Senior Club Review
14th May 2009 By Munster Rugby
A Look back at the Senior Club Scene
Munster Clubs enjoyed considerable success in this season’s A.I.B. sponsored All Ireland League as Shannon regained the title after a three-year lapse and Young Munster, Thomond and Sunday’s Well all pulled off great escapes in their quests to avoid relegation from their respective divisions.
Shannon won the title in a nail-biting final against Clontarf at Thomond Park which went to extra time and finished stalemate, but the Limerick side were awarded the title by virtue of having opened the scoring.
They overcame the challenge of Limerick rivals Garryowen in the semi final, while defending champions Cork Constitution, who finished the group stages of the campaign in pole position, surrendered their crown when they were defeated by ‘Tarf in their semi final at Temple Hill.
Surprise packets Dolphin, who mounted a serious challenge for A.I.L. honours for the first time narrowly missed out on a semi final spot and had to settle for sixth place. It was a massive change in fortunes for the Musgrave Park side as last year they narrowly avoided relegation.
U.L. Bohemian endured an indifferent League campaign and are assured of Section A rugby for next season as the finished in eighth place.
At the foot of the table Young Munster guaranteed themselves top flight rugby for next season, but in Section B as they overcame their battle against relegation the hard way by winning their final two matches against Buccaneers and U.C.D., which were both away from home.
U.C.C. finished top of Division 2 and next season will be their first season in the top flight. They were defeated by second-placed Ballynahinch in the final and they defeated fellow Munster Club Old Crescent in the semi final.
Bruff and Highfield finished in sixth and eighth positions respectively and Clonakilty and Thomond finished just above the danger zone. Clon’ finished in thirteenth, while Great Escapees Thomond, who are renowned for their battling qualities, assured themselves of second tier rugby for another season when they defeated Bective Rangers in their final League match at Liam Fitzgerald Park.
There were no Munster teams promoted from Division 3, but fourth-placed Midleton were the Province’s only semi finalists and they were defeated by Corinthians in the semi final at the Galway venue.
Nenagh Ormond finished in sixth position after a poor opening to their campaign, while two Munster sides languished at the foot of the table for most of the campaign.
Waterpark finished in bottom spot and as a result will be playing in the Munster Junior League next season. Their place in the A.I.L. will be taken by Leinster Junior League winners Navan who will be the first Club from the Royal County to compete at this level.
Fellow strugglers Sunday’s Well finished second from bottom above ‘Park and their fate was decided when they defeated back-to-back Munster Junior League champions Cashel in a play-off at Musgrave Park to retain their senior status and prevent Cashel from becoming the second Tipperary side to join Nenagh Ormond in the A.I.L.
The A.I.B. sponsored All Ireland Cup was won by a non-Munster Club for the first time in its four-year history when Ballynahinch defeated Cork Constitution in the decider in Athlone to take the Cup across the border. This was the first leg of a Quadruable for the County Down side as they also won the Ulster Senior Cup and League, as well as the A.I.L. Division 2 play off title.
In the O.D.M. sponsored Munster Senior Cup Cork Constitution bridged a twenty-year gap when they defeated Old Crescent in the final at Tom Clifford Park to become the first Cork side to win the trophy since Sunday’s Well in 1994. They have also broken the Shannon-Garryowen stranglehold of the past fifteen years during which Shannon won the lion’s share of titles including seven in a row in the opening years of the New Millennium.