Rob Murphy from grassroots rugby website, www.Knockon.ie, gives his assessment of Sunday's much-anticipated Munster Junior Challenge Cup final between Tipperary rivals Clonmel and Clanwilliam.
MUNSTER JUNIOR CHALLENGE CUP FINAL: Sunday, May 11
CLONMEL v CLANWILLIAM, Musgrave Park, 2.30pm
In terms of the build-up and the likely aftermath this is already a final for the ages. One of these two clubs are about to have a day that will rank as the best in their history (arguably the 1947 squad from Clanwilliam could dispute that) by securing Munster's most prestigious junior cup.
It is a trophy that has largely been in the hands of senior clubs, roughly 63% of all titles have gone to the seconds sides of one of Munster's big clubs.
Of the six junior club wins in this the third millennia, two have gone to Nenagh Ormond (2000 and 2004) who are now in the third tier of the Ulster Bank League and one went to Cashel (2011) who are also in Division 2A.
The other three winners were Clonakilty (2001) who went senior, Kilfeacle and District in 2002 and the giant-killers from Cobh Pirates in 2006 who beat Cork Constitution in that decider. Such moments do happen every so often in this competition and when they do, the 'what's seldom is wonderful' phrase comes to mind.
That is what we have here. The giant-killing happened in earlier rounds and in fairness to Clonmel, they have done a fair amount of the big slaying. Highfield, Cork Con, Skbbereen and UL Bohemians is some list.
That said, Clanwilliam's story is equally as remarkable. They are coming from a run of three seasons that included what should have been a relegation from Division 1 in 2012, what was a relegation in 2013 and a solid Division 2 campaign without being spectacular this season, finishing a good chunk short of promoted St. Senan's and Kinsale.
So for that season to turn into a cup run that included wins over Waterford City, Kilfeacle & District, Thomond and Clonakilty is something else.
Home advantage has helped hugely but their opponents each came in as favorites and some of the performances in recent weeks have been phenomenal, including the huge win over Thomond and a thrilling display against Clonakilty last weekend.
Clanwilliam are the underdogs on Sunday but they are not to be underestimated and their county rivals are unlikely to fall into that trap. The style of rugby the Tipperary town side play is high paced and full of rapid tempo. That will cause Clonmel problems.
Denis Leamy has grabbed the bull by the horns this season in the south Tipperary town. Too many years of promise and hope ending in underachievement had started to grate on players young and old and that is all changed with a strong surge since Christmas.
Both sides relay on all aspects of their starting fifteen, Conor Cooney kicks for Clonmel from full-back and is as solid and important as second row Brian Kissane from Clanwilliam who kicked the winning penalty in the derby win over Kilfeacle.
The front row battle should be interesting, Mikey Sheehan will be the experience in there for the Clonmel men. Neither side rely on dominance of that set piece but an edge could be vital.
The back row exchanges will be incredible with David McCormack on top form at number 8 for Clanwilliam and a vital component to their success, but Neville Melbourne is ready for a battle in that regard at Clonmel along with Frankie Quinlan at openside who has had a tremendous season for the Leamy-coached side.
Where it will go from there is fascinating. No one doubts that cup finals can get bogged down in nerves and tension.
This final has a very similar feel to the Towns Cup final in Leinster this year where two sides made a big breakthrough to reach the decider and the tension took hold.
If that happens here, then so be it. The tension and the drama should be compelling anyway, but there is something about these two sides, the possible time of year for pitches and the once in a lifetime opportunity that suggest we have a good chance of a rip-roaring clash.
The Clontarf Senior Panel who are set to take on Lansdowne in next Saturday's Ulster Bank League Div1A final parked training last night to continue their participation in the IRFU/Pieta House 'Mind Ur Buddy' mental fitness initiative to educate and equip Club members to spot the signs when someone is in crisis.
A large crowd turned out at Lakelands Park where three penalties from the boot of Matt D'Arcy steered defending champions Clontarf to a hard-earned 9-0 semi-final win over hosts Terenure College. Check out highlights of a closely-fought Ulster Bank League Division 1A play-off.
Lansdowne topped the Division 1A table but they still have it all to do if they are to claim a second Ulster Bank League title in three seasons. It promises to be a festival atmosphere at the Aviva Stadium and in the clubhouse when they face Young Munster in Saturday's semi-final.
Young Munster are flying the flag for Limerick and Munster club rugby in the Ulster Bank League Division 1A play-offs. The Cookies are in a rich vein of form as they prepare for their semi-final clash with table toppers Lansdowne.
Terenure College have their sights set firmly on their Ulster Bank League Division 1A semi-final this weekend. Their recent resurgence is part of an ongoing programme to build a community-based club for the future. Irish Rugby TV went to Lakelands Park to see just what has spurred this initiative on.
Reigning champions Clontarf are ready for their Ulster Bank League Division 1A semi-final against Terenure, but they are also preparing for the future with plans for a new all-weather pitch at Castle Avenue. Irish Rugby TV visited the club to find out more.
Portlaoise RFC played host to hundreds of boys and girls from all over Ireland in the second Aviva Mini Rugby Festival of the season. We caught up with Ireland's Rhys Ruddock and Nora Stapleton and some of the young players at last Saturday's event. There was also a guest appearance by the Men's and Women's RBS 6 Nations trophies.
Adam Griggs came off the bench to score the match-winning try as Lansdowne beat Cork Constitution 27-20 to secure home advantage in the Ulster Bank League play-offs. Two players who caught the eye during the game were Cork Con winger Darren Sweetnam and Lansdowne centre Tom Farrell.
The IRFU, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney and the ISPCC have joined forces to 'Stand up against Bullying' with the development of a new 'Shield your Club' toolkit which will allow rugby clubs review, audit and improve their anti-bullying policies. Clubs can email email@example.com for more information.
The Ireland Club team will play French Clubs at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night after the RBS 6 Nations clash. We spoke to captain Matt D'Arcy, centre Mark Roche and head coach Paul Cunningham. Match tickets are on sale from www.ticketmaster.ie.
The Irish Rugby Football Union and the CARA National Adapted Physical Activity Centre, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Equality, have launched the Xcessible Youth Sport Initiative 'Special Schools Tag Rugby'.
Rory Scannell turned in a man-of-the-match performance at out-half as his 24-point haul, including two terrific individual tries, helped Dolphin claim a bonus point in Saturday's 34-15 Ulster Bank League win over UCD in Cork.
Lansdowne have moved seven points clear at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1A, but they had to endure a nerve-jangling finish against Old Belvedere whose goal-kicker Josh Glynn missed a late conversion on the Aviva Stadium's back pitch.
Mick McGrath is one of the latest players to make the step up from Ulster Bank League rugby to the professional game. The young Leinster winger has scored tries against Cardiff and Edinburgh so far this season.