CROSSHAVEN v MONIVEA, Templeville Road, 12pm
Paths To The Final -
First Round - Beat Dundalk 49-24 (away)
Quarter-Final - Beat Dromore 36-15 (away)
Semi-Final - Beat Sligo 6-5 (home)
First Round - Beat Cashel 23-19 (home)
Quarter-Final - Beat Ballymoney 24-0 (home)
Semi-Final - Beat Cooke 27-22 (away)
Preview: These teams are the standard bearers for their provinces on Saturday in what is the first ever Junior decider with no side from Leinster or Ulster.
But more than that, they are here representing their proud communities and fulfilling ambitions that sprouted before last October’s first round and in seasons gone by.
Crosshaven have used the pain of two semi-final defeats, in 2007 and 2008, to mount a concerted challenge for the title this season.
Coached by David Keane and Sean Conway and captained by Ross O’Connell, they are the first Junior Cup finalists from Munster since Youghal in the inaugural year of 2006.
Some of the Crosshaven players, such as ex-club international lock Merle O’Connell, Paul Cogan and Rob Barry, have been playing with the club since they were eight years of age.
The addition of new players from the club’s successful Under-19 team has also been crucial, with the men from Myrtleville Cross completing their build-up to the final with a 26-11 home win over Ballincollig in the Cork County Cup.
Incredibly, the Crosshaven and Monivea clubs were founded in the same month of the same year. Pine Lodge was the venue for Crosshaven’s birth on October 1, 1972, while club stalwart Padraig McGann followed suit with Monivea just seven days later.
Monivea were the Connacht Junior League Division 1A champions last season and have been consistently challenging for a place in the All-Ireland League in recent years.
‘Mona’ are coached by Connacht's John Muldoon and Keith Matthews, with Noel Rabbitte, Mike O’Connor and Peter Burke completing the management team.
Back rower Eoin ‘Tank’ Rooney, who has dual status with Buccaneers this season, captains a squad that has an average age of 26.
Driven on by last year’s semi-final loss to eventual winners City of Derry, Monivea beat Cashel, Ballymoney and Cooke on the way to this high noon showdown with Crosshaven.
The progressive village club from Athenry boast a hard-working and cohesive pack which includes youth international Conor Kindregan, a member of the IRFU Under-19 National Talent squad.
Kevin Higgins and Dave Prior are two top class finishers in the backs, as evidenced by their tries in the semi-final victory at Cooke.
Monivea suffered a heartbreaking Connacht Junior Cup semi-final defeat to Sligo a fortnight ago, and they make the
trip to Dublin hugely committed to finishing their season by lifting a national title.
Sligo lost 6-5 to Crosshaven in the other All-Ireland Junior Cup semi, with Liam Delaney landing two priceless drop goals for the Corkmen. His out-half duel with Monivea's Ger O’Connor will be very important in what is expected to be a tightly-contested final.
Winning a Junior Cup title can be a very significant milestone for a club. You just have to look at how previous champions Rainey Old Boys, Seapoint, Navan and City of Derry have all used it as a springboard to achieving Ulster Bank League status.
The five Junior Cup finals to date have been great advertisements for grassroots rugby, not least the back-to-back
Navan and Tullamore clashes in 2008 and 2009 and the aforementioned all-Ulster clash last year.
Saturday promises to be another memorable day for two clubs with big dreams. One of them will be the first team from their province to be crowned All-Ireland Junior Cup champions.
All-Ireland Junior Cup Champions' Roll Of Honour:
2009/10 - City of Derry
2008/09 - Tullamore
2007/08 - Navan
2006/07 - Seapoint
2005/06 - Rainey Old Boys
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