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IRFU Under-16 All-Ireland Cup Final Preview: Tullow v Ennis

IRFU Under-16 All-Ireland Cup Final Preview: Tullow v Ennis

Two talented and ambitious teams will meet in the much-anticipated IRFU Under-16 All-Ireland Cup final in Mullingar on Saturday, as Tullow and Ennis battle it out for the national title.

TULLOW UNDER-16s v ENNIS UNDER-16s, Mullingar RFC, 1pm
This is the inaugural IRFU Under-16 All-Ireland decider after the younger age-grade competitions returned this season after a gap of a few years. Previously, the ages were set at Under-17 and Under-19, and now they are U-16 and U-18.
Shay Murtagh Park, the home of Mullingar Rugby Club, will play host to tomorrow’s curtain raiser between Tullow and Ennis. Tullow U-16 coach Ivan Cooper is expecting a ‘very tough game’ from the Clare youngsters.
“Like ourselves, Ennis seem to be having a great season. We’ve only played them once, in the Adam Mangan Festival semi-final at the start of the year when we came out on top,” said Cooper, whose side overcame Virginia 38-14 in their All-Ireland semi-final encounter a fortnight ago.
“It should be a great game of rugby on Saturday. Most of our guys have been together from minis up, with a few new lads over the last year who have been welcomed in and fit into the squad seamlessly. It’s a tight-knit bunch and they really play for each other.
“Winning the Adam Mangan Festival gave us the push to go through our area league and phase one of the Leinster League unbeaten. We then topped the Leinster Premier League table.
“We played local rivals Carlow in the Premier League semi-final, setting up a classic final against Boyne who were the only team to beat us in the league phase. It was a great game which we won 29-28 with the last kick of the game.
“This was not only first Premier League title win for our U-16s, but the first for Tullow RFC following on from our seniors winning their first Towns Cup last year. Hopefully we can get over the final hurdle this weekend.”

Meanwhile, Brian Barry’s dramatic late try secured Ennis’ All-Ireland final berth after a thrilling 27-25 semi-final victory over Ballinasloe just two weeks ago.
That same determination and will to win have been hallmarks of the Ennis U-16s’ 2017/18 campaign, which has seen them win the North Munster League and the Pan Munster Cup, which was contested by 18 teams across the province.
The Ennis players, who have been together mostly from the U-10 and U-11 grades up, will be out for revenge on Saturday afternoon as Tullow are the only team who have beaten them in competitive action this season.
“It was an absolutely fantastic win against Ballinasloe in the All-Ireland semi-final. We went ahead at the start and showed great character to come back and win the game late on with Brian Barry’s try,” explained Ennis coach Ken Butler.
“The game went back and forth and the finish was absolutely fantastic, the lads dug deep and never gave up. Brian Barry stole a lineout and we had twelve phases of play in the Ballinasloe 22 before Brian scored the winning try.

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“The lads are a bunch of guys that keep going to the end and don’t give up, and they are so looking forward to the final. First time ever for the club to get to this stage, we’ll do our best on the day. Rugby is on a high (in Ennis) between the girls and the boys teams, so let’s keep on winning.”