After the agony of losing to Blackrock College in the dying moments of last season’s promotion play-off final, Greystones managed to go one step further this year and secure the Division 2B title.
The Co. Wicklow club have been one of the leading lights in the fourth tier of the Energia All-Ireland League for a few seasons now. Regaining the Division 2A berth they lost in 2018 was an uphill battle at times.
Last May it looked as if they had one foot in the door when they held a convincing lead over Blackrock at half-time in that promotion decider on home soil at Dr Hickey Park.
Frustratingly, a nightmare last quarter ruined those hopes, with Blackrock’s Matthew Dwan scoring a converted try right at the death to snatch a 25-23 victory along with the Division 2B crown.
Greystones captain Eoin Marmion admitted it was hard pill to swallow at the time, but he said they had to move on quickly from the disappointment.
That tough experience from twelve months ago has made things a little bit sweeter this time around as a run of 16 wins out of 18 league games saw them finish top of the table – 11 points clear of closer challengers Galway Corinthians.
“Last year was obviously a tough one to take, but we put the foot down this year and didn’t feel sorry for ourselves and we just got on with it, which is the best thing we could have done in hindsight,” said Marmion.
“It went well, we had a great first half to the season. Unfortunately we couldn’t keep up the perfect season, but I can’t complain. It’s been a class season and we’ve had some great fun.”
That Blackrock defeat taught ‘Stones some valuable lessons about the importance of never taking your foot off the gas, even when you seem to be in full control. It was a work-on identified back in October.
You can never get complacent within a match or within a season. During a game, you can’t stop, you can’t take your foot off the pedal at all or teams will come back and punish you, just like Blackrock did last year.
“It even applies to when you’ve won a few games on the trot. No game in the AIL is ever going to be easy and you have to fight for every point throughout the season.”
Despite only suffering two defeats all season, they were always being closely followed by Corinthians who were right behind them for much of the last six months. The constant pressure from the Galway side did not go unnoticed.
“Corinthians definitely kept us on our toes. We had more wins, but they were right behind us the whole way through. I think the best win we had all season was probably away to them, in the lashing rain,” noted Marmion, while praising their rivals’ efforts across the 2022/23 campaign.
Greystones were under the guidance of a new head coach this season in Danny Kenny, after eight years led by the great Kevin Lewis.
Kenny, who is an ex-professional, is still putting on the green and white jersey as well as looking after his coaching responsibilities. The 34-year-old player coach’s impact on the team was a big factor in helping them to win league silverware.
“Dan has been great this year and so have ‘Stu’ (Stewart Maguire) and ‘Sully’ (Cian O’Sullivan),” acknowledged Marmion, the lock/back rower who has been playing for the club since his mini rugby days.
“Dan is very particular with his set-piece, he is really detailed with his analysis. Like, we played Enniscorthy in our last game and we didn’t play great, but most of our tries were based off the set-piece, which is all his influence, even though he wasn’t on the pitch playing. That was all his influence.”
Blackrock have won through to next week’s Division 1B promotion play-off final, earning home advantage against MU Barnhall after falling just a handful of points short of automatic promotion from the third tier.
Greystones will will be aiming to follow in their footsteps next season, with Marmion agreeing: “Blackrock have set down a marker and it does give us that extra bit of confidence heading into that league.
“But I guess we’ve got to be cautious and not expect anything. We have to maybe get a few players in to replace the ones that are leaving or retiring and hopefully they buy into the system.”
Retirement announcements always come hand in hand with this time of year, and for Greystones, they will be losing two exceptional servants. Influential back rower Dan Mannion is hanging up his boots, along with former Leinster player Rob Connolly.
They are both two of the most well-respect guys in our squad. On a personal level, Dan was always the same position as me when I was coming through, he took me under his wing and I learnt a lot off him.
“And Rob, I feel like he could play forever. He had a brilliant season. It’s great to be able to finish on a high for the lads.”
Dr Hickey Park is a special place to play, always filled with a buzzing atmosphere on a match day where community and family links are both central to everything about the club. The Marmion brothers are a great example of that.
Eoin’s older brother, Killian, is the prolific out-half on the team. He held the captaincy before him, while the youngest of the siblings, Shane, is also part of the squad but unfortunately his season was cut short due to injury.
It is a special feeling to be able to play alongside your brothers and not something Eoin takes for granted.
“It’s been great playing with Kill and even having Shane in and around the squad, even though he got injured has been great. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he added.