In his Hooker’s Diary in the Limerick Leader, John Hogan looks back on a week that had stag parties, Valentine’s gifts and another loss.
Rugby historians will remember the All Blacks famously blamed their tight World Cup final defeat in 1995 on food poisoning that may or may not have been maliciously caused by their South African hosts.
Malicious or not, an infectious bug is always a matter of concern when it starts to spread throughout a team, as has been the case with Bruff of late.
However, an infection of a different kind has spread amongst my teammates over the last year or so, the marriage bug. It’s gotten to the stage where a few weeks without an engagement announcement will have passed, and you start looking around the dressing room wondering who is going to be the next one struck down.
Thankfully my immune system is second to none and there’s absolutely no fear of me catching the affliction that has caught so many of my brethren. I suppose I’m just lucky.
Last weekend was rugby-free which allowed us to bring Mikey Carroll - one of the latest Bruffians to catch the bug - to Kilkenny for his stag night. As readers will know, we’re dedicated athletes so obviously a boozed-up weekend of debauchery was out of the question.
Instead we decided that in advance of having one or two pints at the end of the night, we would first take to the streets of Kilkenny which we would use as an obstacle course as part of a gruelling fitness session. Therefore if you happened to be in Kilkenny that weekend and you saw any of us crawling around in varying states of physical ruin, that’s what we were doing; fitness training.
The term ‘dry balls’ is rarely used in a complimentary sense in this country, with the exception of when it’s a hooker, such as my good self, talking.
Regardless of the negative connotations that the term might hold for others, dry balls are the subject of my sweetest dreams.
You see there isn’t much you wouldn’t give for a dry ball after a dank night like tonight, when you spend half the training session trying to throw a ball that’s about as easy to accurately fling as a fistful of jelly.
Despite my ability to repel the marriage bug, and also females in general, I got a rare Valentines Day gift this evening in the form of a starting berth at the weekend for our game against Malone.
The Northerners put an embarrassing spanking on us when we played them in Belfast at the start of the season, beating us 46-3, which was about as much fun as a rectal probe.
That was four months ago though, and we’ve learned our fair share of lessons – and of course gotten in a few marriage proposals – since then.
The start of today’s game had a horribly familiar feeling to it. If Malone’s first try had been any more poxy, we would have had to consider quarantining the entire team. It came courtesy of a stray Bruff pass walloping off the face of one of their defenders who managed to head-butt it straight into the path of an oncoming winger who galloped over the line untouched.
The gloominess continued with two more tries coming in the first quarter. So far, so like our visit to Belfast in October.
But then we decided to take a break from the rugby to engage in some welcoming fisticuffs with our visitors. It was nothing too sinister, just a few of us availing of the opportunity to get to know our opposition a bit better, but it did seem to flick a switch in our collective mindset.
Immediately we started to play with more confidence and just before half time, Mark Cosgrove latched on to Brian Carroll’s kick through to scamper over for a try in the corner. It was still 21-5 at half time but one felt the momentum had changed.
One couldn’t contest that the tables had turned a few minutes into the second half when Mikey Carroll found his way over the line to make it 21-10. With ten minutes left, John Moore got over for one of our finest tries of the season and the conversion put us behind by only four points, 21-17.
Unfortunately the three tries we conceded in the first quarter proved too much to overcome, although we came close on a few occasions. Even a losing bonus point would have seemed beyond us after the first 20 minutes, but in the end we were heartbroken not to have won.
We’re still only two points away from getting out of the relegation zone and, as the rate of marriage proposals should indicate, we’re nothing if not optimistic in Bruff.
>>> John also does a fortnightly podcast called Hoge ‘n’ Smith that can be downloaded on iTunes or from