Having played 10 matches, won nine, lost just once, scored 221 points and conceded just 60, Carrick-on-Suir finished their Division Three Group B season with a 39-8 win over Dungarvan on Sunday last.
They were denied only a perfect season when losing 10-0 to Galbally in a game that was twice postponed, not that it matters now, but that loss still craws in Carrick souls.
This has been the best season that the Tybroughney-based club has enjoyed in several campaigns with inconsistency, the First XV’s greatest bugbear this decade, finally decommissioned.
So what’s made the difference this season? Commitment has got to top the list. Carrick have not had to rely on making last minute phone calls to haul lads out of bed to make up the numbers.
Since the team, commendably led by skipper Willie Stokes, got together for close season training under the expert eye of Ritchie Kennedy last summer, the bit has rarely been anywhere but between Carrick teeth.
The team has physical power throughout – look only to former Garryowen player Adam O’Loughlin, the hard hitting Eddie O’Donnell or the mobile back row of John O’Keeffe, Dylan Davies and Mick Carroll for ready made examples.
There’s also footballing quality aplenty provided via the hands and feet of James Wallace, Peter Steele, Ross Clery and Alban Coughlan to name but a few.
The full-blooded commitment provided by John and Brian Phelan and the experience which Eddie Barry brings to the table have all proven instrumental to date. Stokes had captained a steady ship, but most crucially of all, a happy one.
Defensively, Carrick have been resolute this season, keeping three clean sheets in league action – a superb achievement.
On only one occasion have they conceded more than one try in a match this season – away to Douglas on February 22nd, a game in which they had two men sin binned.
But the biggest challenge of all now faces the Carrick men, a play-off semi-final and the potential promotion decider that awaits thereafter.
While 3A winners Castleisland also ran away with their section (they now face Galbally in their semi-final), the runners-up spot on that side of the league has yet to be decided.
However, it would appear that Saint Mary’s of Limerick are Carrick’s likeliest opponents, given that Killarney (the only team that can pip them) face Castleisland in their final tie.
Though not yet confirmed, word has it that Carrick’s semi-final (at home) may be played on Good Friday to avoid a clash with the Munster/Ospreys Heineken Cup quarter-final.
Waterford City, whose promotion hopes were undone thanks to narrow pre-Christmas defeats to Carrick, Galbally and Douglas, followed up a 51-9 defeat to Galbally on March 22nd with a 17-11 loss in Douglas on Sunday last.
Hapless Dungarvan, who played Carrick four times this season, will be happy to forget the past season as soon as possible, having lost all 10 league fixtures and shelling an average of 32 points a match.