At the time St Peter’s Dunboyne defeated Moynalvey in their first outing in the county’s premier football competition since the 1950s (1993), the vanquished had been in the top rank for the majority of my lifetime. In the intervening years, though, the club’s form has oscillated quite a bit.
And, during some of the time the maroon and white fortunes fluctuated, their nearest neighbours in Summerhill garnered a few county titles. Yet, in recent times there have been signs of a resurgence for Moynalvey. Exemplified by players such as Padraic and Brian Harnan along with Cillian and Mark O’Sullivan (to name a few) shining with county teams when afforded the opportunity. However, perhaps the greatest indicator of all was when they usurped their neighbours in their last championship clash.
You may wonder where this is going. Well, the thought recently struck that, while one sporting code in the area has seen good days and bad, others have more than gloriously flown the flag for the locality. Think of the bountiful success cultivated by Kiltale in hurling in recent times. And the impact – referred to elsewhere – had by Gordon Elliott in horse racing. Or the distinction with which Moynalvey athlete Sara Treacy has represented Dunboyne AC and Ireland.
Now consider the matter which prompted production of this piece – the ever burgeoning international rugby career of another elite sportsperson from that golden piece of road – Moynalvey’s Devin Toner. Naturally, when Paul O’Connell took his leave following indescribably heroic service, it was expected there would be a considerable void to be filled.
In the interim, it was, though, opined that Toner appeared to have assumed the role of leader of the Irish lineout. The recently concluded Six Nations Championship did nothing to dissuade such inclinations. In fact, it embellished them. During what was largely a limp campaign for Joe Schmidt’s side, Devin’s endeavours recalled a dictum imparted to yours truly by the late Paddy McIntyre Snr many years ago – “You find your good players when you’re getting beaten”.
What his continued emergence also did, mind you, was highlight the most obvious example that the transition which Schmidt is undoubtedly currently overseeing may not be as arduous as many may have initially feared. Right, there is the nagging worry that things are still overly dependent on the efficiency of the first choice half back combination, but don’t all rugby teams have that affliction?
Personally, throughout life, the tendency has always been to zone in on whatever morsel of positivity can be derived from any given situation. Thus, sticking to that line of thought, the continued development of Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo’s continuing banishment of plausible accusations of flakiness and the arrival to the sceneof the likes of Josh Van Der Flier, Stuart McCloskey, Ultan Dillane and – most significantly – CJ Stander offer plenty of hope going forward.
Employing a bit of local favouritism if we might, however, gut feeling remains that Devin Toner remains on course to prove himself every bit if not ever more important than any of them. Reference was already made to the feeling that he would emerge as the leader of the line out in the aftermath of O’Connell’s abdication. As Col. John ‘Hanibal’ Smith was wont to say in the A-Team ‘I love it when a plan comes together’!
Its’ doing so has enabled Toner to become the latest embodiment of a fine tradition the Royal County has of producing fine rugby players. Following on the heels of David Beggy, Hugh Carolan, John Lacey, Angus McKeen and Shane Horgan. As well as a few others like some of those named who have strong GAA connections. Namely Simon Crawford, Dunboyne’s David Clare and one Graham Geraghty.
Instinct indicates, though, that Devin could reach greater heights than any of the others. Yes, I know what I did there. What was surprising, admittedly, was to learn in the wake of the Scotland game that it was in fact the lock’s first score for his country. Surprise at such being the case probably amply illustrates the extent to which his influence on the team – in more ways than one – has evolved.
While it is unquestionable that there is at least a degree of transition is ongoing within Joe Schmidt’s group, with Toner’s importance to the group becoming ever more obvious. Gut feeling is there should still be plenty of good days ahead for the Moynalvey colossus and his colleagues.