U16 Munster Development Cup

Killarney 13-10 Cashel/Kilfeacle
Irish Independent Park

The Killarney RFC U16s made a little bit of history at Musgrave/Irish Independent Park last weekend when they captured the Munster Development Cup following a hard-fought win over Cashel/Kilfeacle.

Kilfeacle started the game with great purpose and control and dominated territory and possession. At first the Tipperary side battered the gainline with powerful forward surges and then gradually they began to move ball wider. The Killarney defence was resolute and unyielding but also, worryingly, running up a considerable penalty count.

It looked like Kilfeacle were sure to score on 10 minutes but Liam Randles’ last ditch interception on the five yard line saved a certain seven points. Thankfully, the Killarney lineout was functioning superbly with John McCarthy dominating and Brendy O’Donoghue bolstering the front row, scrums were solid.

Killarney looked to be in deep trouble after 15 minutes, however, when Rob Nealon was binned for continual team infringements. The lads dug in deep and responded to adversity by keeping ball in hand and the breakout duly arrived when Dan Twomey found space and set the platform for the backline to spin ball wide. Skilful passing gave right winger Tomás Clifford a window on the outside and as per usual he took off and outpaced the defence to open the scoring.

Kilfeacle’s response was to re-launch their offensive assault. They pounded away, recycling cleverly, until their powerful lock Dylan O’Grady found a chink and burrowed over. Stephen Ferncombe converted to secure a 7-5 lead.

The game opened up somewhat before halftime and both reams probed with ball in hand. Unfortunately Killarney were again reduced to 14 with James Kennelly this time exiting for a mistimed tackle. The large support gave both teams a rousing round of applause at half-time with the score 7-5 to Kilfeacle.

As expected, with the nerves settled, the accuracy and tempo increased immediately on the restart. Killarney now began to dominate possession and territory. Suddenly, the half backs’ clearances and box kicks were being chased superbly, pinning Kilfeacle in their own half.

Props Adam Cronin and Rob Nealon powered into the game while Cormac Rowe began to make hard yards, and with Pádraic Talbot rotating to centre, the backline moved menacingly.

Now Killarney were forcing errors and winning penalties. Several short penalty options were tried but met with stiff defence. With 15 minutes to go, Killarney out half Donnchadh Grealy elected to go for goal and coolly slotted the penalty to regain the lead 8 points to 7.

Fearing defeat, Kilfeacle redoubled their efforts and set siege to the Killarney line. Again the pattern of heroic Killarney scrambling defence emerged.

Incredibly, Killarney went down to 14 for a third time when Cormac Rowe was sent to the bin for illegal ruck entry. Kilfeacle again came close but brave smother tackling from the backline kept the tryline intact.

Another kickable penalty offense resulted in out half Ferncombe settling for three to take the lead with five minutes to go. As expected, Killarney launched one final assault.

Donnchadh Grealy broke the defensive line and surged into the 22. The ball was recycled and shipped wide to the left and powerhouse Ozdenis Koyun got over the tryline before supporting Bailey O’Sullivan touched down. Without a TMO, the tension was unbearable, but after consultation with the linesman the try was confirmed.

With two minutes on the clock, the experience garnered over a long, rollercoaster season was evident in the close-out. Brendy O’Donoghue secured the restart and the ball was retained and recycled until Liam Randles booted it into the stand to signal great scenes of celebration.

Killarney captain Peter Walsh accepted the cup and graciously commended a strong, committed and powerful Cashel/Kilfeacle side on their performance.

This cup victory provides a huge boost for rugby in southwest Munster and for KRFC, the future sure looks bright.

The team certainly rose to the occasion on final day. Liam Randles gave a Man of the Match performance, passing superbly, box-kicking and tormenting opposition throughout. Ozdenis Koyun and Donnchadh Grealy worked in tandem tackling, counter-rucking, turning over possession but also launching the attack.

James Kenneally returned from Berlin and slotted into the centre effortlessly. Wingers Tomás Clifford and Dan Twomey injected speed, resolve and defensive steel. Full back Mikey Moriarty superbly marshalled the backfield and tackled tigerishly.

Prop Adam Cronin gave his most complete performance in a Killarney jersey. Rob Nealon stood resolutely as first up tackler throughout. Darren Cronin worked bravely winning turnover ball and Cormac Rowe carried superbly. Killarney thrower Brendy O’Donoghue and jumper John McCarthy ran a perfect lineout exhibition and the ever-valiant Pádraic Talbot incredibly plugged all the gaps left by the three yellow cards.

Bailey O’Sullivan also turned in a superb 60 minute performance, heroically popping up at the end to secure victory. Replacements Jack Kenneally, Shane McAllister and Mike Moriarty provided the necessary backup.
Well done to all the lads on their sustained season’s effort and congratulations on securing a first victory for the club in this prestigious competition.

Pic: Ian Cronin.

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