The Cork club, with a thriving underage section, has struggled in the Ulster Bank League for much of the current century, but under head coach Robbie Doyle, the senior team has an opportunity to restore club pride from the top down when they bid to reach Division 2A in their promotion play-off final (kick-off, 2.30pm).
The Well secured their place in the new Division 2B ahead of last summer’s league revamp in Doyle’s first season and now seek successive promotions, having finished third before winning last week’s semi-final at second-placed City of Derry.
A place in tomorrow’s final against a Greystones side which finished fourth but beat 2A strugglers Skerries in the other play-off semi-final last weekend, is the reward for a season of remarkable consistency following a shaky start. Hit by early-season injuries they lost their opening three games, including to cross-city rivals and eventual champions Highfield. Only two have been lost since.
“We didn’t panic, the three games we lost at the start, we got two losing bonus points and probably one or two of the games we threw away,” Doyle said.
“We were stepping up a division as well and there may have been a small bit of fear but once we got the squad back together everybody knuckled down and winning became a habit. We won one, two and three and all of a sudden four, five and six. Once you get on that roll it’s nearly harder to lose games. Confidence is up and that bit of luck starts to go your way as well.”
Doyle also believes he has struck lucky with his squad. “They’re young and hungry. It might surprise people where we are but then you look at the age profile and we probably got them at the right time. They’re the right age and they’re willing to learn. And I’m blessed with the guys around me — Niall Lucey (forwards), Aidan Ridgeway (scrum), Dave Sweeney (backs), Michael Carew (logistics), Shane O’Sullivan (manager) and Denis Corridan (strength and conditioning).
As Sundays Well press officer and past president Mick Barry points out, the picture has not always been so rosy at the club.
The senior team’s AIL high came with a season in Division One in 1993-94 but a decade later, they suffered relegation to the old Division Three.
“In 2009/10, we got the fright of our lives against Cashel in a play-off. We could have been relegated to junior rugby but we beat Cashel at Musgrave Park and survived. I think we were the first team to survive a play-off against a junior club, and after that we got together and said ‘We don’t ever want to go through that season again’.”
The Well has been rebuilding ever since, achieving mid-table stability while improving matters off as well as on the pitch. “A lot of new blood and ideas came through on to the committee around then and they took over and they’ve done a fantastic job, guys like Lance O’Riordan, current club president Tony Mulcahy, and Robbie.
“And then we had guys like James Mulcahy, who was our captain last year. He’d played for us, then for College and in the bad times he came back to us and he was a strength in attracting players.
“We’re a very welcoming club and I think that’s one our strengths and something that stands to us. This team is very much together. There’s no star on it and they don’t just play together, they socialise together. You can see the unity there and I feel that’s a contributing factor.”
And so to Greystones, on home turf and with the hope the Sundays Well faithful and a few more Cork rugby heads besides will turn out at Musgrave Park tomorrow and help deliver a famous win.
“It’s going to be a great occasion, two good teams going at it on a dry day, with a good crowd there and we hope we can get the win,” Doyle said.
“It’s a proud club, they’ve been through the doldrums a bit and now we’re trying to give the club a senior team they can be proud of, a flagship team the club can get behind.”
Sundays Well hope to find their voice
Should Sundays Well prevail against Greystones tomorrow afternoon, those present at Musgrave Park will not fail to be treated to a rendition of the club’s victory song, Bless ’Em All. Sundays Well were founded in 1906 and press officer and past president Mick Barry has been involved for 47 of those 110 years. His father Micheal, in later years a Munster Branch president, was captain of the Well’s first Munster Senior Cup triumph in 1949 when they beat arch rivals and Musgrave Park co-tenants Dolphin in the final at the Mardyke.
Bless ’Em All honours that 1949 triumph as Barry explained.
“The words were put together by John ‘Lanks’ O’Sullivan and commemorates Sunday’s Well’s first Munster Senior Cup victory. It is possible Lanks may have written the song to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the winning of the cup.
“The clubs mentioned in the song are those that were senior at the time, hence no mention of Highfield, Shannon or Old Crescent. They all became senior in the 1950s.
“The Munster Senior Cup rivalry was intense, I suppose it was having Cork and Limerick against each other. My father told stories of extra trains being put on by CIÉ for the Limerick teams coming to Cork, but only to Limerick when Sunday’s Well played. After the Second World War, Dolphin had a great team with many internationals. They appeared in five finals in eight years, winning three and losing two, while two of their players were on the Grand Slam team of 1949. This is where the line in the song says “Now Dolphin had boasted that they’d win the cup, we heard all that before.”
When Sunday’s Well won the Munster Senior League in 1992/3, beating Highfield in the final, the players sang the Well anthem after the game. However, they substituted Highfield for Dolphin to “rub it in to them”, and now that is what is sang. Also, Garryowen is mentioned instead of Limerick Bohs. I don’t know how that evolved. Let’s hope we will be singing it loud and clear on Saturday.”
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