Around 600 turned out to support both the Munster and Connact under 21 sides at Thomond Park in Limerick, for the Interprovincail Championship final. The first half was a quiet affair with neither team playing an over offensive game. Both teams looked as if they would be quiet content with keeping the opposite team at bay. The first scores came in Munsters favour, Barry Keeshan kicked two penalties early in the first half, to give Munster a 6 point lead.
Connnacht were to respond positively with full back O'Hara going over the line, and Connacht out half Glynn converting, in what in the end was to be Connacht's only points of the game. Close to the end of the first half, Munster received another penalty, and Barry Keeshan ensured Munster left the field in the lead, by clinching another 3 points. Half Time Score Munster 9 Connacht 7.
The second half was to be prove to be a total affair altogether, with Munster taking control from the outset, an early penalty kick by Keeshan gave Munster another 3 points (12-7). Munster dominated throughout the second half, they really looked a lot more confident than they did in the first half, and were attacking Connacht a lot more. Midway through the half, following constant pressure on the Connacht line, the Munster pack drove Eoin Nihill over the line, to seal Munsters first try of the game, Barry Keeshan converted, Munster 19 Connacht 7.
Again, Munster continued to rule play and were making all the breaks, with 30 minutes gone Barry Murphy ran into the left hand side corner to touch down for a good try, unfortunately the try left Keeshan with a difficult conversion, and he sent the ball right of the post. Munster now leading by 24 points to 7 and looked to sealed the win, but still continued to pressure Connacht, and in the last minute, Keith Matthews managed to break through the Connacht defence and run in for a fine try. Barry Keeshan converted and the referee blew his whistle to signal full time. Final Score Munster 31 Connacht 7.
I managed to catch up with some of the Munster and Connacht management after the game, and they had this to say on a great final...
Pat Cross (Munster U21 Coach) "We started slowly this season, and as it progressed, so did this team. We have some fine players, and we improved immensly on our basics. We learnt a lot from our last meeting with Connacht, and we were'nt going to allow them to get behind our wingers as they did in Musgrave Park. A great win for a great bunch of lads."
Sean Brennan (Connacht U21 Manager) "Full Marks to a good Munster side, they played very well in the second half and totally deserved to win. I think that we have had a good season this year, one thing that went against this team was the amount of travelling they had to do, we had to travel away for four out of five games, and travelling to Cork and Belfast can really take its toll on players both phiysically and mentally. Again, a well deserved win for Munster, Full Marks!"
Tries: Munster - Eoin Nihill, Barry Murphy, Keith Matthews. Connacht - N. O'Hara
Cons: Munster - Barry Keeshan (2). Connacht - C. Glynn
Penalties: Munster - Barry Keeshan (4).
Peter O Brien (UCC), Richard Lane (UCC), Barry Murphy (UL Bohs), Keith Matthews (UL Bohs), Alister Cowley (Cork Con), Barry Keeshan (UCC), Fiach O Loughlin (Shannon), Eugene McGovern (Old Crescent), Denis Fogarty (Rockwell), Jody Danagher (UL Bohs), John McCarthy (Clonakilty), Ryan Hartigan (UL Bohs), Stephen Keogh (UCC) (Capt.), Eoin Nihill (Garryowen), Brendan O Connor (-).
Replacements: Vincent Soden, Denis Fogarty, Brian Touhy, Cathal Garvey.
N O'Hara (Buccaneers), S Meagher (Buccaneers), C Begley (Corinthians), S Brady (Buccaneers), P O'Sullivan (Buccaneers), C Glynn (Galwegians), C O'Loughlin (Buccaneers), A Nash (Buccaneers), M Madden (Buccaneers), W Maxwell (Garryowen), T Richardson (Buccaneers), D Kelly (Buccaneers), G Thompson (Galwegians), I Muldoon (Galwegians), J Muldoon (Galwegians) (Capt.).
Replacements: D Rowe (Dublin Univ.), S Brosnan (Garryowen), F Leonard (Corinthians), J Tormey (Buccaneers), J McDonagh (Galwegians), J Leonard (UL Bohs), E Kiely (Corinthians).
Munster - U21 Interprovincial Champions 2002!