The competition has reached the halfway stage and, after nine successive defeats, Garryowen, a top tier team throughout the competition’s history, prop up the 1A table with two points, 12 adrift of Ballynahinch.
Coming on top of a heartbreaking pre-Christmas extra-time Munster Cup final loss to Cork Constitution, these are tough times for the famous Limerick club and forwards coach Paul Neville made no attempt to play down the desperate situation.
He agreed: “We’re in dire straits. We just need to stick together as a group. It’s not easy. Today was the first time we nearly had a decent squad with guys coming back and I thought the effort of the pack was outstanding. We’re finding it very difficult to score tries, we’re working very hard to get into positions and then letting ourselves down.”
Nor does Neville shy away from the sad reality that they have little to play for. “Is it mathematically possible for us to get ourselves into a play-off”, he mused. “I don’t know but it’s looking worse and worse. The way we lost the Munster Cup final was crushing. We were devastated after it and it had a knock-on effect. When you’re losing games and you need a rub of the green and something like that comes along on top of it, it was like kicking a fella when he’s down.”
Garryowen suffered their latest lost largely because they were unable to curb Mary’s left wing and captain Darragh Fanning who set up two first half tries for full-back Darren Hudson before scoring a third himself in the second. They were all converted by Gavin Dunne who also landed a penalty. Even though Mary’s had Mark Fallon, Darragh Frawley and Kevin Sheehan in the sin bin at different stages, they still protected their line without undue difficulty leaving Garryowen to rely on five Jamie Gavin penalties for their tally.
ST MARY’S COLLEGE: D Hudson; C Hogan, R O’Loughlin, R Hudson, D Fanning capt; G Dunne, M D’Arcy; C McMahon, D Fawsitt, B McGovern, D Frawley, C Ruddock, G Austen, B O’Flanagan, K Sheehan.
Rolling replacements: S Flanagan, A Lyons, M Fallon, P Brophy, R Glynn.
GARRYOWEN: L Bourke; C O’Shea, A Gaughan, C Doyle, H McNulty; J Gavin, N Cronin; R Brosnan, J Rael, JP Cooney, S Buckley, A McCluskey, A Kavanagh, B O’Mahony, D Rowley.
Rolling replacements: E Rossiter, P O’Shea, M Melbourne, J Connolly, A O’Byrne.
Referee: G Conway (IRFU).