With six local clubs paired against each other, the opening round of the Munster Junior Challenge Cup at the weekend was sure to be of interest. The results of the three fixtures saw Richmond, Abbeyfeale and Newcastle West qualify for the next round.
In the opening game, last Saturday night in Liam Fitzgerald Park two well-taken counter-attack tries proved to be the difference between Thomond and Newcastle West. Both scores came in the second half within eight minutes of each other and after trailing home side Thomond for much of the game, the county side raced into an 11-24 lead that they held to the final whistle.
Thomond led 6-0 midway through the opening half with Aoghain Sherlock converting the two penalties. Sean Herlihy then kicked a penalty for Newcastle West to make it 6-3 before the visitors went 3-10 in front, the referee awarding a penalty try after severe pressure from the NCW pack.
Both sides served up some sparkling running rugby throughout and a great break by Ger Finucane set up the home try. Wayne Mullaney finished off the move with the touchdown that gave Thomond an 11-10 lead going into the final quarter.
The royal blues were in control for a period after that, but an interception on the home ten-metre line saw Darragh Fox show a clean pair of heels to the chasers to go over at the other end to put the West back into the lead, 11-17 after Herlihy’s conversion.
Worse was to come for Thomond, a spill out wide around halfway was snapped up by Sean Neville and although he had some work to do, he had the pace to get over, Herlihy’s conversion sealing the 11-24 victory.
Richmond staged a second-half comeback to edge out Galbally on Sunday at the Canal Bank. Galbally, who have not shown their best form in the league so far this season, had a terrific opening half and they were fully deserving their 10-15 lead at the interval. That opening 40 minutes provided thrilling viewing with Galbally scoring tries from Mike O’Dea and Frank Cussen while John Kearns kicked a penalty and a conversion.
Richmond kept in touch with a try by Sean Bennett and Brian Mullins’ conversion and penalty set up the second half nicely. Galbally defended gallantly as the second half got underway but a try by Richmond’s Darragh Joyce levelled the tie at 15-15. It was the home support that celebrated at the final whistle thanks to a late penalty from Brian Mullins that saw the green and whites qualify for the next round.
It was not a day to remember for the city’s division two side St Mary’s. It’s 51 years since the Saints lifted the Munster Junior Cup but they were no match for division one Abbeyfeale who ran up 55 points without reply.
St Mary’s started well but two penalties for the home side in the opening five minutes, converted by Derry O’Connor, set the pattern for the rest of this one-sided encounter. Abbeyfeale went on to score seven tries, all from different players, with Jake Quirke, Shane O’Connell, Sean Scannell, Adrian Enright, Sean Bates, Philip Collins and Patrick Brislane all dotting down over the whitewash.