SPECIAL FEATURE: DONAGHADEE RUGBY CLUB: Promotion In The Bag ~ WHAT A SEASON!!!!!!! Match Reports, Pictures, Video Clips, Interviews: A Squad of 40 Across 2 Teams. What A Club
Starting August 2010 with pre-season training the Dee were very proud of having entered their 125th season. They had a good squad who had been in the race for promotion for some time. While they had great seasons the illusive goal of Q1 rugby had eluded them. Beat to the post on several occasions. Where other clubs would have disintegrated and lost their momentum the Dee in their conservative, sensible and determined approach had learnt from each previous season and made various changes in the club designed to reslise their dream of promotion.
The squad had it in them, everyone new that and after one of the first games of the season against Ballyclare we caught up with Jimmy McCoy and his video interview says it all – click the play button to hear it.
The intention is stated almost immediately. To quote Jimmy, “its a known fact, that we are going for promotion”.
Jimmy played for Ireland and when a former Ireland Prop Forward International Player decides his side is going for promotion it is not a pipe dream but a real achievable possibility embraced by the entire club.
that is exactly what this club did, and every game was excellently attended with seriously big crowds at the crunch games.
Well, their aspiration has been achieved and they will now compete in the 2011/12 Q1 season.
Anyone who is familiar with qualifying rugby will know that the Q2 league is immensely competitive and the journey of Donaghadee was a roller coaster ride at times, but they did emerge in the early stages as clear contenders with a an unbeaten run only matched by 2 other teams.
At the half way point the sheer nerves of the realisation that promotion was on the cards must have been almost unbearable at times. Other clubs were determined to thwart their ambitions, clubs with Junior Ulster players in them no less, clubs with similarly rich histories as the Dee.
We reproduce here the official report on securing promotion which was circualted by Donaghdee and their reflection on the season. Inlcued are clips of Dee IIs playing and an interview with their team manager. Following those are links to all the reports on each game played by DEE including video interviews and links to pictures from the season:
BALLYCLARE 15 DONAGHADEE 36
The Donaghadee RFC 1st XV team that gained promotion to Ulster Branch IRFU Qualifying League One on Saturday 23 April 2011 at Ballyclare.
Back Row: Niall Moraghan (Physio), Richard Martindale, Paul Hamilton, Ian Martindale, Richard Millar, Chris Hamilton, David Thompson, Nigel Barker, Andrew Findlater, Alistair Lockhart, Jimmy McCoy (coach), Bill Boomer (President), Peter Matthews (Manager).
Front Row: Billy Allen, Bobby Harpur, Paul Blewitt, Stuart Hutchinson, Chris Schofield, Chris Good (c), Gareth Gordon, Andy Monson.
Thanks to the long cold winter break, this past season’s Ulster Branch Qualifying League Two is coming to a busy, but riveting, conclusion. On Saturday 23rd April Donaghadee’s First XV went to Ballyclare knowing that a bonus point, even in a defeat, would guarantee them promotion to Section One for next season;
the home side equally knew that a bonus win for them might secure promotion to Section One and also League leaders CIYMS were also well aware that a bonus win for Donaghadee would be setting up a huge contest at Deramore on Easter Tuesday (26th April) that might decide who would be the undisputed winners of this hard-fought league.
The early phases of the game were evenly contested with the only score being a penalty goal to the Dee, until suddenly, in a five-minute burst, Ballyclare constructed and executed two well taken three-quarter-line tries. The first was a line break by Jackson on half way that put Baird in, and almost immediately Jonny Reid ran clear for an easy run in to score in the corner that saw them leading 12-3. This was the gauntlet well and truly thrown down, but the question was – could Donaghadee respond?
As so often this season, the initial Donaghadee response came from the pack. This well-drilled mix of experienced forwards to front and rear plus youthful exuberance across the second-row four simply bruised their way inexorably towards their opponents’ line. Richard Martindale took Gareth Gordon’s perfect line-out throw at about five metres high and the Donaghadee eight went instantly into rolling maul mode. The only flaw in their final delivery was that Davy Thompson’s crash over was right out on the touchline, so it was only five points for Donaghadee, but a better-looking tally now for them of 8-12 down.
More importantly the Dee men now knew that they had the beating of their opponents. Mid-field play was also demonstrating that the re-jigged Donaghadee backline for this game had now sorted themselves out and any earlier gaps in defence were now shut. A successful penalty to Ballyclare gave the home players some heart at 15-8, but the huge crowd of travelling Donaghadee supporters were now in good heart; the signs that their favourites were now in command were pretty clear.
From about half-way two great incursions by Chris Hamilton and Stuart Hutchinson were supported so enthusiastically that a try under the posts looked certain. Ballyclare certainly thought so and the ball was illegally killed in front of their posts. After a suitable reprimand and warning from the referee Andy Monson duly took the offered three points for 15-11. Then just before half-time the red and green machine charged forward again with their intent crystal clear. The hard-driving Donaghadee pack released Andrew Findlater with some yards to go, and he crashed over for the important 16-15 Donaghadee lead that gave them any encouragement they might have needed going into the break.
Donaghadee began the second half with a determination that was almost palpable. Full-back Billy Allen came into the line and scythed about fifty metres before being pulled down and Gareth Gordon added an extra flourish that looked dangerous for the Ballyclare cause. Donaghadee’s two front row Chrises – Good and Schofield – showed their strength and experience with driving runs that sapped their opponents’ strength, and Paul Hamilton was always there with some extra drive when the big props were finally halted. Ballyclare were valiant in defence, but now looked to have lost their earlier spark in the stress of battle. All present were well aware that another Donaghadee score was inevitable.
When it came it was certainly a team effort, but the final flourish came from Donaghadee’s big winger Findlater who drove over for 21-15. Almost immediately Donaghadee came right back into the home side’s red zone. In their desperation a Ballyclare centre dived on the ball in front of his posts. This gave a welcome extra three points to Donaghadee for 24-15, but also deprived Ballyclare of a man for ten crucial minutes.
Ballyclare, to their great credit, came back at Donaghadee, but in mid-field, centres Bobby Harpur and Ian Martindale were resolute and crushing. When Donaghadee regained possession, each time they used their dangerous backs to clear the ball and gain territory. One classy run made about eighty metres with some lovely running and passing that was only stopped close to the Ballyclare line when the high-stepping Richard Millar was finally forced into touch close to his target goal-line. Almost instantly Donaghadee’s backs had another opportunity when the ball was shipped quickly to Ian Martindale. Happily restored after a difficult injury, Martindale showed that he is now back big-style when he took total responsibility and crashed over for what might be called a trademark Martindale try, and crucially Donaghadee’s bonus-point fourth. Monson’s accurate conversion made the score a virtually unassailable 31-15 to Donaghadee, but there was to be a finale almost immediately.
Ballyclare’s spirits were understandably down by now, and Donaghadee’s players were on a high with the knowledge that all their hard work this season was being rewarded. A perfect scrum gave Monson a perfect opportunity to feed his outside-half Nigel Barker who crossed unimpeded for the clinching try and 36-15 as the final score.
This display of strength, skill and character by Donaghadee was a tribute to every one of the fifteen men who played. It was also total vindication of the hard work and inspiration of Club Coach Jimmy McCoy and his Assistant Coach Andy Monson. The currently recovering players on the touchline at the game went through worse agonies than the on-field players, but they and all the other guys who played their parts during the season can all share any credit that is going. Rugby football is no longer a fifteen-player team game; nowadays a fit and skilful squad of 25 is a basic minimum, and about 35 or 40 more realistic. Fortunately Donaghadee has such a squad of capable players (See below).
Some of the players and coaches asked after the game that some sincere words of thanks from them be passed on to the army of supporters who made the journey into County Antrim on the day, not to mention the longer trips to places like Coleraine, Enniskillen and Omagh during the season. Spectators do get great satisfaction at games, but they also help the players with their vocal support.
Reflection On The Season
With the benefit of hindsight, Donaghadee’s season ended on 23rd April at Ballyclare. On that fine Saturday the Dee players showed skill, strength, determination and great team spirit that saw them triumph over a good ‘Clare side 36-15 to gain promotion.
Looking back over the 2010-2011 season it is clear just how important it is to have a large squad of players capable of slotting into a competitive Qualifying League Rugby Football side. This is attested by the number of players who pulled on Donaghadee’s premier jerseys in 2010 and 2011.
A total of 33 players were used during the season’s 25 competitive games – and this year’s attrition rates were definitely helped by the long lay-off in mid-winter. There exists a list of all players used, but suffice it to say that no one played in all the games, some played in most and a number came in when needed, or indeed when able to get away from work or study commitments. The commonest reason for players missing games was of course injury. Mercifully, none were deadly serious or career-threatening. However, the vast majority of players, coaches, spectators and other interested parties seem to agree that the game of rugby football is simply too physically demanding week in, week out, especially in a season from which weather steals a frustrating ten-week break. The break itself, as hinted at above, can have a healing factor, but the inevitable compression of fixtures at the end of the season meant that, like Donaghadee’s Firsts, many teams had to play as many as six or seven games in four weeks.
Donaghadee’s Second XV have had a successful season too, and so are ensuring that pretty-well any of their players are good enough and strong enough for a move upward when required. The Thirds have enjoyed their season too and the entire club is already excited about what the significance is about going into Section One. Everyone knows well that it will be difficult for the First team. The reputations of the clubs already there precede them. Indeed some of the likely Dee players have personal memories from their recent venture into the headier atmosphere.