Moran Cup Final – Old Wesley 24 Old Belvedere 23
With the planned arrival of two new all weather pitches for the start of next season, Old Wesley 3rds played what could possibly be the last match an Old Wesley team play on grass in Donnybrook, and what a way to finish on this famous turf. With earlier wins over Greystones, Wanderers and a two point victory over Terenure in the semi final this match against Old Belvedere was not just a cup final but also a chance for revenge.
Playing Belvedere for the fourth time this season and only weeks after losing to them in the league final which proved to be a very physical match Wesley were forced to make a number of changes. Stalwart Craig Petrie, broken jaw, and Sean O’Neill, hamstring, were both ruled, as was Tommy Emo who decided to emigrate to Argentina, his comment on departure being that rugby here had gotten too soft for him. James Sadlier came back from a six month study break, Brian Doherty came back from retirement for one more cup run and new recruit Stephen Hemingway came on board to fill the vacant number nine jersey.
From the off both sides gave it their all and even at an early stage signs were that this was going to be another very close encounter and would go down to the wire. Wesley had the greater share of possession in the first 15 minutes but failed to convert this advantage into points, finding themselves six nil down after two early penalties. However after twenty five the sides were level as Kenny McLaughlin kicked two penalties in quick succession. Old Wesley had the upper hand in the scrums where experienced props Simon Goldsmith and David Rowe along with young buck Gavin Mullen in the middle of the front row caused Belvedere problems but Wesley struggled when it came to the line out. Wesley then went ahead on the half hour after McLaughlin converted his third penalty of the night and Wesley seemed to be well in control of the match. But after the restart Wesley switched off and they conceded a try in the corner which the opposition failed to convert. However Wesley upped their work rate and fought their way into the Belvedere 22. Then a fantastic cross field chip from McLaughlin, straight out of the Johnny Sexton hand book, found Richard Rowe who gathered the ball and went over for a well deserved try; a move which had been practised many times at training. Even though they dominated possession and territory Wesley found themselves just 14 11 up at half time.
The second half started well and an early penalty extended Wesley’s lead to 17 11, but a converted Belvedere try gave the opposition back the upper hand and an 18 17 lead; and the match seemed to be starting to slip away. Wesley emptied the bench and brought on fresh legs in the form of young Ian Sheridan, team stalwart Ian Logan, veteran hooker David Swaine and line out specialist, Gavin Hunt. With the match entering the last quarter Belvedere piled on the pressure and from a lineout close to the Wesley line got a strong maul going. Although it looked as if Wesley had held the ball up over the line the referee thought different and awarded the try to give Belvedere a six point lead, however crucially they missed the quite kickable conversion.
One thing this team never does is give up without a fight and they started to pile on the pressure. With five minutes left it looked like they had scored the winning try when Ian Sheridan crossed close to the posts only for the touch judge to call the referees attention to a Wesley knock on in the build up. Wesley battled on and from an opposition scrum they managed to turn the ball over and when they spun it wide McLaughlin found a gap and carved through the Belvedere defence to score under the posts. He calmly slotted the resulting conversion to give Wesley a one point lead. With time still on the clock Wesley gathered from the kick off but Belvedere still managed to turn the ball over. The had a chance to drop kick a goal but chose instead to spin the ball wide instead where Wesley produced a choke tackle that Paul O’Connell would have been proud of and Belvedere were held up. From the ensuing scrum Wesley kept it tight with a pick and drive and when they were awarded a penalty and with time up they kicked the ball dead and as they say the rest is history.
This team has had a fantastic season on the pitch, winning 13 out of 14 league games then to be beaten in the league final by a very strong Belvedere team. They won 19 out of 21 games they played. The team was captained by shy, try time, Colin Wallace, with vital contributions from Jamie McConnell, mostly off the pitch between injuries and yellow cards. Team regulars Ian Logan, David Rowe, Neale Stanley, Johnny Willis, Hugh Fitzpatrick and John Wallace always lead from the front and the experience of Craig Petrie was invaluable. Sean O’Neill barked out the commands from the back of the break down and Michael Hasting continued to confuse both management and coaches alike as the most common question asked at training by coach Leeson was, “Kinners, is that Brian or Michael?” At one stage Michael was even asked to grow a moustache to ease any confusion fuelling rumours that when he refused Brian was selected instead. Richard Rowe and Aco Keating were also seasoned campaigners and made big contributions over the season. The commitment and character this team showed to overcome the disappointment of losing the league play-off and to come back and win the cup is an incredible achievement, all the more so as Old Belvedere’s first team were one match away from winning AIL Division 1a. A big thank you to Paul who had a very busy season as physio. To Lesso who travelled from Kilkenny twice a week and also increased the value of his shares in Burger King. A big thank you to Kinners and Swainer for their commitment at training and all the work they do behind the scenes.
What a way for a few guys to hang up their boots
Team: Jamie McConnell, Richard Rowe, Brian Doherty, Brian Hastings, David Flower, Ken McLaughlin, Stephen Hemingway David Rowe, Gavin Mullen, Simon Goldsmith, Neale Stanley, John Wallace, Johnny Willis, James Sadlier, Colin Wallace (capt). Subs: Ian Logan, David Swaine, Gavin Hunt, Ian Sheridan, Aco Keating