BY KIERAN McCARTHY
ON the same sacred sod that Munster thumped Toulouse in the Champions Cup the evening before, Skibbereen turned on the style in Thomond Park on Sunday to secure an historic Munster Club U16 Cup final victory.
This was Skibb’s first time in the final of this competition and they showed no nerves whatsoever as they blitzed their Cork rivals, Kinsale, with a scintillating display.
Skibb centre Jordie O’Brien was the hero of the day for Skibbereen as he scored 24 points, which included two tries, two penalties and four conversions.
As the sun shone on Thomond, Skibb basked in the glory of a famous win for the club.
‘We knew we were well prepared and we knew Kinsale would give us a tough game but we were surprised how well everything went for us,’ said Skibb coach, Paul O’Farrell.
‘Every pass stuck, every set piece work, our line out was excellent, our backs were sharp, it was one of those days where everything went right, especially to perform as we did in a big game like that.
‘We were thrilled with how our scores came. It was crucial that we got the first score in case there were no tries scored and then to get the first try in case it finished in a draw. We kicked on from there. Every score we got gave us more confidence and it sucked the life out of Kinsale.’
After Jordie O’Brien and Kinsale full back Rowan Palmer exchanged early penalties, Darren Daly’s great burst led to the first try of the game, and O’Brien added the extras. Jason Connolly then set-up Euan O’Donovan for Skibb’s second try and they led 15-3 at the break.
O’Brien continued his first-half form with an early second-half penalty and then Jason Connolly crossed the line as Skibbereen took control of this Munster final.
Jordie O’Brien then ran in two intercept tries to put the issue beyond doubt (39-3) before Kinsale pulled back a late score through a Faelen Stewart try.
Being so far in front in the final stages allowed Skibbereen to run their bench and all 23 players in the match-day squad got to sample Thomond Park.
‘The players weren’t overawed by the occasion and they enjoyed the event. There were no nerves,’ coach O’Farrell said.
‘They approached it like just another game and they didn’t lose any focus around the hype and build-up that surrounded the match. They settled into the game very well, they weren’t fazed by it and the enjoyed the whole game more than anything else.’
O’Farrell feels this Munster Club U16 Cup final triumph is a big boost to the club, as he explains.
‘It’s a huge win for the club,’ he said.
‘It reinforces and is just reward for all the hard work by the club at underage level over the years.
‘Great work is being done by all the coaches and administrators so it’s fantastic for the club to win a title like this.
‘It will give great encouragement to the other teams coming after us that they can achieve their day in the sun and succeed in the big occasions if they work hard and train hard. The glory is there for them if they put in the effort.’
O’Farrell was also blown away by the special welcome that the young heroes received when they returned home to Skibbereen on Sunday night and he also had special praise for the parents of the players.
‘The support and backing we received from the parents has played a big part in this success. This wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t have the fantastic help that we have received from the parents,’ O’Farrell said.
Next up for this Skibbereen U16 team is a U16 South Munster Cup tie at home to Kinsale, again, this Saturday at 12.30pm, and they face Kinsale once more in the South Munster League the following weekend, so there’s lots of rugby still to be played this season.
It all forms part of a busy weekend for Skibbereen RFC as the club is hosting a party of 77 from Bournazel RFC in France this Saturday, with a blitz from 10.30am-2pm. And as well as the U16 South Munster Cup tie, Skibb host Bandon in the U13 Cup at 2pm.
Skibbereen: Darren Daly, Liam Hodnett, Jordie O’Brien, Gavin Foley, Killian O’Sullivan, Jamie Shanahan, Matthew Sheehan, Michael Veale, Euan O’Donovan, John O’Driscoll, Jack O’Sullivan, Keith Whelton, Oisin Lucey, Sam Burchill, Jason Connolly.
Replacements: Dylan Young, Eric Wickens, Gavin Cronin, Liam O’Farrell, Jack O’Driscoll, Iarla Hurley, Jason Murphy, Adam O’Regan, Asa Curran, Brian Stoutt, Aalex Delpozo, Sam Farthing, Jack Crowley, Tadhg Hickey, Joseph Griffiths.