Earlier this month history was made when, for the first time in Branch history, the Annual General Meeting was held in a Junior club.
Bandon RFC's hosting of the AGM was particularly appropriate given that Bandon's own Niall O'Driscoll takes over the Presidency of the Munster Branch for the coming season. O'Driscoll is the first Junior club member to assume the role of President since Gerry Moore (Richmond RFC)- current Assistant Branch Administrator held the office in the early 1990's.
After presenting his report of the season just gone, Honorary Secretary Diarmuid Kelly paid tribute to various members of the Munster Branch, "I wish to thank our Chief Executive Officer, Garrett Fitzgerald for his very valuable contribution to the operation of this Branch. His focus and direction are of great value to the Officers and Committee, and his energy and business acumen have helped source some new and very rewarding sponsorship contracts.
"I wish to thank John Coleman our Administrator, Gerry Moore Assistant Administrator, Claire Cooke, Judi Kennedy, Karen Lewis, Sara Oliver and Maria Alyward.
"To our Provincial Development Office, Ultan O Callaghan and his team of RDO s and YDO s I extend a special thank you for your very valuable contribution to Munster Rugby.
"I wish to compliment and thank on my own behalf and on your behalf our very dedicated and hard working Honorary Treasurer Jim Riordan. The amount of his time he devotes to the Munster Branch in an honorary capacity exceeds many peoples work commitments and as custodian of our finances he has done a wonderful job.
"In conclusion I wish to thank and compliment our President Dr Len Harty for his dedication, commitment and contribution to this Branch over the past year. With his addresses in programmes and web site messages etc. he introduced a lot of colour and style to the position. Finally I wish to thank my colleagues on the Branch Committee for their support and the Clubs of the Province for their co-operation, support and hospitality during the season.
Honorary Secretary s Report
In what was a long and demanding season at senior team level, winning the Triple Crown by beating England in Twickenham and both Wales and Scotland in Dublin to win the Triple Crown stands out as one of our great achievements.
This time last year the team undertook a tour with matches against Australia, Tonga and Somoa. This was followed by Rugby World Cup warm up matches against Wales, Italy and Scotland. And four RWC Pool Match before suffering a disappointing quarter-final defeat by France. Our near defeat of Australia in our pool match was certainly our high point. England went on to win the competition, the first Northern Hemisphere Country to do so.
In the Six Nations Championship we finished second to France, the only country to beat us.
Amongst the many Munster Players who added to their collection of Irish caps, Anthony Horgan won his first cap away against Samoa. Keith Wood continued to captain the team up to his retirement after the RWC. Paul O Connell was awarded the distinction of captaining the team against France in the Six Nations. U-21 World Cup The team deafeated Scotland, Japan and Italy but were defeated by South Africa and Argentina. We were represented by K.Mattews, B.Murphy- UL Bohemians F. O Loughlin- Shannon, S.Keogh-UCC, J.Muldoon-UCC R.Lane- UCC, P.O Brien-UCC,E. McGovern- Old Crescent, S. O Connor- Cork Constitution.
U-21 Six Nations
Two wins out their four championships games, i.e. against Italy and Scotland, was this team s measure of success.
The following were capped for their country at this level, A.Finn (Dolphin), R.Lane (UCC), T.O Leary (Cork Constitution), D.Fogarty (Cork Constitution), S.O Connor (Cork Constitution), B.O Connor (Cork Constitution), B.O Donnell (UL Bohemian).
Under 19 Internationals
In they re opening game against Wales in Musgrave Park this team was outclassed by Wales and followed by another comprehensive defeat by England. Through tragic death of J.McCall in their opening match this returned early from their tournament in South Africa. E.Ronan (Midleton), J.Kearns (UCC),B.Holland(CBC), C.Mahony(Highfield), R.Walsh(UCC), M.Essex(UCC) and D.Lombard (Clonakilty) were capped at this level.
Under 18 Internationals
Victory over Italy in a four-match programme was their only cause for celebration. Dave Ryan (Highfield) had the honour of captaining the team. Also capped at this level was Ben Nagle (Sunday s Well), Dave Twomey (Sunday s Well), Donal Twomey (Muskerry) and Kevin Griffin (Kilfeacle & District).
In the Schoolboy international programme Ireland beat both Wales and England but was beaten by France. Tom Gleeson (PBC), Jonathan Short (CBC) Peter Shallow (Rockwell), Conan Doyle (Ard Scoil Ris) Duncan Williams (CBC) Barry O Mahony (Crescent) Sean Cronin (Ard Scoil Ris) Liam Casey (Ard Scoil Ris), were all capped for Ireland. Women s Internationals
The team played in their Six Nations Championship, three friendly games and beat Italy and Spain in the European Championship but were beaten by Wales, Fiona Steed was vice captain of the team. 12 women from Munster were capped for Ireland during the Season. I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Fiona Steed who has announced her retirement form the game after winning 62 consecutive caps for Ireland.
Munster Representative Teams
Including the women s team we fielded seven Munster teams during the season with the Senior team playing by far the most games (33). Five of those teams won their respective championships.
Including two early season friendlies our Senior Team played 22 Celtic League, I Celtic Cup and 8 Heineken European Cup matches during the season. We finished mid table in the Celtic League, exited from the Celtic Cup in the first round and as we all so well know with great pain we were beaten by Wasps in the Semi-Final of the Heineken European Cup in Lansdowne Road.
To play 33 matches in a season at this level is not in the best interest of the team and its players. It exceeds the guideline set by the IRFU. Add to that programme of matches the absence of approximately 8 players on International duty, a quota of injuries and you are left with a very weakened and generally inexperienced team. The results in the Celtic League and Cup bear testimony to this fact. But there were positives, a number of players benefited significantly from the experience such as Stephen Keogh, Jerry Flannery, Trevor Hogan and others.
Christian Cullen joined us early in the season but his contribution was limited while he recovered from shoulder surgery. Alan Gaffney and those close to the team are confident that he will return to his All Black best form. Of the others who joined our squad from outside, Shaun Payne s reputation grew with every game.
Anthony Foley was honoured by ERC for being the player with most Heineken Cup appearances and currently stands at 60.
The management of the team was again this season in the familiar hands of Jerry Holland, Alan Gaffney, Brian Hickey and was captained by Jim Williams.
This season our Junior Team won it s two home games, against Ulster and Connacht but were beaten in their away game with Leinster and finished Runners up in their Championship.
The team was again this season captained by Noel Dunne of Cobh Pirates and coached by John Lillis and Kevin O Dwyer. In passing I would like to take this opportunity to thank John Lillis for his many years as Player and Coach of the Munster Junior Team.
Prior to the start of their Championship our school team again undertook a visit to England and defeated both Bath Academy and Gloucestershire Schools. The team went on to beat both Leinster and Ulster to win their Championship. The team was captained by Michael Essex of (CBC).
The A Schools also enjoyed success beating both Leinster and Connacht at this level.
Following the disappointing results of last season it is a source of pride and joy to return to winning ways this season. Compliments and congratulations are due to all associated with these teams.
The youth team again this season won their Championship. Despite an unconvincing performance in the round robin they went on to defeat Leinster and then Connacht in the knock-out stage to win the Championship. The team was captained by Dave Ryan (Highfield) and coached by Len Browne.
Munster Women s Team
Our women s team repeated the success enjoyed last season by again winning their respective Interprovincial Championships. This season they beat a visiting team from South Africa and the three Irish Provincial Teams comprehensively.
The Women s U-19 Team also won their Championship.
Fiona Stead captained the team throughout this very successful period.
All Ireland Competition
All Ireland League
While last season we suffered the disappointment of slipping outside of the top four for the first time, this season we recovered to take the top two positions and Shannon defeating Cork Constitution to win the AIL title.
Garryowen together with the above mentioned retain their position in the First Division but unfortunately Dolphin return to Division 2 for next season.
UL Bohemians and U.C.C. finished in second and third position in Division 2 but UL Bohemians were beaten by Dublin University in the cup final.
For the season ahead we will have nine teams in this division, Sunday s Well unfortunately suffered relegation to Division 3.
In the light of great disappointment in recent seasons it is a source of great pleasure to advise that Highfield will be playing rugby next season in Division 2 having won Division 3 and resulting in promotion.
Clonakilty maintained their position in Division 3.
In summary for the season ahead we will have 3 clubs competing in Division 1, nine in Division 2 and two in Division 3.
All Ireland Millennium Cup Competitions
All-Ireland U-20 League
UCC beat Belfast Harlequins in the final to win this trophy again.
All-Ireland U-20 B League, Clonakilty were beaten by St. Mary s College in this final.
Kilfeacle & District beat New Ross to capture the All-Ireland U-18 League.
Clonakilty were again on the losing side when they met Nass in the All-Ireland U-16 final.
Shannon maintained their dominance in the Munster Senior Cup competition by defeating Garryowen in this year s final and so won their 16th title and the first five-in-a-row.
Nenagh Ormond reversed their fortunes of last season when they defeated Bruff in the final of the Munster Junior Cup in Thomond Park.
We congratulate Nenagh on this success and on their victory over Bruff who in particular enjoyed such a very successful season.
Bruff founded in 1970 and located in the heartland of Co Limerick and rural Ireland is deserving of our highest praise. From its formation this club had vision and drive and always had a strong focus on promotion and development. This season they won the Munster Junior Challenge Cup the Munster Junior League and promotion to the AIL. Apart from their defeat by Nenagh in the Junior Cup Final their first team went unbeaten for this season. We congratulate them and wish them success in their new status.
Skibereen and Abbeyfeale won Divisions 2 and 3 of the League while Charleville won the Munster Junior Plate Competition.
The Munster U-18 League was won by Kilfeacle & District and Highfield won the U-16 League.
In the Schools competitions St Munchins defeated P.B.C. in a thrilling senior final to win their 4th title.
C.B.C won their 14th School s Junior Cup by defeating Ard Scoil Ris in the Final.
The growth in rugby at Schools level manifesting itself in the growing number of school s affiliating and participating in our schools rugby programme is particualy welcome and a sign of great promise for the future of our game. It also presents a challenge to our organisation to ensure we can meet this expanded interest and participation.