Ten things we learned from the Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup this weekend. – By Rob Murphy
1. Once again, the two finalists can be counted among the best Junior sides in the country. The fledgling competition is only seven year’s old but it is rapidly establishing itself as a major mark in the calendar. Big crowds in Kanturk and Clogher Valley highlight as much.
2. Those who argue that the Leinster Junior league is the strongest of the four have more evidence from this year’s competition. While Newbridge and Coolmine came up short in Clogher Valley, the Towns Cup champions Enniscorthy certainly showed their metal and Tullamore proved far too strong for Kanturk, Monivea and Ballymoney on their way to the final.
3. Enniscorthy are back, just in time for more cup fun, we had a sense of that before the weekend after they racked up 37 points in Dundalk but weren’t brave enough to call an away win at the weekend. They pounced early with two Ivan Jacob tries, withstood a strong surge and struck late to seal a brilliant win at the home of the reigning Ulster League champions.
4. Tullamore are hungry for everything (watch out Towns Cup contenders). Teams targeting the All Ireland league in recent years – Skerries, Seapoint and Boyne – all exited this competition without producing their best but the Offaly men don’t hold back in the Midland’s League, so why should that change in the All Ireland Cup.
5. Anyone who thinks this competition is a calendar headache and should be curtailed shouldn’t have any say in the future of club rugby. The buzz in Kanturk town all week was a huge boost to the club. Flags out, upwards of 50 stewards helping on the day, a free bus service from the town, a marquee at the clubhouse, pre match lunch, IRFU president down for visit, half the town getting soaked in the wind watching their local heroes. Reduce it in size? how can we make it bigger? more like.
6. Enniscorthy’s pack can mix it with the best. The reason why many wrote them off before Saturday was because Clogher are a massive side and the weather was suited to them yet here we are talking about a ‘scorthy win.
7. Wexford rugby has some good news stories of late. To start with, there’s the Division 3 title for Wexford Wanderers, fifth tier sure but it’s a sign the men from the county town are on the way back. Then you had ‘scorthy’s heroics setting up a mouthwatering All Ireland final pairing in their first ever foray into the event and to cap it off, Gorey caused the upset of the weekend by ousting Dundalk in the Towns Cup.
8. Your Editor is off his game on predictions (some would say that is his game!)
9. Someone needs to invent a wind proof umbrella.
10. The IRFU have no intention of opening up their most prized venues to the club game anytime soon. The days of the club rugby finals at Lansdowne Road are ones that the next generation will marvel at “They let amateur players play in the national stadium?! really? on the same pitch that Brian O’Driscol played on? wow, that’s nuts.” they’ll say.
Caption: Action from Clogher Valley and Enniscorthy in Saturday’s Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup semi final. Pic: Clogher Valley RFC Website.