RESILIENT Young Munster claimed their first Munster Junior Cup success for 17 years when scoring a thrilling 22-13 final victory over Cork Constitution at Musgrave Park this Sunday.
Three tries through captain Darren Gallagher, just before half time and two in the second half from Jack Harrington and Barry Gibbons late on helped the Munsters’ seal an eighth Junior Cup success.
Cork Con made the more impressive start, but out-half Eoin Lacey was off target with a fourth minute penalty award from just outside the ‘22.
And Munsters’ also missed a good opportunity to take the lead six minutes later, but full-back Paul Downes pulled his penalty attempt left and wide.
There was no shortage of enterprise and endeavour with both sides eager to put the ball through the hands at every opportunity.
Munsters’ Robert Guerin was unlucky not to get more reward for his neat grubber in behind the Con defence which he collected himself. However, the out-half was unable to link with his outside backs.
Munsters’ struggled at scrum time during the opening half an hour, with Con earning three scrum penalties.
However, the break the Limerick side craved arrived just before half time, when following a period of concerted pressure, Munsters’ second row Darren Gallagher barged over. Downes converted to give the Greenfields side a 7-3 interval lead.
That score gave Munsters’ huge momentum heading into the second half and the Clifford Park side struck for a second try in the 47th minute when centre Jack Harrington touched down. Downes landed a fine conversion into a strong crossfield wind for a more than useful 14-3 lead.
Con hit right back after the hour mark when centre Rory Horgan crossed for a try after the home side had opted to take a scrum over a penalty award deep inside Munsters’ 22. Lacey’s conversion cut Munsters’ lead to 14-10.
Munsters’ regained the initiative in the 67th minute when Con infringed after a well-executed maul and replacement forward Cian Barry was sin-binned.
Downes duly slotted the penalty goal and the Greenfields side had increased their lead to 17-10.
Back came Con with another Lacey penalty and with Ben Betts yellow carded, Munsters’ looked in for a uncomfortable final 10 minutes.
However, a brilliantly executed third try from winger Barry Gibbons, following a powerful carry from Elie Mundu handed the Limerick side a vital edge and a 22-13 lead.
Con needed two scores now and it took a brilliant ankle tap by scrum-half Gary Fitzgerald to deny the Cork side one of them as Lacey powered into the ‘22.
However, Munsters’ would just not be denied a first Cup success since 1999 and a rousing rendition of Beautiful, Beautiful Munsters’ broke out a short time later as the Cup was presented to winning captain Darren Gallagher.
SCORERS: Cork Constitution: Rory Horgan try, Eoin Lacey two pens, con. Young Munster: Darren Gallagher, Jack Harrington, Barry Gibbons try each, Paul Downes pen, two cons.
CORK CONSTITUTION: Liam O’Connell; Sean Gray, James John O’Neill, Rory Horgan, Michael Clune; Eoin Lacey, Jason Higgins; Brendan Quinlan, Liam O’Connor, Rory Burke; Glen Stokes, Sean O’Leary; Sonny Dwyer, Daniel Walsh, Evan Mintern. Replacements: Jack McHenry, Gregory Roche, Cian Barry, Andrew Dorgan, John Poland.
YOUNG MUNSTER: Paul Downes; Barry Gibbons, Jack Harrington, Mark Doyle, Michael Devaney; Robert Guerin, Gary Fitzgerald; Peter Meyer, Shane Fenton, Paul Allen; Darren Gallagher (Capt), Yasin Browne; Michael Madden, Darren Ryan, Sean Rennison. Replacements: Gavin Ryan, Ben Betts, Alan Ross, Elie Mundu, Calvin Nash.
REFEREE: Richard Horgan (MAR)