Cashel 23; Cork Con 20
In the greatest day in Cashel RFC 92 year history a Cashel man got to lift the biggest cup of them all the Munster Junior Cup. This was a proud day to be a Cashel man, as the 15 players on the pitch were not just playing for themselves but for every Cashel rugby player and fan both past and present. Cashel won this cup the hard way as the fought like tigers for 80 minutes and simple refused to leave the Junior Cup behind.
The game kicked of at a very fast pace as both teams wanted to settle down early and get their hands on the ball. These opening minutes were always going to be tough as Cork Con like to gain the upper hand from the word go and they usually don’t concede it for the match. Cashel however knew that it was them that needed to get their noses in front and on the 6th minute they did just that. A wayward kick by Cork Con was fielded by Daragh O Brien just inside his own half. Daragh had time and space and he decided to use it, He took of down the line and ghosted past the first man, Daragh took the tackle from the covering defence but he off loaded the ball to John Ed O Connor, John continued the move as he drove deep into Cork Cons 22, in a great piece of support play Eoin O Connor was right on his shoulder when John Ed got tackled, Eoin got the ball from John Ed and he crashed over the line as the Cork Con’s full back could not stop the Cashel man. This was a top try at any level and it showed just how dangerous Cashel could be with the ball in hand. Dargah O Brien finished off the try with a touch line conversion to put Cashel 7 nil ahead. This try rattled Cork Con and five minutes later Cashel nearly added to the score as John Ed split the Cork Con defence with only a great tackle preventing him going all the way. After this scare Cork Con decided to keep the game tight and just simple not give the ball to Cashel. For the remainder of the half this is exactly what Cork Con did. They got their big pack rumbling and they picked and drove their way into Cashel’s 22. Cashel defence was superb but unfortunately this defence came at a cost as Cashel had two men sent to the sin bin. Even with 13 men Cashel managed to hold Cork Con out, however 13 men can only do so much and eventually Cork Con broke the Cashel line and scored a try in the corner on the 30th minute. A great conversion from the touch line saw Cork Con level the scores at 7 all. Although Cashel conceded the try they did use up all of the time for their sin binned players and at the kick off they came back onto the pitch. They made an immediate impact as Cork Con themselves conceded a penalty in their own half. Up stepped they ever reliable Daragh O Brien to put Cashel 10 – 7 ahead. For the last ten minutes of the half Cork Con again drove deep into Cashel defence. The defence however stood strong and when the referee blew for half time Cashel were still just ahead at 10 – 7.
After this opening half everyone from the players to the supporters knew this game was going right to the wire. Both teams came out strong at the start of the second half. Cork Con got the upper hand and they levelled the scores on the 45th minute with another well taken penalty. They continued this dominance and 5 minutes later they went ahead for the first time with another penalty. Cashel at this stage looked in danger of drifting out of the game. Although their defence was excellent they just simple could not get their hands on the ball. If you don’t have the ball you can’t score! Defence however can be a form of attack a great turn over in the centre of the field saw Cashel breakdown the line, Brendan O Connor drove through the winger and found himself with open field in front of him, just before he was tackled by the covering Cork Con defence he off loaded to Ed Leamy. Ed showed great speed as he raced 40 yards down the touch line to score in the corner. This was another great try and it was again rounded off with a touch line conversion from Daragh O Brien. This left the scores at 17 – 13 to Cashel. From the kick off Cork Con pressed Cashel, a rushed pass by Cashel saw the Cork Con winger intercept and race down the pitch to score Cork Con’s second try. This was converted and put Cork Con again ahead at 20 -17. Cashel were now in a bit of trouble as Cork Con now had the momentum. Their was 15 minutes left in the match and for many players probably the last 15 minutes they would ever play in a Junior Cup. To put it simply for the last 15 minutes of the match Cashel were immense. The players shrugged of conceding the try and they threw everything they had at the Cork Con men. It was now the Cork men on the back foot as they tried desperately to keep the Cashel men out. This defence came at a cost as they conceded two penalties in a five minute spell. As ever Daragh O Brien calmly kicked Cashel into the lead at 23 -20. After his last penalty Cashel had 8 minutes left in the match. It was now Cork Con who had to dig deep. And dig deep they did as they set up camp in Cashel’s 22. Cashel defence as it has been all season was a rock. Not once in these last 8 minutes did Cork Con get behind them. Cashel discipline was fantastic as they never conceded a kickable penalty. After 4 minutes of injury time the referee blew the final whistle to this top class cup final. The Cashel crowd went hysterical at the final whistle as everyone of them invaded the pitch to celebrate with the team.
Everyone at the match knew this was a historic day for the club as took 92 years for a Cashel man to final lift the Junior Cup. Captain Brendan O Connor stood proudly in front of the Cashel crowd as he accepted to Cup from his Grandfather Eddy Ryan. This moment showed what this Cup means to people in Munster. In 1954 Eddy failed to lift the Cup but 57 years later he did as he gave it to his grandson. Brendan expressed this as he told everyone that the Munster Junior Cup wasn’t won by the 20 players that played but it was won by everyone in the club both past and present that believed in Cashel RFC. Brendan final raised the Cup and invited everyone back to Cashel it to the club house to celebrate with the team.
Cashel squad: Howard Stanley, Robert Coates, Ed Horgan, Ailbe Devitt, Eoin O Connor, John Ed O Connor, Brendan O Connor, Ed Leamy, Ollie McGlinchey, Conor Quinlan, Pat O Connor, Brian Silke, Rory O Connor, Kevin Quinlan, Daragh O Brien, Alan Guiry, Michael Kelly, Phily Ryan, Diarmuid O Connor, Kevin Leamy, Jack Ryan, John Silke. Coach: Ian Dunne, Manager James Hanly