Mount St. Michael Secondary School

MSM Earn a Sweet Victory in Harsh Conditions

18-January-23

MSM "All Blacks" : 41

St.Mary's Ballina : 10



A new school year often brings changes but not for the MSM senior team who continue to dismantle teams from all over the county and all over the province with their unique blend of tough tackling and off-loading. This team has never been beaten in the 10-a-side format of the game under the guidance of local rugby guru Fergal Byrne and it was easy to see why as they produced the goods on a bitterly cold Monday afternoon in Colts Park.

‘Captain fantastic’ Saoirse Quinn got the game underway with a neat drop kick into the stiff breeze. MSM looked to stamp their supremacy early on with some superb carries from ultra-reliable L.C. student Rhona O’Dea. Rhona has represented Connacht at the highest level and her direct running style and upper body strength make her impossible to stop in full flight.

Leah Sheridan carries the ball with great balance and finesse into the tackle and Leah is always able to get over the advantage line often tying in a series of opposition defenders making space on the outside for other MSM players.

Lisa Prendergast has a unique ability to win clean line-out ball which was the main source of possession for MSM in the early stages of the game. Lisa was hoisted into the air at the line-out by the talented Chloe Moran allowing her to present the ball immaculately for Saoirse Quinn to spread the play along the MSM backline. Lisa jumped so high she may have been picked up by air traffic control at Knock Airport!

The ‘Kilvine Rocket’ Máire Feerick showed glimpses of her wonderful attacking game with some lovely running angles which got her on the outside of the Ballina defence. It was Máire’s defensive perception on this occasion which proved most valuable as twice Máire scampered back towards her own goal-line to clean up a kick through. In one particular instance Máire had the audacity to slide on to the bouncing ball,jump back to her feet and round the on-rushing Ballina chaser before feeding wing wizard Deirbile Horkan.

Deirbhile and Alana Fitzpatrick are the main try scoring threats for MSM with pace and power that opposition teams can’t handle. Deirbhile’s speciality is finding the edge of the defense and then ghosting round the outside of any player who stands in her way. Alana’s strong running and clever kicking game means she scores multiple tries in every game and she rounded off this game with a memorable hat-trick. There is so much more to come from Alana and Deirbhile this year because when they have the oval ball in their hands - special things happen!

Chloe Moran is a key cog in the MSM forward unit and a great servant to school’s rugby. Chloe’s clever interplay with a colleague at the ruck allowed her to take a quick ‘pop pass’ and storm through Ballina tacklers to make important yards and keep MSM on the front foot. Aoife Kelly shored up the MSM defense before half-time and was involved in a series of big tackles,holding up Ballina attackers and turning over the ball which she then sprayed wide with her quick passing game.

Belgium’s geographical location in central Europe means they may never experience the bitter northern winds present in Claremorris on Monday last, but Claire Scholl excelled in the harsh Irish climatic conditions. Frozen fingers and saturated match gear weren’t enough to stop Claire as she continued to carry the fight - always offering herself on the overlap to take possession forward.

Grainne Hahessy didn’t start this particular game as she recovers from illness but early in the second half Grainne was seen doing an original “warm-up” which included some dance moves! 'Disco dancing' doesn’t appear in too many training manuals but this rugby superstar dances to her own beat between the white lines of the rugby pitch. Grainne’s first touch wasn’t her finest however as she fumbled the ball - a rarity for the gifted fifth year student. Grainne soon found her rhythm and she could be seen hitting every ruck and hitting everything that moved as she carried the ball (with three Ballina defenders on her back) over the advantage line in the next play.

When the game was in the balance it was the TY students who ensured the win with Aoibhinn Byrne’s tough tackling and silky ball handling skills creating opportunities for others. Aoibhinn combined with Jodie Monahan to keep Ballina at bay in the closing stages as they laid siege to the MSM line and Jodie made a series of impressive tackles and turned over the ball. Jessica Commins has searing pace and when she got the ball Ballina’s weary defense couldn’t cope with her speed and agility in her carries.

A special word of mention for Saoirse Quinn who continues to direct this force-of-nature team around the pitch. Saoirse’s charismatic leadership, wise words and splendid passing game means that she was involved in every piece of positive play throughout the game’s duration. There is talk that a statue may be erected of Saoirse holding a rugby ball outside MSM next year in honour of her amazing services to rugby!

The moment of the game arrived during the closing stages when the “Queen of the Intercept” Niamh Corless reminded everyone why she has this illustrious title. Niamh reads the game so intelligently that she is able to put herself in the passing channel between opposition players and picks-off passes before sprinting the length of the field to score another try.

The game was well refereed by Damien Heffernan who let the game flow and communicated well with all the players. Damien was hospitable and fair to all. . .unlike the weather conditions on the day!

MSM are now one game away from the knock out stages of the Connacht School Rugby competition this year and this result in the big Mayo derby means they have one foot in the semi-finals. The cup was recently engraved with ‘MSM Connacht Champions 2022’ to honour last year’s winning run which culminated in a spectacular victory at the Galway Sportsground last March in front of the whole school.

On this evidence the Connacht trophy may not have to travel too far this year and will hopefully stay within the halls and the walls of the school.

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