There were scenes of jubilation in a damp Musgrave Park on Sunday when Cobh Pirates lifted the Heineken Munster Junior Cup for the very first time, defeating last year s champions Cork Constitution in a low scoring yet lively encounter.
Constitution, with an illustrious history in the competition, came to Musgrave Park aiming for their 17th title. But for a 79th minute penalty by Cobh out half Brendan Ronan, Constitution s win looked secure. Ronan s kick from close to half way was to change the course of events, winning the club s first ever Junior Cup title, and alleviating the disappointment of losing the Munster Junior League final to Youghal earlier this year. This was only their second appearance in the final, having finished runners up to Clonakilty in 2001 in the West Cork side s last game as a Junior club.
Constitution had the kick off in the opening half, however Cobh put Constitution on the back foot early on, forcing them to defend well inside their 22 in the opening minutes. Some great work by Gerry Murray certainly averted an early score by the Cobh side as he got the touch down on a chip ahead by Ronan to spoil Pirates attempts. From that point, Constitution grabbed a firm hold on the game, stifling any attempts by Cobh to break through and keeping play well inside their half. Best for Constitution in the opening exhanges included full back Fergal O Gara, out half Tommy Barry and winger Diarmuid O Riordan who linked up well when the ball was spread out wide. After 8 minutes a terrific run from O Riordan put Con deep inside the Cobh half, with both backs and forwards linking up well to put pressure on the Cobh line. Constitution stalwart Landy Hill touched down to put them 5-0 ahead. With Constitution enjoying much of the possession and territorial advantage for the opening 20 minutes, some handling errors and misguided passes prevented them from capitalising further. Cobh Pirates settled into the game and proved they had plenty of gas out the back line with great running from full back Niall Whalley and winger Roddy Jefferson taking play inside the Constitution 22. A tackle from Constitution winger Barry Morehane on Whalley was a certain try saver. Cobh s first attempt at goal didn t hit its mark, with Brendan Ronan s attempt from a penalty awarded going right of the posts. Constitution had a great chance close on the half hour mark with a kick ahead from Tommy Barry collected beautifully by Rory Kenneally on the wing, only for his offload to be intercepted. For Cobh, second rows Fergus McCormack and Dave Mulcahy were devastating at the breakdown, playing like extra back rows throughout the game. For the closing minutes of the first half Cobh sought to dominate, with the pack particularly impressing. A 37th minute penalty awarded to Cobh was converted by Ronan, bringing them just two points behind Constitution. Constitution had an opportunity to respond with a penalty close to the half time mark, with Fergal O Gara s attempt not finding its mark.
After the restart, Cobh Pirates upped the ante, with some excellent running by Whalley and centre Mark Cronin. A cross field kick by Ronan to flanker Ian Dunne on the wing was well timed, with Dunne collecting and going forward, however some excellent defending by Rory Kenneally prevented Cobh from crossing the line. For Constitution, Landy Hill led from the front, putting on a fantastic performance- particularly influential at the breakdown. Constitution scrum half John Stringer caused untold problems for the opposition- dynamic in attack and solid in defence, always lurking at the base of the scrum. Despite Cobh keeping Constitution on the back foot for the opening 20 minutes of the first half, a tight defence kept them at bay. As the weather conditions deteriorated, the damp conditions were starting to play havoc with the handling on both sides, preventing a free flowing game. Constitution finally broke out of their half and were very effective at keeping Cobh pinned back for much of the last quarter of the game, forcing Ronan to make clearing kicks at close quarters. Despite keeping play inside the Cobh 22, the handling severely hindered their scoring chances. A 39th minute penalty awarded to Cobh from close to the half way line was the defining moment of the game, with a miss certain to allow Constitution hold onto their title, and a successful kick making history for the club. Ronan s kick was a determined one, with the large Cobh support affirming of its success with shouts of joy and encouragement. What followed was a frantic eight minutes of play, as Constitution sought to reclaim the lead as the game spilled over to injury time. Cobh had an opportunity to add to their tally in the 46th minute, but Ronan s kick didn t reach its target. For the Cobh supporters, it didn t matter as the referee Declan Browne signalled the end of the game shortly afterwards, confirming Cobh Pirates win, rounding off their season with the prestigious silverware.
15. Niall Whalley, 14. Barry Morehane, 13. Mark Cronin, 12. Colm McCoitor (Capt), 11. Roddy Jefferson, 10. Brendan Ronan, 9. Noel Dunne, 1. Gavin Owens, 2. Tom Nix, 3. Dion McKeown, 4. Fergus McCormack, 5. Dave Mulcahy, 6. Karl Keating, 7. Ian Dunne, 8. James Frahill
Peter Cronin for Nix (29), Eoin McCoitor for Dunne (47), Peter Aherne for McKeown (53), Colin Cronin for McCoitir
Head Coach: John O'Sullivan
Coach Asst.: Ian Dunne
Manager: Paul Mulvihill
15. Fergal O Gara, 14. Diarmuid O Riordan, 13. Joe Cullen, 12. Ronan O Donovan, 11. Rory Kenneally, 10. Tommy Barry, 9. John Stringer, 1. Garrett Murray, 2. Landy Hill, 3. Robert McGrath, 4. Bodo Seiber, 5. JJ Cahill (Captain), 6. Johnny Moloney, 7. Frank Quinlan, 8. Gerry Murray
Alex Ryan for Joe Cullen (ht)
Coaches: Sham Coughlan, Alan Byrne
Manager: Finnian O Driscoll
Selectors: Der O Riordan, Kevin Flanagan, Peter Good, David Fitzgerald
Referee: Declan Browne (MAR)
TJ 1: Dave O Flynn (MAR)
TJ 2: Adriano Cavialere (MAR)
Official No. 4: Tim O Brien (MAR)
The Road to the Final
R1: Cobh Pirates 20-3 Dolphin
R2: Midleton 5-42 Cobh Pirates
R3: Highfield 7-15 Cobh Pirates
QF: Cobh Pirates 19-11 Douglas
SF: UCC 13-25 Cobh Pirates
R1: Cork Constitution 49-3 Crosshaven
R2: Youghal 12-13 Cork Constitution
R3: Cork Constitution 16-10 Garryowen
QF: Clanwilliam 3-16 Cork Constitution
SF: Cork Constitution 12-11 Skibbereen