The difference between the First and Second Divisions of the Munster Junior League was evident at Musgrave Park on Sunday when Clonmel ground out a hard-earned victory over a gallant Clanwilliam side in the Munster Junior Cup final.
MUNSTER JUNIOR CHALLENGE CUP FINAL: Sunday, May 11
CLONMEL 27 CLANWILLIAM 9, Musgrave Park
Scorers: Clonmel: Tries: Conor Cooney, Brian Smith, Greg Carroll, Luke Hogan; Cons: Conor Cooney 2; Pen: Conor Cooney
Clanwilliam: Pens: Brian Kissane 3
Clonmel, who have been threatening to become a force in junior rugby in recent years, eventually stepped into the winners’ enclosure to claim the club’s first Munster trophy in front of a very large crowd.
Clanwilliam were well up for this tie and kept battling to the finish, but it is tries that win matches and Clonmel scored four with their Tipperary town opponents failing to cross the whitewash.
Clanwilliam were rocked on their heels as early as the second minute when a break by Clonmel flanker Frankie Quinlan set up a try for full-back Conor Cooney in the corner.
David Kinehan and Kieran Merrigan were putting in big hits for Clanwilliam as Clonmel threatened to run rampant. Gradually the Clanwilliam pack began to get on top, winning turnover ball in the rucks.
Brian Kissane kicked two long range penalties after 9 and 13 minutes to put Clanwilliam 6-5 ahead.
The Second Division outfit were now full of confidence as they spread the ball around and looked the hungrier side. A great break by out-half Kinehan saw him chip over the Clonmel defence but the ball went dead before he won the race to ground it.
Then disaster struck again for Clanwilliam, a quick break up the blindside by Morgan Lyons and Greg Carroll sending Brian Smith in for a second try for Clonmel.
Kissane reduced the deficit with his third long range effort in the 29th minute, but he elected to kick for touch when presented with another penalty from distance just before half-time.
The strong wind that blew across the pitch saw Clonmel opt to keep things tight in the forwards for the second half as Ronan Crosse began to win Clanwilliam ball at the lineout.
The First Division side started to dominate the game and had Clanwilliam pinned back in their own 22. They duly extended their advantage in the 54th minute with another timely try.
A break by Cooney and Luke Hogan saw his chip ahead being kicked away by the Clanwilliam defence but winger Greg Carroll was up to touch down and Cooney converted the extras.
Cooney made it 20-9 with a penalty on the hour mark and with time slipping away, Clanwilliam rallied in the final 10 minutes and had Clonmel camped in their own 22.
Yellow cards for Frankie Quinlan and Neville Melbourne saw Clonmel reduced to 13 players. Despite several scrums close to the Clonmel line following a series of penalties, Denis Leamy’s men countered with their fourth and final try.
They managed to kick the ball out of defence and centre Hogan gathered possession on his own 22 before racing the length of the field to score. Cooney’s successful conversion brought the game to a finish with the famous trophy set to reside in south Tipperary for the next 12 months.
CLONMEL: Conor Cooney; Greg Carroll, Luke Hogan, Brian Smith, David Lonergan; Morgan Lyons, Alex Sheehan; Mike Sheehan, Gareth Mulcahy, Mark Corby, Ronan Crosse, John Long, John Gallaher, Frankie Quinlan, Neville Melbourne.
Replacements: Padraig Keating, Brian Lonergan, Tony Cantwell, Stephen Pyke, Dylan Cadogan.
CLANWILLIAM: Robert Doyle; Gavin Ryan, Kieran Merrigan, Richard Childs, Pauric Ryan; David Kinehan, Derek Shiels; Jonathan Whelan, Ian O’Rahelly, Denis O’Brien, Brian Kissane, Paul Ryan, Ray Merrigan, Christopher Doyle, David McCormack.
Replacements: Brendan Quinlan, Eddie Ryan, John Richardson, Kieran O’Donnell, Vivion Grisewood.
Referee: Andy Brace (Munster)
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