Inter-Pro Team News

Munster Leinster juniors

Leinster v Munster, Wexford Wanderers RFC, Saturday 2:30

The big showdown is the traditional opening fixture in this competition. It hasn’t always been the decider by any means but it is the one fixture that matters most to these two sides. There is no point in denying that.

The reigning champions Munster carry a lot of confidence into this competition but a disrupted build up has hampered them more than any province as two Junior competitions are still on going and players from Clonmel, Clanwilliam and Clonakilty will be effected.

The Kanturk Story

19-04-2014 Kanturk's  John Duggan (left) and Johnatan O'Sullivan greeted by Kanturk's residens after wining AIL 2B Relegation Playoff. Instonians RFC vs Kanturk RFC 13:24

We got to Knocknacolan early on Saturday April 5, the Wanderers game was set for 3:30. Munster, in the Heineken Cup, was on the big screen beforehand and the kind folk at the Duhallow club had invited KnockOn.ie to their pre-match lunch.

We were getting the usual beaming north Cork welcome and we were looking forward to it. This was the game of the season, the game that had been circled on the calendar from way back in November. Wanderers already had that title wrapped up, Kanturk looked likely to win Munster and their round robin qualifier clash had the potential to be a classic contest.

It didn’t disappoint.

Junior Inter-Pros

Munster Juniors

The 2014 Junior Inter-provincial series kicks off this weekend and continues right through to May 10 with Munster the defending champions, Connacht looking to make it three titles in four years and Leinster looking for a first in five years.

Fixtures Saturday (2:30)
Ulster v Connacht
Leinster v Munster

That of course leaves an underachieving Ulster looking to end their long wait for success and they could be a real dark horse this season. They open up at home to Connacht this Saturday with Larne RFC the hosts for the 2:30pm kick off and their final game is at home to Leinster in Dromore.

The Ashbourne Story

Ashbourne Kilkenny

Twelve months ago, it would have been difficult to make a case for Ashbourne as a Towns Cup contender. After four wins in the league season they needed to win a play off just to stay in the Division, 12 months later they are a top tier side, Towns Cup Champions, Division 1b champions, in a Towns Seconds Cup final and, as of last night, a McGee Cup semi final.

Remarkable doesn’t even begin to tell the tale.

Up until this season, Ashbourne were quite simply not a club with a gold status when it came to trophy winning but that is changing rapidly. In one season, they have made themselves a force, a target and a club to be emulated all rolled into one.

The trophy cabinet before this consisted of a 2007 Division 2 league title trophy (another 100% campaign) a Junior Plate win in 2001 and an O’Connell Cup from their days in the Metro area between 1974 and 1998. Throw in a runners up pennant from their first ever Towns Cup campaign in the spring of 1999 and that’s that.

Kilkenny’s Next Challenge

Ashbourne Kilkenny

All Towns Cup finals are hard to lose but each has its own unique twist, for Kilkenny, Sunday’s extra time loss to Ashbourne was a perplexing defeat. They had their chances, didn’t take them but still found it hard to fathom how it all got away from them on Sunday evening.

A powerful first half display from their scrum, a hugely effective disruptive effort from their lineout and some strong open play running from Killian Everard should have been enough to win the game but it wasn’t.

Afterwards, head coach Steve Ashmore wasn’t about to be consumed by the what might have been question, he just took the pragmatic view on it all.

The eventful year comes to a close with a mid table finish in their first year back at second tier level, a South East League final defeat and a Towns Cup final loss. Since Christmas, Kilkenny have been a force to be reckoned with and their Cup run proved as much.

If they can keep the squad together and build, they have every right to believe that they can go one step further next year. Yet before they can even think of the Towns Cup again, they’ll have at least ten league games and four South East games to tackle.

Division 1b is now the toughest it has ever been with Carlow and Gorey up from below and full of ambition and Tullow and Newbridge coming down with plenty of desire to bounce back. That leaves Longford, Wicklow and Malahide still there from this season. No fun, but all part of the journey.

Play-Off Repercussions

Instonians

On a weekend of high drama and huge celebrations it is easy to forget the sides that lost out and the consequences of such defeats.

This is no more than evident the annual play off between the Ulster Bank League Round Robin runners up and the 15th ranked side in Division 2b.

On Saturday Instonians were the side left devastated. So too were Coleraine and Limavady (We’ll explain anon) while Kanturk (obviously), Cobh Pirates, Waterpark and Newport all had reasons to be cheerful.

It always seems worse for the side already in the AIL to lose that fixture than the one trying to get in although try telling that to the 2011 beaten play-off side Monivea. Their loss to Ards was even more heartbreaking because they led on the hour mark by two scores.

Clogher Valley Take Title

Clogher Valley

Ulster Powerade Towns Cup

Clogher Valley 15
Donaghadee 7

Monday’s triumph makes it three Towns Cup titles  two Junior league titles, a Junior Cup and an All Ireland Final appearance in four years. An incredible run for the club from just outside five mile down.

Against a Donaghadee team determined to upset the odds, David Black’s side battled back from an early deficit to win in what was their 33rd game of an incredible season.

Munster Junior Cup Details

Skibbereen Clonmel

Munster Junior Cup

Skibbereen 13
Clonmel 26

Skibbereen Scorers: Shane Newman 1 try; Ger Hurley 1 con, 2 pens.
Clonmel Scorers: Brian Smith 2 tries; John Long and Luke Hogan 1 try each; Conor Cooney 3 cons.

A firecracker start from the visitors all but sealed victory in the early stages on Sunday. Two tries in the first ten minutes had the 2012 finalists on the rack and although Skibbereen fought back in the second half, Clonmel’s defence was always going to hold firm with such a lead.

Brain Smith and John Long had the early tries for Denis Leamy’s side who are chasing a first ever Junior Cup title for the club. By the 20 minute mark lead was 19-0 thanks to Luke Hogan. Conor Cooney had kicked two conversions.

Podcast – Towns Cup Review

Ashbourne

Ashbourne are Towns Cup champions for the first time in their history after Sunday’s extra time win over Kilkenny.

Our eighth and final podcast of the season comes to you from the marquee at Tullow RFC’s home ground after the game.

Monkstown FC and Leinster Juniors Coach David Mahon and Newbridge RFC coach Niall Moran join Rob Murphy to review a final low on spark but high on drama.

PTC: Ashbourne 6, Kilkenny 3

Ashbourne

Towns Cup Final
Ashbourne 6
Kilkenny 3 (aet)

Rob Murphy at Black Gates in Tullow

On the full time whistle, Ashbourne resembled a group of weary yet elated nomads. They had reached their destination, Towns Cup champions but only after taking umpteen wrong turns and running down one or two cul de sacs during the contest. This wasn’t their best display of their remarkable season but it was the crowning glory for a defiant and determined squad.

Over a few frantic seconds immediately after that whistle, it all started to sink in for players and supporters of the men in amber and black around the Tullow ground. After 40 years of rugby in the town and a whole lot of progress, Ashbourne had finally done it, they had just been crowned Towns Cup champions.

For Kilkenny, the dejection was palpable, they had the winning of the game in this game but that’s not to say Ashbourne didn’t deserve the triumph either, it’s just a reference to the fact that the best scoring chances belonged to the runners up in this one and they weren’t taken.

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