Munchins' recent history in the competition has been one of woe, losing four of the last seven finals, while Pres had to look on enviously as city neighbours CBC captured their second four-in-a-row. And judging by Pres' semi-final performance against CBC, it could not have done their confidence any good when scraping through on minimum possession while Munchin's blitzed 2001 champions Rockwell.
The stage was set for a war of attrition, but St. Patrick instead granted us a memorable final played in the best spirits of the competition in a near packed Musgrave Park. There was much to admire about both teams' attitude to the final: Pres had worked on the basics and their back-line in full motion was a joy to behold, and in outhalf Barry Keeeshan, Munster at least could be looking at the next Ronan O' Gara.
Keeshan was magnificent behind the scrum making all the right moves, and his distribution off both hands and feet was flawless. He kicked three penalties, a conversion and a drop goal while his half-back partner David Stringer definitely looks every inch like his internationally-capped older brother, Peter. The likeness in passing, attitude and physique is uncanny. Another gem from the Mardyke nursery destined for the top.
But this was Munchin's day. Playing with that unique Munster spirit they claim is rightfully Limerick's, they must be given credit for never giving up, particularly in the second half with five minutes left on the clock and trailing by six points. When they found position for a lineout five metres from the line, a rolling maul ensued and it was the ubiquitous Damian Varley who found his way through to touch down. To add to the drama, Munchin's turned to sixteen-year old Wayne Murphy to slot over the conversion, and cool as you like, he slotted it right between the posts. This was the decisive score, and as time ticked away and into injury time, Pres tried to move forward but were turned over three times in the closing minutes. Then the celebrations - and Cork went all Limerick for a while.
It was a great advertisement for rugby, and from the off, Munchins, playing into strong downfield breeze, hammered away at their opponents. Damien Varley went over a for a try in the early moments to really give his side a boost against the elements. Then in the 13th minute, after great work by Aodhgan Gallagher, Donncha Ryan and Michael Carroll, Munchin's made the yards and the diminutive Jeff McNamara snuck through Pres' guard to touch down. Munchins may have rued both missed conversions in this period as Pres slowly gathered momentum and, after a fine rolling maul initiated by the excellent Ruairi Geoghegan, Stringer excavated the ball magnificently, fed Keeshan
At this stage Munchins were on the back foot and making some silly errors and that proved costly again in the 31st minute when Keeshan's cultured left boot added another penalty. A rather harsh refereeing decision against the Limerick school granted Keeshan with another opportunity to advance Pres' halftime lead to 16-10.
Munchin's began more eagerly in the second half and two minutes in, were awarded a penalty on the half way line, way out by the touchline. Up stepped Brian Cahill and his huge effort sailed all the way over to narrow the gap to three points. Pres responded in typical fashion and, in the 44th minute, Keeshan was again on hand to deliver the goods, slipping into the pocket, taking Stringer's inch perfect pass and kicking a drop-goal.
The game now was at fever pitch, the atmosphere all-consuming and both sides giving it maximum energy. But it was Munchins who looked the more threatening trying endlessly to gain good field position, kicking for touch at all times but not progressing in the lineouts. It seemed that try would never come, but some canny substitutions particularly the introduction of Dermot Murname, worked the oracle. Then in the 31st minute, Varley touched down for that all important try and, when Wayne Murphy stepped up to coolly land the winner, you just knew that it would be Munchins' day.
PBC: D. Kingston; T. Gleeson, M. Murphy, M. O' Gara, D. Griffith; B. Keeshan, D. Stringer; J. Moynihan, R. Quinn, N. McMahon; B. Buckley, S. O'Keefe; J. O' Flynn, R. Geoghegan, H. O' Flynn.Replacement: P. O' Donovan for B. Buckley.
ST. MUNCHIN'S: W. Murphy; B. Kennedy, D. O' Mahony, B. Cahill, J. Coll; B. Deedy, J. McNamara; D. Horan, D. Varley, G. Collins; A. Gallagher, D. Ryan; N. Dodd, J. Shine, M. Carroll. Replacements: D. Keogh, A. Guiry, D. Muname.
REFEREE: S. Flannery (MAR).