Blackrock College captain Brian Colclough will be in the unique position of playing against two of his house-mates in Saturday’s Energia All-Ireland League Division 2B promotion play-off final.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 2B:
Saturday, April 30
Kick-off 2.3opm unless stated –
PROMOTION PLAY-OFF FINAL:
Greystones v Blackrock College, Dr Hickey Park
RELEGATION PLAY-OFF SECOND LEG:
Ballina (19) v Galwegians (34), Heffernan Park
Adult tickets for Clontarf v Terenure College are €10 each and Under-18s go free – an Under-18 ticket must be purchased with an adult ticket. Under-18s attending require adult supervision. Any request for disabled access tickets should be emailed here.
Greystones skipper Killian Marmion and his younger brother Eoin, a second row for the Wicklow men, live together with Colclough, all three committed club players striving for promotion at the end of a thrilling league season.
Blackrock are planning another away raid after winning their semi-final at Belfast Harlequins. They overcame Neil Doak’s side 29-17 with tries from Liam McMahon, Hugo Godson Treacy, Matthew Dwan, Peter Quirke and Colclough.
Blackrock have won seven out of nine games since the turn of the year, giving themselves a shot at regaining the place in Division 2A that they lost in 2019. It has been a tough journey to get to this point.
“We have really been a team that has done it the hard way at times,” admitted Colclough. “There are too many moments to choose from but the season has really been a progressive build.
“There were a lot of injuries and sickness before Christmas, which in hindsight gave everyone lots of minutes, but it has taken until after Christmas for us to really get our training numbers up and put more consistent performances out to be honest.
“Hopefully Saturday will be the standout moment. This team has been building for three years. We know on our day we can and have beaten everyone in the league, so from day one – back in pre-season – promotion was the goal.”
It was one win apiece during the regular season for the play-off finalists, with Killian Marmion scoring 18 points in Greystones’ 48-29 home victory in November. Blackrock edged them 21-17 in February’s return fixture, back rower James Burke barging over for the match-winning try.
James Blaney has put together a strong squad at Stradbrook since his appointment as ‘Rock’s head coach in April 2019. This will obviously be his first completed season in the role where he is assisted by Stan McDowell.
Colclough, who has been playing for Blackrock since he was a teenager, has nothing but praise for the pair and their hard work in getting the best out of the extended squad across an arduous 19-match AIL campaign.
“James and Stan bounce off each other well and both bring great knowledge and expertise. Their passion for the club and the club game itself helps hugely in creating a positive atmosphere too.
“There is a great balance of local lads and players from Limerick, Cork and Sligo in the squad, stretching from 20 to their early thirties. We are a very tight-knit group so the mix is a great help.”
This is Colclough’s second season as Blackrock captain and he manages to combine it with his full-time role as senior team performance analyst with Leinster Rugby. Juggling some match weeks and away trips can be tricky.
“There have been a couple of games where I have had to call in a favour or two, but both Leinster and Blackrock are very accommodating to me,” explained the versatile back.
“So particular thanks to Leo Cullen for that and the coaches in Blackrock. I have torn loyalties some weekends but I know if I feel like I’m letting someone down on a given weekend that it will be time to make a decision. But for now it is manageable.”
Blackrock did not make it easy for themselves in losing their final league game to Galway Corinthians. That meant a play-off semi-final trip to Belfast, but they drew out a big performance and their captain is banking on another one against ‘an excellent Greystones side’.
“We knew we had a point to prove after losing the two games against Harlequins earlier in the season. But honestly it was really just a focus on ourselves and putting a performance our families and supporters could be proud of.
“Thankfully we have given ourselves one more weekend. We have had our battles with Greystones over the last few years, losing some and winning some.
“Kill (Marmion) at 10 will always be a threat along with their outside backs. Some very quick and dangerous players out there. Up front, they have some very mobile players also so we know it’s going to be a massive challenge but one we are excited for.”
A sizable contingent of Blackrock supporters will head to Dr Hickey Park for the season finale, Colclough thanking them wholeheartedly for ‘their support, encouragement and compassion throughout the year’ and calling them ‘a special group’.
Two of his good friends will have to be on the losing side if Blackrock are to seal promotion this weekend. So what has the build-up been like with divided club loyalties in the one house?
“It’s a difficult week for all involved. It is not the first time it’s happened, but obviously there is a lot at stake this time around,” commented Colclough.
“Training in the evenings dictates that we’re not really around too much anyway so it has not been too bad. I’m sure one day we will look back on the rarity and uniqueness of it all.
“But I can only speak for myself in saying I’m focusing on the match itself and not the distractions like that. I am sure Kill would say the same.”