to be letting the pressure of what was at stake get to them early in the game. Malone, following the binning of their Number 8, came right back into the game and managed to prevent Bruff taking advantage of the extra man. The bandaged Malone Out-half Josh Pentland clawed back three points on Twenty Seven minutes following indiscretions at the breakdown by Bruff and slotted number two with four minutes left of the first half to leave the halftime score at 6-6.
Four minutes into the second half John Carroll mad a fantastic line break in the middle of the park, and got the offload over to Forwards Coach and Second row for the day, Peter Malone. Malone popped a beauty to the supporting Scrum-half Cahill before taking the tackle and Tony Cahill finished the move by touching down just right of the posts. Big Brother Brian converting to give Bruff a seven point lead for the first time in the game.
Ten minutes later, a line-out close to the Bruff line led to some strong attacking play from the Malone Pack and they reaped their reward, Touching down about ten meters right of the post to give Pentland a decent conversion opportunity, duly taken.
Right from the drop off, Bruff fought back right up the Malone twenty-two and following a strong break from Hooker and former captain Cathal O’ Regan, an offload to this years captain Cahill produced the move of the game, when he seemed to scoop the ball up from his toes into the hands of the supporting Peter Malone. The Malone RFC defence seemed to part like biblical waters and Peter Malone charged the remaining ten meters without a Malone defender within 5 meters of him. Cahill followed with the conversion and it was twenty points to ten with nineteen minutes on the clock.
They say that there are seminal moments in games that matches turn on. Malone had one of those when in the middle of a Bruff attack, five meters from the Malone line, everyone in the county saw one of the Malone defenders deliberately slapping at a Bruff pass knocking on the ball. Everyone except the referee, who, to be fair, was on the opposite side of the ruck and had ten bodies between him and the incident. The touch judges, both could see however but did not intervene despite the shouts reverberating around the ground. What followed was one of the most comprehensive fight backs I have ever seen from a team. Malone seemed to throw caution to the wind and their fabulous back line ripped over and back across the pitch, Fullback Horner doing real damage when he entered the line, outhalf Pentland creating space with some beautiful mazy running. A couple of missed tackles, Horner makes a brilliant break and all of a sudden the sides were level again, Pentland converting the fabulous try.
Malone upped the ante yet again, wave after wave of attack and the pressure was really telling on Bruff. Eight minutes left on the clock and the Malone No. 8 more than made up for his binning when he crossed for try number 3, Pentland again converting to give Malone the lead for the first time in the match. They were just on fire.
They were so strong at this stage, the back line so swift, every pass going to hand, every move working no matter where on the pitch it was tried ,that it appeared as if they would repeat their performance of last week, running up fifty odd points . They did not account for the mental strength, faith, self-belief, and absolute courage of this home side. Discussions behind the post about whose patch the green sward was had the effect of giving Bruff the courage and toughness to fight back.
Then came a second seminal moment in the game. Patience, time and discipline beyond measure created a spell where Bruff ground their way up the pitch.
Phase after phase, crash ball after crash ball, props Foster and Ryan and Hooker O’ Regan leading the charge, five yards, two yards, one yard, the whole pack were involved in the phases and from one end of the pitch to the other they fought. Suddenly the roles were reversed, Malone had to defend for their lives and following a stage of play with over 15 phases, veteran prop Gearóid Ryan eventually crossed the whitewash. Cahill failed for the first time with the conversion and it was 27 points to 25 with only two minutes left on the clock.
Four minutes later and Malone were swallowing time with phases of ruck ball. I had myself prepared to accept defeat and for the lads to face a tough week ahead in preparation for the last must-win game against Clonakilty. Everyone neglected to take into account the ability and mental strength of this Bruff Side however. A strong scrum from Bruff led to the Malone pack having to create a ruck which, on turning into a maul, saw Malone penalised. The ground went silent.
Twenty meters left of the post and with a breeze blowing in completely the wrong direction for a right footed kicker.
Captain Brian Cahill stepped up and slotted one of the toughest pressure kicks in his career right over the centre black line to send the massive home support into an absolute frenzy. No-one could hear the final whistle and whether it had been blown or not, no-one cared, all the local supporting crowd just invaded the pitch and it was over.
Tears, Laughter, Shock, Elation and that was just me, not to mind anyone else.
Pat Dunne asked Brian Cahill afterwards how he kicked it from there, what was going through his mind and Brian replied “Where did I kick it from?” We are now officially one of the top 16 clubs on this Island, not this country, this Island, achieved by ability, merit, heart and courage and not by bankroll.
On the biggest day in the forty-year history of Bruff RFC. I have to take this opportunity to salute a bunch of guys, of whom I am in awe, and just say from my heart:
Thank you for this time.
I would also like to take this opportunity to salute a man who has managed Bruff RFC in promotion from Junior 2 all the way to Division 1 but never seems to get a mention.
Michéal, thanks from the bottom of our hearts for the work you have put in off and on for over a decade.
As the line in the movie “300” says “We’re in for one wild night!”
Roll on next week and Clonakilty.
Pictures whenever I can stop shaking…….