YOUNG Munster maintained their push for a fourth successive Limerick Charity Cup when easing past a new-look Garryowen side on a 26-14 scoreline in their semi-final clash at Tom Clifford Park.
A strong second half display, in which they outscored their opponents 20-8, proved key as Mike Prendergast’s side advanced to the final of the traditional season-opening Cup competition.
A pair of opportunist tries from influential hooker Ger Burke and the versatile Tom Goggin, as well as 10 points from out-half Willie Staunton, guided Munsters to victory against a largely young and inexperienced Garryowen side.
The one major disappointment from the home side’s point of view was the leg injury sustained by Young Munster and Munster star, Johne Murphy, which forced him to limp off with just 20 minutes on the clock.
Murphy was working his way back to fitness after sustained an ankle injury in Munster’s ill-fated RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final play-off with the Ospreys at Liberty Stadium last May.
Munsters’ lost their share of first team ‘regulars’ from last season during the closed season, but a number of the new faces have enjoyed impressive starts to their time at Clifford Park.
Among those to impress have been versatile forward Goggin and winger Derry O’Connor, a Limerick senior footballer.
Munsters’ Director of Rugby, Mike Prendergast said: “I am happy enough. We are still a work in progress. The lads stepped up. Our attitude was a lot better. We have had the extra week to prepare. We have brought new individuals into the squad and we are trying to integrate them at the moment, between backs and forwards.
“They are starting to buy into that and I think it’s showing.
“I thought Ger Burke had a fine game for us. Sean Duggan did well off the bench. Derry O’Connor, who has come over from Garryowen, did very well.
“Willie Staunton was very good off the kicking tee and controlled matters well. I felt Mark Doyle had an outstanding game, more defensively than anything.
“We are not getting carried away or anything, but this was a step in the right direction.
“It was unfortunate with Johne Murphy’s injury. He was not involved with Munster this week and was looking to get a bit of game time with us. Unfortunately he took that knock on the ankle after 15-20 minutes. It doesn’t seem too bad. Fingers crossed, he will only miss a few weeks.”
Garryowen have lost several first team regulars over the summer, including Paul Neville and Frank McKenna who have retired, Declan Lavery, Fergal Lawlor and Kieran O’Gorman, who have moved to Dublin for work purposes, while Declan Cusack is playing his rugby in Spain and Alan Gaughan has emigrated to Australia.
On the plus side, the introduction of prop Brendan Cullinane, back-row Eoghan Cross and out-half Jamie Gavin has bolstered the squad.
Garryowen head coach, Tom Tierney said: “We fielded a very experimental side from our point of view. We got shown up a small bit at the breakdown. Munsters’ were very efficient and strong and stopped our game, didn’t allow us get much go-forward ball. They taught us a few things at the breakdown and it was a good learning curve.
“We lost a number of key players during the summer. The spine of the team is gone, so it’s a slow process and we have to learn. Days like today are a learning curve and a steep one.”
SCORERS – Young Munster 26 (Ger Burke, Tom Goggin try each, Willie Staunton two pens, two cons). Garryowen 14 (Corey Hircock try, Jamie Gavin three pens).
YOUNG MUNSTER – Mark Doyle; Craig O’Hanlon, Johne Murphy, Lukas Kuntz, Derry O’Connor; Willie Staunton, Evan Mulcahy; Donal Murphy, Ger Burke, Darragh Cantillon; Tom Goggin, Darren Gallagher; Pat Fitzgerald, Gearoid Phelan, Neville Melbourne. Replacements: Ger Slattery, Alan Cotter, Mike Madden, Sean Duggan, Luke Russell, Sean Upton, Declan Browne.
GARRYOWEN – Eamon Connolly; Lorcan Bourke, Jamie McGarry, Cian O’Shea, Shaun Horgan; Jamie Gavin, Neil Cronin; Peter O’Shea, Dave Rowley, Brendan Cullinane; Allen Kennedy, Aaron McCloskey; Eoghan Cross, Anthony Kavanagh, Dave Sherry. Replacements: James Rael, JP Cooney, Rory Brosnan, Jack O’Donovan, Conan Doyle, Corey Hircock, Sean Scanlon.
REFEREE – Olly Hodges (IRFU)