The AIB League has a magic all its own and the honour of representing one’s club, town and region is a very special one. To do so over 100 times is an awesome achievement.
Paul Dillon, Clonakilty’s outstanding outside centre, is one of an elite band to achieve this and the Cork club’s first player to do so.
This season, winger Noel O’Sullivan, a record try-scorer, became Clon’s second ‘centurion’ and this coming weekend, at home to De La Salle Palmerston, past captain and second rower Danny Whelton will join them.
Only prop Joe Knowles, another former captain, can mathematically hope to join the trio this season in the ultra-exclusive 100 club.
The passage of time will show just how difficult it is to make 100 appearances at this intense level. The skill, strength, fitness and commitment required puts it beyond most.
At informal ceremonies in the Clonakilty clubhouse, the players were presented with their centurion blazers. They may well become collector’s items.
Other Clon players may have also clocked up 100 AIB League games between periods with more than one club, Derek Dillon and Eddie Knowles being two candidates, but Paul and Noel are the first players to appear 100 times in the competition solely for Clonakilty.
It took a full seven seasons for Paul to reach this milestone and to date he has played 107 AIB League games, starting 101 of them and has scored 15 tries.
A tough-tackling, intercept specialist, he is, incredibly, still only in his mid-20s. He may very well be setting records that are unsurpassable.
Noel O’Sullivan took eight seasons to reach the 100-cap mark and has scored, to date, a very impressive 49 tries over 103 league games, 96 of which he started. He may yet go on to become the league’s record try-scorer across all three divisions.
Should Danny join the the pair this weekend, he will have played 100 league games, starting 94 of them. He has scored one try to date. Could he celebrate his arrival in the centurion ranks with another?
Danny would have been the first centurion only for a premature retirement. He has answered the call over the last three seasons when the going got tough and has come out of retirement each time to help the club.
Joe Knowles has already clocked up 94 AIB League appearances and has started 79 of them. He has an impressive six tries under his belt for a prop and who would bet against him adding to those should he play in six of the remaining nine games this term.
Joe also would have joined the 100-cap ranks by now – only for his decision to play junior rugby. However, like Danny, he has answered the call for Clon and in doing so is within touching distance of that milestone.
– With thanks to Clonakilty PRO Roy Maguire