RESILIENT St Munchin’s College claimed their first Clayton Hotels Munster Schools Junior Cup title in 20 years with a thrilling 15-10 final win over CBC, of Cork, at Thomond Park this Wednesday.
A superb solo try from out-half Alexander Wood, son of former Munster, Ireland Lions hooker Keith, at the start of the second half, propelled St Munchin’s to their first title at this level since 1998.
The Corbally side was full value for this win, their sixth in all at Junior Cup level.
St Munchin’s carried the mantle of pre-Cup favourites throughout the competition and saw off Bandon Grammar School, St Clement’s College and both Cork heavyweights, PBC and ultimately holders CBC in the decider.
The victory is a huge boost for rugby in a school with a proud tradition and it will galvanise belief that the Corbally side can compete strongly again for Senior Cup honours in the near future. It is now 12 years since the Senior Cup last rested at the Limerick school.
St Munchin’s led 8-5 at the end of the opening half in which both sides displayed understandable nerves, given the magnitude of the occasion.
The Limerick side made the early running in the decider, enjoying the lions-share of possession and territory.
However, while they threatened the Christians’ try-line with a series of strong carries, they lacked that bit of composure necessary to convert that possession into an early five-pointer.
The Limerick side did at least come away with points when reliable centre Darragh Long landed a ninth minute penalty goal for a 3-0 lead.
CBC showed a clinical edge when scoring from one of their first meaningful forays into their opponents half on 19 minutes.
Full-back George Cooomber, one of two survivors from their starting line-up in the 2017 Junior Cup final, dotted down in the right corner.
The @stmunchins players celebrate cup presentation after 15-10 Munster Schools Junior Cup final win v CBC today. Corbally side's first Junior Cup since 1998 & 6th success overall @Limerick_Leader #LLSport @StMunchinsSport #msjc pic.twitter.com/6zxsgCox1V— Colm Kinsella (@ckSportLeader) March 7, 2018
However, crucially the Limerick side had their noses in front on the stroke of half-time when second row Graham Kirwan dotted down after some excellent link-up play between backs and forwards.
St Munchin’s 8-5 interval lead quickly became 13-5 when out-half Wood gained possession just inside the Christians half before spotting a gap in their defence and then showing a combination of great footwork and pace to power clear before touching down. It was a score worthy of winning any Cup final.
Long’s straight forward conversion made it 15-5. However, a second try from Coomber on 53 minutes made for a nervy finish to the game.
However, St Munchin’s proved up to the task of holding their opponents at bay, finishing the game on the front foot and inside their opponents half.
Special moment for @stmunchins Junior Cup squad as they celebrate their Schools Cup final win as a group in a huddle at full-time #LLSport @Limerick_Leader @LimkLeaderSport #msjc @StMunchinsSport pic.twitter.com/asSomOD1Dj— Colm Kinsella (@ckSportLeader) March 7, 2018
SCORERS: St Munchin’s College: Graham Kirwan, Alexander Wood try each, Darragh Long pen, con. CBC: George Coomber two tries.
ST MUNCHIN’S COLLEGE: Josh Egan; Joshua Costello, Darragh Long, Seamus McCarthy Burbage, Conor O’Shaughnessy; Alexander Wood, Donnacha O’Callaghan; Kean Sheehy, Joachim Clohessy, Kieran Ryan; Louis McCormack, Graham Kirwan; Dylan Higgins (Capt), Evan Hickey, Liam Neilan. Replacements: Morgan Bateman for Ryan (50 mins). Not used: Denis Birmingham, Nathan Walsh, Jonathan Kelly, Diarmuid DeBarra, Conor O’Brien Comerford, Scott Quilligan, Joseph Dougan, Darragh McDermott
CBC: George Coomber; Jack McGrath, Daire Burke, Patrick O’Hara, Ben McGarry; Andrew O’Mahony, Eoin Birchall; Alan McDonald, Luke McAuliffe, Corey Hanlon; Mark Ludgate, James Morrisson; Patrick McBarron, Dylan O’Connor, Ronan O’Sullivan. Replacements: Wanfred Waterman for McDonald (35 mins), Tom McCarthy for O'Mahony (36 mins), Jason Ahern for McBarron (42 mins), David McPolin for McGrath (48 mins), Gavin Kennedy for Hanlon (51 mins).
REFEREE: Ken Imbusch (MAR)