For the first time in quite a while, there are positive stirrings down Tybroughney way. Carrick-on-Suir’s First XV took another major step towards promotion from the Third Division following a 68-0 demolition of neighbours Dungarvan on Sunday last.

Of the home side’s backs, only winger Shane O’Keeffe (who was replaced early due to injury) failed to score a try during an afternoon of high intensity rugby.

Since midsummer, under the guidance of ex-Crystal Palace footballer Richie Kennedy, the Carrick squad has been put through their physical paces in a manner that the preceding pre-seasons had lacked.

A qualified fitness instructor, the Rathgormack man has done an outstanding job in whipping the squad into excellent shape, with the improved levels of fitness an undoubted factor in the team’s Division Three form to date.

The team’s only league defeat this season came at the hands of promotion favourites Kinsale, who took the spoils in an 11-5 win at Tybroughney on October 21st.

The other five games played so far have all ended in victory, with two notable bonus point victories recorded in Limerick (25-11 at Saint Mary’s and 32-18 at Presentation).

Under captain Willie Stokes, Carrick have truly put their best foot forward in every game and the level of criticism the players are directing at themselves, even in victory, says something about their current mindset.

In the post-match huddle on Sunday, that critical self-awareness was still at work, despite Carrick’s scoring an avalanche of tries and maintaining a clean sheet.

“Succeeds breeds success,” according to proud Carrick clubman Sean Meade, who drew enormous satisfaction from Sunday’s performance.

When you even have the match referee noting the presence of the full squad out on the pitch an hour before kick-off, it’s difficult to avoid the sense that Carrick is a club moving in the right direction.

Developments off the pitch are also mirroring that assertion. The floodlights installed last season now provide the club with the option of playing night-time rugby, a big step forward in this shift-orientated working world we live in.

Further details for the expansion of the clubhouse and other facilities at Tybroughney are also gathering pace, augmenting the feel good factor wafting through the club currently.

“We’ve all seen what happens when you put in hard work over a few weeks at training,” said Willie Stokes in the huddle, with the vapours of sweat rising off his team-mates’ backs.

“We’ve seen what we’re capable of when we put it in at training and look at what we’re producing on the pitch. We’re in with a great chance of winning this league and we’ve got to keep putting it in the way we did today and the way we’ve done all season.”

Team manager and club treasurer Dermot Fogarty sounded a similar tone when talking to the players. “Let’s not just think about getting promoted,” he said. “We’re in the mix with two other clubs (Kinsale and Charleville) to win this league and get promoted into the bargain too. You’ve worked your arses off since July to get yourselves into this position so let’s not let is slip now. You’ve been a credit to yourselves and you owe it to yourselves guys to get something out of this season.”

Dermot Fogarty has frequently addressed Carrick dressing rooms over the years about how relatively short a time some may play junior rugby, reduced as it can be due to professional and family considerations.

This season, for the first time in several years, most, if not all of those wearing Carrick jerseys seem to be playing with that sentiment in mind. If you leave nothing behind you on the pitch, then you’ll have no regrets, whether you win or not.

But when you know that you’re putting all you can into your team, and you look at the players around you making the same sacrifices, your collective hand is significantly strengthened.

Carrick have achieved nothing yet, as any of the players would be prompt to remind themselves, never mind anyone else.

But their sterling endeavour to date has given all that any team would want with four rounds of Division Three remaining – a chance to achieve something.

It’s now up to those in the red and blue hooped jerseys to take it.

Carrick’s remaining fixtures

Dec 2nd: Charleville (a)

Dec 9th: Killarney (a)

Feb 17th: Galbally (h)

Mar 2nd: Waterford City (a)

By the way, the author is a proud Carrick-on-Suir RFC member!