2004-07-30 / Sports

Irish Festival And Rugby Match A Huge Success

By Phil Tufano

This past Saturday was a milestone day for the Rockaway Rugby Club and for Irish culture on the Rockaway Peninsula. The Fisheads, under the leadership of the Great Bob Johnson, took it upon themselves to bring back the traditional Rockaway Irish Fest and did so in spectacular fashion. An exciting and very well played battle between the senior and junior members of the Fisheads (Old Boys Vs. Young Boys), which ended in a 31-31 tie, was followed by a day of Irish music, step dancing, food and drink. The famous Rockaway Rugby Clubhouse was the venue and all who attended had a great time.

Friends of the Fisheads and the Emerald Isle poured in throughout the afternoon and evening hours as the capacity crowd never dwindled. Plaques were presented to the Tubridy and Callaghan families, original founders of the Irish Fest, as a tribute to their efforts in establishing the Irish Fest tradition. It seemed only fitting that they be honored on the day that this great summer tradition was revived.

Traditional Irish Band Shillelagh Law nearly brought the house down with a razor sharp three-hour set of Irish classics. The Rockaway Catholic Club Bagpipe Band also wowed the crowd with Irish and American favorites, Step dancers kicked their heels with great precision and musical groups Unity Squad Band and Seanchai also performed to a very enthusiastic response. To call the event a success would be a great understatement. The spirit of the assemblage was one of pure joy and friendship, and a true celebration of the great Irish culture and its many contributions to America. It’s safe to say the Irish Fest is back and its here to stay. If you missed it, watch for it again next year around this time. YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS IT AGAIN.

Now for a re-cap of the much publicized and ballyhooed Old/Boys Vs. Young Boys Intrasquad Match: Predictably, the Young Boys trickled in late while the Old Pros waited and prepared for what they knew would be a difficult task: To neutralize the speed and youthful athleticism of the Young Boys and establish a roughhouse- style forwards dominated tempo more suited to their present skill level.

The Young Boys planned to run circles around the veterans, but the Old Boys followed the Joe Louis credo, firmly believing the youngsters “could run... but could not hide.” After several weeks of back and forth insults and trash talk, referee T.A. Fitzpatrick blew the whistle for kick-off and brought things to a head. Both sides turned out to be partially correct in their pre-match predictions.

The young boys came out flying and jumped on the seniors 12-0 with 2 quick tries, one by Local Ladies Man Tyrone Sperling in the first 5 minutes of play. Stunned, the vets re-grouped and started to use their trademark rough stuff to great effect. Rucking and mauling their way down the field, the Old Boys gained steady ground and punished the youngsters with superior strength and technical skills. Grouch McCann scored first for the Vets, followed by a walkover try from a set scrummage courtesy of the great Mike Gerraughty.

The match was extremely well played, as both sides appeared surprisingly crisp despite the considerable post- spring season lay-off. The youngsters would answer back with another score by Danny Lunny and went to half leading 17-12.

The second stanza started badly for the Vets and it appeared that youth might indeed be served on this day. The Young Boys found some open space and converted two quick scores to go up 31-12 early in the second half. Most in attendance and nearly all on the Young Boys side thought it was over at that point... except for the slightly older, slightly heavier, slightly (in my case extremely) balding men on the short end of the score. As Yogi Berra once said: “It aint over..till its over.”

The Young Boys were in for a shock. The Vets returned to the grind it out style they excel in and took it to the kids. The Old Boys dominated the rest of the game with punishing technical Rugby and shut down the youngsters while slowly climbing back into the game. Tries by Phil Tufano, Robbie Ostrander and Mike Gerraughty’s second of the match evened the score at 31-31 with a conversion chance by the famous “Skid Row” the only thing separating the two sides. A difficult angle proved to be too difficult to overcome as the Bald Menace kicked it wide left. A few more minutes of superb action yielded no points and TA Fitzpatrick blew the whistle with the score still knotted at 31.

Both sides gained each other’s respect and the match showed why the Fisheads have always been such a strong team: The blend of experience and youth is difficult to overcome. Deciding that the Irish Fest was more appealing than overtime, the 2 sides shook hands and called it a day. The Fisheads look forward to the August Monmouth tournament and the fast approaching fall season with great optimism. Read The Wave for Fisheads game info in the coming weeks.

Rugger Pluggers

Congrats to Tommy Leonard and Kristi on their engagement. Special thanks goes to Ed “Big Daddy” Shevlin and Liz Smith for helping us out with the Irish Fest.

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