The long wait is over as Bandon crowned Munster Junior Cup champions
Young Munster 14
JAMES NEVILLE REPORTS
IT was an historic occasion for Bandon RFC last Sunday, when a first-ever Munster Junior Cup was captured in front of a huge travelling fan base, with the west stand in Thomond Park a sea of blue and white.
Speaking directly in the aftermath, Bandon team manager Dan Murphy referred to the Munster Junior Cup as the ‘holy grail for all junior clubs’, and he was thrilled the West Cork club had finally got their hands on it.
Twice in the past Bandon had lost this cup final, in 1973 and 1992, but it was third time lucky last Sunday, as Young Munster were defeated.
‘We have been trying to win it for so long without success,’ Murphy said.
‘The guys came close in the Challenge Cup in February and I think they learned lessons from that loss. We have had fabulous numbers at training all year and winning the Munster Junior Cup is a great reward for the squad for their efforts throughout the year.
‘From a club point of view, the junior cup would have been one of the goals and to have achieved it will no doubt add to the club’s popularity as a sporting code for young players to join.’
Played on an excellent dry pitch last Sunday, the breeze was blowing towards the west stand and favoured Young Munster in the first half. The game started at breakneck speed with Bandon’s ability to recycle to ball quite exceptional. Indeed the standard and pace of play throughout, from both sides, was of the highest order.
The first scrum of the game had to be reset twice, and on the third attempt, Bandon drove Young Munster off the ball and earned a penalty. From the lineout, play went infield, and after some neat interplay among the forwards, a Scott Mogford break brought play up to the five-metre line and the quick ruck ball was fed to Christian Mulcahy who raced over in the corner. Kerry Desmond drew in his conversion beautifully from the right touchline.
Three minutes later Desmond added a penalty (10-0) when a Munsters’ player was penalised for not rolling away after Alex Morrissey made a break.
In the 20th minute the Limerick side then showed how dangerous they were in the set piece when driving Bandon off a scrum and forcing a penalty.
From the lineout, the ball was popped to openside Elie Mundu who brought play to within ten metres of the Bandon line with a brilliant bustling run. Another couple of carries then saw Cian Clohessy take a clever line at pace, but he was met by a huge hit from Dan Swithenbank, which forced the knock on.
In the 34th minute, a loose clearance from defence by Young Munster was fielded by Gearoid Crowley wide out on the left. Despite having Olan Crowley back on the inside, he went himself, rounding Michael Vaughan with ease, but was tackled ten metres short of the line. The ball was then spun right across the line where Desmond took a massive hit before transferring the ball to Mulcahy, who managed to offload to captain Tom Ferguson who side stepped his marker for a brilliant team try. Desmond’s conversion made it 17-0 and Bandon looked to be coasting.
Young Munster came storming back, when on 37 minutes, scrum half Gary Fitzgerald spotted a gap in Bandon’s fringe defence to dart in from the 22. And on the stroke of half time the same player took a quick penalty to put Tom McHale away down the left. Paul Downes converted both to make it 17-14 and left the men from West Cork in no doubt that they were now in a game.
Bandon opened their account for the second half on 47 minutes, being awarded a penalty after driving Young Munster off their own scrum.
Kerry Desmond, from five metres inside the opposition half, and 17 metres in off the right touchline, kicked a booming penalty to extend his side’s lead to six points (20-14).
Young Munster introduced the imposing ball carrying skills of Sean Rennison at number eight and he along with Mundu were proving a handful for the Bandon pack.
For the most part Bandon were able to handle what was thrown at them but one superb attack down the left hand side by Young Munster should have yielded a try but Kerry Desmond came across to save the day.
In the 77th minute, the game was put beyond doubt, when Gareth Burton broke from a ruck, and with the line in sight, threw a dummy pass to beat the full back and score. Desmond converted for a 100 per cent return off the tee and make it 27-14.
Three minutes later the final whistle blew, sparking scenes of wild celebrations, before Tom Ferguson became the first Bandon captain to lift the Munster Junior Cup.
There were a number of stand-out performers for Bandon with Tim Crowley and Gareth Burton in the pack both being particularly impressive. Enda Phelan too had probably his finest outing in a Bandon jersey. But man-of-the-match was inside centre Kerry Desmond, who apart from kicking all five of his shots at goals, was a constant threat in attack, and rock solid in defence.
Bandon: Olan Crowley, Christian Mulcahy, Gearoid O’Leary, Kerry Desmond, Gearoid Crowley, Alex Morrissey, Scott Mogford, Colin Jackson, Aidan Slattery, Tim Crowley, Dan Swithenbank, Enda Phelan, Gareth Burton, Tom Ferguson (c), Michael Beecher.
Replacements: Mike Murphy, Scott Kingston, JP Lucey, Mark Bateman, Kevin Lucey.
Young Munster: Jack Lyons, Michael Vaughan, Craig O’Hanlon, Cian Clohessy, Tom McHale, Paul Downes, Gary Fitzgerald, David Begley, Mark O’Mara, Paul Allen, Aaron McCloskey, Mikey Madden, Karl Madden, Tom Goggin, Elie Mundu.
Replacements: James Burke, Conor Bartley, Sean Rennison, Jake Fehilly, James O’Connor.
Referee: Tommy O’Donoghue (MAR).