‘We believe in ourselves’

Captain Brian on a club that’s thriving on and off the field…

Photo: Bernie O’Farrell

Brian Diffley is a young man who takes things in his stride, including the honour of being captain of the flourishing Creggs team.

  With the team trailing 0-17 in last Sunday’s Connacht (J1A) semi-final, Brian didn’t panic.

  “It must have been very nerve-racking for the supporters” he reflected this week, paying tribute to opponents Westport (“They’re a big side, they used the wind advantage well, we made mistakes and they capitalised”).

  On the field, the players remained calm. “I wasn’t worried at 0-17 down. We regrouped well, we held it together. Somehow when you’re out there playing, you don’t panic. I think it’s because we’re in the middle of it (the battle)…and of course we believe in ourselves”.

  Belief in themselves served the players well. They remained composed, trusting in their own game, believing they could spin the trajectory of the contest.

  20-5 behind by half-time, Creggs – wind-assisted in the second half – began to rein Westport in. Bit by bit, fueled by belief. Then, with a few minutes remaining, James Brandon’s try had the big home support in ecstasy. When Shane Purcell nervelessly added the conversion, suddenly it was 27-25 to the home side, the clock now ticking in their favour. A magnificent comeback. But there was to be another twist.

  Brian Diffley admits that when Westport were awarded a last-gasp penalty, his heart sank just a little. But the visitors turned down the kick at goal, opting for touch.

  “They could have gone for the posts. It was a fair distance out, but I thought he might have made it” the Creggs captain said this week, the relief still evident in his voice.

  Brian Diffley comes from a keen sporting family. Native of Oran, he is a son of Anne and the late PJ Diffley. Also a keen Gaelic footballer and hurler with Oran over the years, he’s been playing rugby with Creggs for most of his life, having joined up at U-8 level. Now 23, Brian is in his second year as club captain. A key player (No. 8), he’s following in the footsteps of his brothers Austin, Joseph and Michael, all of whom have worn the Creggs jersey and toiled at The Green.

  From chatting with Brian, it’s very evident that he feels great pride at the tremendous role being played by the club in the community. Freed of successive lockdowns, Creggs RFC is bustling again – on and off the field.

  “The lockdowns were tough. We’re a close-knit group (the players)…we’ve all been together since we were kids. The social impact of Covid-19 was hard on us…you’d miss not meeting up with your friends. Also, we had been flying on the field before lockdown!”

  When ‘play resumed’ that impressive form was maintained. Creggs finished top of the league, and also won the Cawley Cup. While they lost 10-6 in the league to Connemara – their opponents in this Sunday’s final – they atoned with a one-point win over the Galway club en route to that Cawley Cup success.

  Creggs’ success on the field reflects the huge voluntary effort being put in by so many people, along with the obvious talent within the actual panel of players. The club continues to set remarkable standards with its development of facilities, while the youth set-up continues to prosper.

  Brian: “The club is thriving. I help out with the U-13s and my nephew is on the U-14 team. We were so close to fielding two U-14 teams this season, so yeah, the underage set-up is great. The work being done by the same people year in year out is just tremendous. As for our facilities, you wouldn’t find the likes of them anywhere else in Connacht. The next phase will see a major new gym and four new large dressing rooms (two of them exclusively for women’s and girls rugby)”.

  He enjoys being captain, but is quick to give credit to his colleagues, and to the inspirational figures involved in coaching and other roles.

  “It’s my second year as club captain, and yes, I enjoy it, but really there are loads of leaders in the team. We do video analysis after every game…Pat Cunningham travels up from Galway, and Michael Harding from Offaly. It’s a team effort”.

  Also playing a massive role are the passionate supporters. Brian says they made a really significant difference last Sunday, urging the team back into contention when they faced that large deficit against Westport.

  “We had a big crowd behind us, and that was a big help. We’ve had great support all year, and I’d say we’ll have great support again for the final this Sunday”.

  The final. This Sunday. Given those two close games between the teams this season, another nail-biter seems inevitable.

  “We go in as underdogs” Brian says. “Connemara are the current holders, and they’ll be well up for it. But we need to concentrate on our own game”.

  Concentrate on their own game, and keep believing. Always believe in themselves. As with the great Creggs teams of the past, believing in themselves has stood well to them. They are Creggs.