The final of the All-Ireland Junior Cup at Templeville Road this Saturday afternoon promises to be a game of firsts. Monivea are the first club from Connacht to contest the final, while Crosshaven are the first Munster team since Youghal in 2006 to reach the decider.
The All-Ireland Junior Cup has proved to be hugely popular with clubs and supporters alike and has produced some fantastic games, not least last season’s nail-biting final between City of Derry and Armagh.
The clubs have really embraced the competition and have travelled well to support their teams and establish ties with other junior clubs.
The cup competition has also served as a breeding ground for junior clubs with league ambitions. A number of clubs have also used cup success as a springboard to gaining All-Ireland League status.
Rainey Old Boys, Seapoint, Navan and City of Derry have all gone from winning Junior Cup titles to securing promotion to the All-Ireland League.
Indeed, Seapoint and City of Derry look set to make the jump to Division 2 for next season while last season’s beaten finalists Armagh are currently top of the table in the Ulster Qualifying League and are looked in a promotion battle with Cooke.
Galway side Monivea may have ambitions on that front also as they narrowly lost out to Sligo in Connacht Junior League Division 1A. Sligo incidentally went down to Crosshaven in the semis of this competition. You can see the pattern!
Monivea’s road to the final saw them earned a 23-19 win over Cashel, who recently won promotion to the Ulster Bank League. They then hosted Ballymoney in November and ran out convincing 24-0 winners.
The semi-finals saw them on the road to face Cooke. The John Muldoon and Keith Matthews-coached ‘Mona’ won a tough, tight game on a 27-22 scoreline to earn their place in the final.
Crosshaven’s cup run started with a big 49-24 victory away to Dundalk. They followed this up with another away game, this time beating Dromore 36-15 to earn a home semi-final against Sligo.
There was little between the sides but the County Cork club prevented an all-Connacht final with a 6-5 win at Myrtleville Cross. Two Liam Delaney drop goals did the business for Crosshaven, who are coached by David Keane and Sean Conway.
The five Junior Cup finals to date have seen some great rugby played, 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 great day for two progressive and ambitious junior clubs. One of them will be the first team from their province to lift the All-Ireland Junior Cup.
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