I’m sorry it has taken until now to put up a post about the game but to be honest, it has taken until now for me to get my head around this fantastic achievement. This is not going to be a blow by blow account of the match itself, there are many of those floating about, and there will be many more this week written by those who are far more capable than me to put to words how the game itself went. The following is likely to be used against me in bars for years to come but it’s honest, from the heart and I’ll try to live with it. Brace yourselves.
It hit me with a vengeance at about five o’ clock in the bar, about an hour after the final whistle had declared us All-Ireland champions. I was in the lower bar talking to a couple of our seasoned supporters, they have been with this team through the good times and the bad, from under 14 through 16’s, 18’s and 20’s all the way through the promotions right until the pinnacle that was Saturday in Templeville Road. All of a sudden I got a massive lump in my throat, couldn’t swallow the roll that I was eating, couldn’t talk and I had to turn my face into the counter and bury my head in my hands for a minute to hide my emotions and the tears streaming down my face. The two fellahs talking to me (they know who they are) just ignored me for a minute and it passed off without a word from either, (they had been through it earlier) but the excitement of the previous hour had just caused a delayed reaction.
There are those who think that Bruff RFC is a flash in the pan. One particular referee friend of mine told me a story of a referees function in the pre-season this year where some of the referees reckoned that we wouldn’t survive division 1b but personally I think we will. They think that we have appeared out of nowhere and back there we are destined to return, and by fluke, chance and a strange twist of fate that we have somehow fooled everyone into getting where we are today. They couldn’t be further removed from the truth. But they are not alone in thinking like this.
The thirty odd players who make up our Senior squad are men that I have the greatest admiration for, these are awesome men. They give up over forty hours a week to their sport, the equivalent of a full time Job. But at about 3:45 on Saturday they got their reward in a little piece of metal that is theirs to have and to hold for eternity. Bruff Rugby Football Club has earned the right to be declared All Ireland Cup champions courtesy of years upon years of hard work and dedication, pure grit at times, dogged determination but most of all a massive, massive amount of skill and team-work. This skill does not just apply to the twenty or twenty-two on the pitch at any given moment. I refer to the skill and teamwork that is required behind the scenes to maintain a 100% amateur club and to compete at the top levels of Irish rugby week in week out against clubs with huge financial backing. Clubs who reward their players with money for playing a sport.
The skill and teamwork I refer to applies to those people who give of their time evenings and weekends, who spend hours on the pitches with kids of aged 7 to adult and hand them over every year to another, to kick it on a little further after another job well done. The skill and teamwork applies to those who spend hours on lonely winters evenings making the trek to the committee rooms far and wide as well as to the one in Kilballyowen. The skills and teamwork involved in maintaining the grounds and clubhouse, in keeping the drink and food flowing, keeping things in order. The skill and teamwork applies to the mothers, wives and girlfriends who feed us every day and at the weekends before and after games. Those who keep the gear clean and make sure it’s there ready to be used, those who bandage the wounded soldiers and who listen to the groaning and whingeing on the nights and days after a hard game. Those who make the trips around the country. These are the true soldiers, This is the true core of strength of Bruff Rugby Club. This is why we are where we are. without all of the above none of it would work on the pitch. I wish to take this opportunity to thank all of you, each and everyone for bringing Bruff to it’s current lofty heights and hopefully to more in the future.
This season we have won a Munster Senior cup through the hardest possible route, beating Shannon, Cork Constitution and Garryowen along the way. We then went on to beat a hitherto and since unbeaten UCD side by virtue of a 17 point haul in the final 15 minutes of the game. Dungannon, our fabulous opponents last Saturday are around for almost 130 years and Saturday was their first appearance in the cup final. We have won it after just 6 as a senior club. A 100% amateur Senior Club. These days do not come very often and we should cherish them.
A quick word about our opponents before continuing, I wish to congratulate them for their skill and discipline in what was one of the cleanest, hardest, fastest and most exciting games of rugby I have ever seen. As well as our scoring, it was our fantastic defensive efforts that gained us victory on Saturday. At any time you just knew that if a tackle was missed, they could score and they proved that twice to keep our hearts a-flutter. To Stanley and his stalwarts, I have to again make the invitation to Kilballyowen for the playoff game and maybe to Clancy’s and Howard’s afterwards if they are not in action on the 30th. You couldn’t meet a nicer crowd of folks and we had discussed the likelihood of the final deciding bragging rights for the year prior to the game in Dungannon a few weeks back. I’m sorry but from the first minute, I felt this one was always going to be for us guys, I know your chance will come again.
Even though we currently lie at the bottom of Division 1b, the true story lies kind of behind that. In an eight team division Lansdowne came in second with only one more win than us. Bonus points lost or gained along the way are the killer in this league and like last season one win was the difference between promotion and relegation. If we can make it through the playoff, ten teams next year will make an awful difference. Strangely if it was a sixteen team league we wouldn’t be on the bottom, but like it or lump it that’s what we signed up for and these are the cards we are dealt.
Bruff RFC grew up and settled comfortably into middle age this season, our fortieth. In our six years as a senior club, we have proven that we are going to last and that we are not going away. The chairman calls us “The Noisy Neighbours” paraphrasing Sir Alex. These are great times. Thank you one and all from the bottom of my heart.