In the final moments of Dundalk’s triumphant win over Tullamore in the Provincial Towns Cup Final, player coach Ene Fa’atau was laid up on the Edenderry sideline, grimacing in pain.
For over an hour, the number eight battled bravely to take his side within touching distance of the cup, but a severe case of cramp meant he had to exit the pitch as he lay in pain.
However, when John Dodd intercepted a loose pass and sprinted well clear of the pack to dive home with a try, the pain suddenly disappeared as Fa’atau knew his side were going to take the prestigious trophy home to Dundalk.
Speaking on Dodd’s terrific piece of play, he said: “The cramp left pretty quickly once I saw that.”
He added: “I had a bit of cramp, that’s all it was but it was not worth staying on with a few minutes left. But when he went over the line, I was just over the moon.”
It’s been 24 years since Dundalk lifted the trophy, back in 1987 when Robert Shekleton lifted the cup for a ninth time. But on Sunday, Stephen McGee made it ten when he raised the jug over his head, something Fa’atau was delighted with.
“When you see your supporters running on, some grown men and they are crying, it just says a lot about what it means to provincial rugby, this club and the people.
“It’s very hard to describe but I cannot say how happy I am right now for the boys. They deserved it.”
Tullamore flew out of the traps going 10-0 ahead after six minutes, but Fa’atau knew his side could weather the storm.
“I don’t know if it was really a slow start. They came out firing and really took it to us. We knew that would happen because they have the experience but I think for the boys, they had belief in themselves.
“We trusted each other and we kept banging away, banging away and the opportunities turned up.”
Part of Dundalk’s revival was their ability to take vital scores at vital times as they went ahead with the last kick of the half in the first 40 minutes and then ahead for a second time on 70 minutes, something Fa’atau puts down to their set-pieces.
“Yes, out set pieces really stood up today. We really disrupted their scrum and line-outs and it’s something as a team that we have been focusing on. When you put it into practice and you see it come out in the game, it is definitely worth it.
“It was still touch and go in the last five minutes or so but the lads in defence, in the last ten to 15 minutes especially, they just kept coming up and banging them back and that is what wins championships, defence, not attack and they certainly held it together for us today.”
After winning the trophy for a tenth time now, Fa’atau wants to see further success at the club.
“If you look at the guys who were playing, there’s probably ten other boys that are under 23 or 24 and if you take that kind of experience, year by year, you can’t help but be a bit better the next year so it’s definitely what we will take into next year, but that is next year as I’m going to enjoy this now.”