IT was a case of ‘all hands on deck’ over the week-end with clubs and organisers scrambling to find playable pitches for a full Munster Junior League fixture list. The Munster Branch stepped in and made Irish Independent Park available on Saturday and the Clonakilty v Richmond and Newcastle West v St Senan’s games were the only ones of local interest to fall foul of the country’s latest storm. Newcastle West had arranged to play their game on the 4G at UL but St Senan’s did not travel as they had a health and safety issue due to the forecasted severe weather.
MJL2, St Mary’s 24, Thurles 22:
Full marks to the ground staff of St Mary’s RFC who had the surface in top class condition for this league game. The game started off at a blistering pace and the visitors went 7-0 in front within the opening two minutes, scrum half Nicky Irwin out-foxing the St Mary’s defence to get over for a converted try. Playing against the wind, St Marys’ reply was swift. They used their strong pack to drive towards the visitors’ line and at the third attempt they were awarded a penalty try.
Thurles then hit a good patch. They kicked a penalty to go 7-10 in front and after the Saints failed to deal with a maul close to their line, the Tipperary side increased the lead to 7-17 at the break. Darragh Kerley gave the Saints a lifeline soon after the restart when he got over and Paul Loughlin’s conversion reduced the lead to 14-17. A lack of concentration by the St Mary’s defence at the re-start saw the ball go loose and they were punished when Thurles scored their third try to make it 14-22 but again the home side responded, winger Andy McKenzie showing pace to go over and Paul Loughlin adding the extras to reduce the lead to 21-22.
The final minutes were tense and both sides enjoyed good territory. A telling break by Darragh Kerley set up a final assault on the Thurles line, they were awarded a penalty but Paul Loughlin’s kick hit the upright, bounced back into play and was booted to touch. The Saints attacked from the lineout, moved the ball towards the posts to force a penalty and this time Paul Loughlin proved to be the hero, the last kick of a highly enjoyable game giving St Mary’s the points.
In his first season in charge at Grove Island, St Mary’s coach Geoff Kenny was pleased with his side’s performance:
“We were lucky to be honest. Thurles were a decent side, they are on the back of a good run, they are doing well in the junior cup but we needed to win this game. The lads fought to the end, they never stopped trying and at the end we got the winning score. Hats off to Thurles, we were a bit lucky but we deserved the win. We were not too worried at half time when we trailed 7-17 because we were playing into the wind in the opening half. We did not think a ten point lead was enough.”
Geoff told Sporting Limerick that taking the coaching role with the Saints has been a good decision for him:
“The lads in St Mary’s have been very good to me, they are a good bunch of players and I think they have a bright future. It’s a pleasure for me to be here, there is a core group of young players in the squad and the ethos of the club is to bring these to a higher level. I was three years in the AIL with Tullamore, I was then a couple of years out of the rugby scene and I am delighted to get the chance to get back into the game with St Mary’s. We’re living in Limerick now and it’s good to be back involved in rugby again.
“The Munster Junior Plate is our ambition now. We are playing Killorglin in Grove Island on March 1st but we will be taking one game at a time. The Plate game gives our players a chance to go after something, it’s a quarter final and it’s something to look forward to.”
In division one Thomond and St Mary’s recorded victories with Abbeyfeale losing away to Crosshaven and Galbally going down at home to Bandon.
MJL1, Mallow 22, Thomond 27:
Moved to Irish Independent Park in Cork, this game took place on Saturday and provided a cracker of a tie. A hastily arranged meeting at Liam Fitzgerald Park last Tuesday got the approval of the Thomond club to play the game in Cork and they were rewarded with a bonus point victory that keeps them on target for a top four place and participation in the national cup. The all-weather surface suited running rugby and it was Thomond who took the laurels in a highly-entertaining game.
Warren Kelly continued his good form with a brace of tries for the Sodacakes and further tries from Brian Aherne and Evan O’Connor ensured the bonus point. Adam Guerin is proving to be a very impressive replacement for Evan Cusack who went to Young Munster at the start of the season and his accuracy from the tee has been an asset. His contribution of two conversions and a penalty in difficult windy conditions helped the royal blues to this latest victory.
Crosshaven 19, Abbeyfeale 17:
This game on Sunday was also played in Irish Independent Park and it also provided a closely-fought encounter. A converted try five minutes before the final whistle saw Crosshaven snatch a victory that did not seem likely going into the last quarter. Abbeyfeale really stepped up to the plate for most of the game and they relished the opportunity to shine on the Cork all-weather surface. Brian Collins scored a brace of tries for ‘Abbey’ both of which were converted by Derry O’Connor who also landed a penalty.
Galbally 9, Bandon 15:
Full credit to both teams who made sure this fixture would take place despite the difficult conditions. Galbally were disappointed with the result and they were well in it, trailing 6-8 coming up to the 70th minute. Bandon were then awarded a penalty try to go 6-15 in front but Galbally salvaged a losing bonus point with John Kearns landing his third penalty of the game.
In other games Kilfeacle and District continued their charge for glory with a 31-6 bonus point win over Waterpark in MJL1 while in MJL2 Kinsale beat Dungarvan 8-3.