24 Feb 17
A big weekend of rugby at Junior level as finals in the Junior Clubs' Challenge Cup, while Ballincollig is the venue for the Martin O'Sullivan Cup final between Fethard and Killarney.
To recap on last year's series we go all the way back to April 29th to a sunny Edenderry. It was one of those epic games of rugby you will always remember if you were lucky enough to be there, both sides played attractive running rugby at full tilt with no quarter shown or given. It also helped as it was the 100th meeting of the two sides.
Eleven new caps lined up for Munster that day and with just three minutes to go full back Ben Martin was contemplating a difficult penalty shot wide and on the right. The score was 17-16 in Munster's favour and a strong wind was at Leinster's back.
The Munster men had defended their line heroically for the last quarter, the pack had put in some big hits and covered a lot of ground in the 77 minutes played but still gathered what they had left in the tank to turn over a penalty advantage in the scrum at this late stage. Martin obliged with an accurate kick between the uprights and Munster were 4 points clear at the final whistle.
Kanturk hosted the hammering of Ulster one week after the success in Edenderry but on another sunny day this time in Castleisland all Munster hearts were broken when Gary Faherty stepped off of his wing for Connacht and as if by magic plucked a pass out of the air. The final score was 13-9 to Connacht. A bitter pill to swallow for last year's squad but a new year gives a new crop of players the chance to right the wrong.
Leinster will arrive to Limerick in three weeks and will be directed to an area well known for its Junior Rugby. St Marys RFC host this years home interpro and after a fantastic first year in the top flight of Munster Junior Rugby they will be hoping to have some home grown talent lining out on the day, a short trip down the road and into the left the canal bank is home to the Division 1 champions Richmond RFC.
With the stage set for the first game we spoke with Tony Daly, Team Manager, about the preparations and how the squad is coming together "preparations this year are at an advanced stage at this time. We started later than we usually do this year due to the poor weather."
The success and development of Junior Rugby in the province over the past few years has also given the management team a headache, "We have been hampered also by the high amount of junior clubs involved in the later stages of the junior cup. We are also rueing the potential loss of our Richmond contingent due to their progress in the round robin and the Junior Cup."
With nearly 500 games in the league section alone for the 3 divisions we asked how players are identified "Over the last couple of years we have viewed a lot of the present crop of players and it is sometimes just a case of checking on form. The selectors and coaches will view as many matches as possible during the season and club coaches will get in touch if a promising player is emerging."
The weather hampered the recruitment process also, "Players considered must be able to play the style of game coach John O'Neill plans to adopt, it must be remembered in January that the inter pros are played on hard fast pitches."
With the success of last year's squad and their familiarity with last year's style of play will they be brought back in? "It is hard to build continuity as there is a large turnover of players from season to season particularly at the present time with a number of last season's squad having emigrated, It looks like being a side containing many new caps as was last years."
Many players and clubs across the province have impressed this year and Tony knows Richmond have been the standard bearers. "Richmond have been a standout team this year with a number of their players featuring in our plans", but with the round robin and Junior Cup still to play can we expect to see the Richmond lads line out for their province? "however at this stage chances of them being available are slim",
A huge loss to the squad overall but certainly not the end of the road before it begins. Kanturk, Tralee, Skibbereen, St Marys and Kilfeacle have all had a fantastic year but at the end of the day it is the individual players from across the province that have stood out, out the hard work in and will make the difference when the times comes.
One man who has stood out this year is Kanturk RFC club captain Dan McCabe, we would like to congratulate Dan who has also been named as the Junior Interprovincial Captain for 2013.
The No 8 has led his club to cup success this year in the Munster Challenge Cup after a ferociously fought final against Richmond and fell just short behind the Limerick side finishing second in Division 1.
We would like to wish Dan and Head Coach John O'Neill the best of luck for the forthcoming series and look forward to the home support for the game in St Marys RFC on the 27th of April.
Fixtures 2013 Junior Interprovincial Series
Munster v Leinster - St Marys: April 27th - 2:30pm
Ulster v Munster - Coleraine: May 4th - 2:30pm
Connacht v Munster - Ballinasloe: May 11th - 2:30pm
Coaching: John O'Neill (Munster),Christy Nealon (St Senans), Dermot O'Sullivan (Tralee).
Team Manager: Tony Daly, (Kanturk).
Selectors: Christy McNamara, (St Mary's), Kevin O'Dwyer, (Thurles), Liam Lannen,(Dungarvan).
Physio: Steve Mulvahill, (Cobh Pirates).