Sport Rugby

Saturday 24 February 2018

Wood eager to build after Clontarf get 'monkey off back'

Clontarf coach Andy Wood
Clontarf coach Andy Wood
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

'Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.'

Clontarf have had so many title near misses that you could almost write a book on them.

Last weekend, just as it looked like the latest edition was about to be pencilled in, a lending hand from Garryowen helped them on their way to their first-ever AIL success.

Clontarf and Old Belvedere led the way for the majority of the season and it was almost fitting that their ding-dong battle came down to precisely the last play of Belvo's game.

In the end, the pressure was too much for Belvo as their nervy performance in Limerick cost them their second title in three years despite going into the final day of the season on top of the table.

For Clontarf coach Andy Wood there was cause for double celebration, as less than 24 hours after claiming the AIL title he became a father for the first time.

"It was a really special weekend – one that I'll never forget. Everything went according to plan," he said, clearly still riding the crest of a wave.

Clontarf never make it easy for themselves and sure enough, last Saturday was no different.

DIG-OUT

Having beaten Belvo three weeks ago, the title was within their grasp but subsequent defeats to UCD and Lansdowne meant that they needed a huge dig-out from an already relegated Garryowen side.

And the Limerick club duly obliged as they turned in one of their best performances of the season to beat Belvo.

"I've watched the Old Belvedere game back and Garryowen really do deserve huge credit.

"They didn't look like a 1B team at all," Wood said. "Their performance was a real credit to a proud club. Their victory was obviously hugely important to us."

'Tarf themselves had to beat Ballynahinch and after a stuttering first half, they eventually saw off the northern side.

The Kiwi coach was quick to point to the character of his side, who he maintained were outstanding throughout the season.

"We were a bit nervy going into last Saturday's game. Some of the lads were definitely nervous.

"They were probably more nervy than flat to a degree but that's the sort of pressure that comes with the situation that we found ourselves in.

"We were quite flat in the first half, which was maybe to be expected given our previous two defeats. But we knew we had to pick ourselves up and go again," he reflected.

It's been a huge week in the history of Clontarf Rugby Club. Not only were they finally crowned AIL champions, but they hosted the Barbarians in honour of the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf.

PICTURE

As last Saturday transpired, Clontarf's game finished a couple of minutes before Belvo's game against Garryowen.

With the game in Limerick being shown live on television, Wood painted the picture of the dramatic final moments that his side went through.

"It was a strange experience to be honest. George Clancy (referee) blew the final whistle when we kicked the ball into touch. We had to go through the usual post-match formalities.

"I was aware that Garryowen had been leading but I didn't really know what had happened late on. We had no idea of the full-time result," he said.

"One of the lads was on the phone to someone in the clubhouse who was watching the game on TV so he was relaying the information to us.

"It was a very nervy but exciting couple of minutes. We gathered in a team huddle and it was completely silent except for the guy giving us his own commentary! Once we knew that we had won it, it was incredible."

As Wood himself put it, "the monkey is now off the club's back" and Clontarf's challenge is to now build on this season's success.

"This title has been a long time coming. We took the long way around to get there but we don't really care now that we're over the line.

"It's a very special feeling to finally have won it."

The whole of Clontarf would certainly agree.

Irish Independent Supplement

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