BY KIERAN McCARTHY
THEY’VE been training two nights a week since last August, have played 14 games to qualify for the Munster U16 Cup final and now Skibbereen’s talented young guns want to finish the job in style.
This Sunday, April 2nd, Skibbereen RFC take on Kinsale in the U16 cup decider in Thomond Park (2pm kick-off), and it’s the first time in this cup final for both clubs who actually met in the opening group stage of this competition before Christmas.
That day there was no separating the two teams in a 15-apiece draw, and Walter Young, part of Skibb’s U16 coaching set-up, expects another tight game this Sunday.
‘That you have two West Cork clubs competing in a Munster final is a reflection of how strong underage rugby is in West Cork now,’ said Young, who is joined by O’Paul Farrell, Paul O’Brien, Kieran Shannon, Kieran Sheehan and Eugene Curran in the Skibb coaching team.
‘We played Kinsale away in the first stage and that ended in a draw. It will be very evenly matched on Sunday, a real 50-50 game.
‘For both clubs it’s the first time getting beyond the quarter-final stage.’
This is Skibbereen’s first time qualifying for the Munster U16 Cup final and it’s a journey that started last October in the group stage.
Six wins (against Ballincollig, Bantry Bay, Cork Con, Muskerry, Clonakilty and Dolphin) and one draw (Kinsale) saw Skibb top the group and advance to the next stage and another round-robin group.
Skibbereen won four of their five matches here – suffering their only loss in this run to Cobh – to make it through to the quarter-finals.
In the last eight Skibbereen beat Galbally (10-3) away and then Skibb beat Cobh Pirates on the first-try rule in the semi-final after it finished level, 19 apiece.
Kinsale, who beat Waterpark in their semi-final, now await Skibb this Sunday with the Munster U16 Cup up for grabs in Thomond Park.
‘We have been very fortunate that we have a very strong panel and we have stayed relatively injury free. It’s been a real team effort to get this far,’ Young explained.
‘It’s great for the whole panel to experience Thomond Park, as well as the coaches, the parents and supporters. It’s fantastic to see the club in a final in Thomond Park; it’s a great honour.
‘We have to thank all the parents for their support all season long, they have driven to Limerick, Waterford, all around Cork and they’ve been a pleasure to deal with.’
This Skibbereen team is captained by Michael Veale with Jordi O’Brien as assistant captain, and being involved in a first Munster U16 Cup decider is further recognition of the great strides the club has been making at underage level.
‘The underage set-up has been strong the last few years. It continues to go from strength to strength. We’ve seen Gavin Coombes, Liam Coombes and David McCarthy progress to Munster, and Skibbereen underage rugby, I feel, can hold its own with any underage club in Munster. There’s a lot of great work going on by great people,’ said Young, with Margaret Coombes and Paul Cross laying the foundations for this team at mini rugby level.
‘This year we had both the U16 and U18 teams get to the quarter-finals of the Pan Munster Cups, so there’s a strong underage set-up there. And the future looks bright.’