FOLLOWING hot on the heels of the success of the first year blitz at De La Salle College Dundalk, this time it was the turn of the second year students to show all the skills they had developed since the Leinster Rugby Programme was launched in early November, culminating in another competitive blitz held on Friday, January 10 at the college's sports grounds.
Having seen the commitment shown to the programme by the first year students, Mr Padhraic Staunton, PE teacher at the college, felt that it would be useful if the same opportunity was afforded the second year students, so Dundalk CCRO Gerry O'Hara was only too delighted to introduce the programme to the 150 students who participated in coaching every week, most of whom had never played rugby before.
The commitment shown was incredible. It is a credit to the facilities at the college that not one session had to be held indoors, with games played through hail, rain or snow, sometimes in freezing conditions.
The format for this blitz replicated the success of the inaugural blitz in that there were eight teams with eight players each divided into two sections. Section A comprised: Toulouse, Edinburgh, Munster and Ulster and Section B included London Irish, Ospreys, Connacht and Leinster.
The lines of running, handling and support would suggest that there are many more "Kearneys" waiting to be developed in north Louth, and while it may be called "The Wee County", there was nothing wee or weak with the tackling on display as seen by some of the huge hits made.
There was a total ban on kicking the ball, with the main emphasis being on progression with the ball in hand.
After an exhausting three hours, the top teams to emerge from each group were unbelievably Ulster and Connacht, the same pair that had topped their respective groups in the first year blitz.
The match was a real rip-roaring affair and it looked in the early stages that the bigger, more physical Ulster side, who had topped their group winning all their matches, might have been a step too far for the Connacht men.
However, as if to emphasise the fact that rugby is not just about physical size but more about movement and space and the ability to recognise it, the Connacht players soon realised that a higher tempo would reap rewards. With some impressive movement of the ball to the wider areas, they scored some wonderful tries, eventually overhauling Ulster to win with a try scoreline of 6-4.
Leinster Rugby would again like to offer a huge thank you to all involved over the past number of months from the very progressive De La Salle College, particularly Padhraic Staunton.
However, the biggest shout out goes to all the students; in all, more than 300 participated in the coaching programme on a weekly basis and especially to all those who took part in and made the blitzes the success they were.