Monivea’s quest for glory stumbled once again for the second time in as mamny years, at the final hurdle down 3-9 to Tullamore.

It was at least the third winter in succession (a semi-final loss in 2010) where fate and fortune snubbed the hapless Monivea. So dominant in the Coleraine semi-final, the Monivea forwards were amply-matched on Dubarry Park by the visitors. That said, Monivea’s heavies were probably the dominant force. They were able to hold out their Tullamore counterparts who enjoyed the best part of half an hour’s possession in the final’s first two quarters.

While miraculous that Tullamore never crossed the red-and-black line, it was hardly a “miracle”, per se.

Monivea’s pack is much-renowned for its uncompromising fortitude, and has been for years. They may not boast the slickest handlers or slipperiest tearaways, but what they lack in individual flair they more than compensate for in hardnosed determination and rarely look more at home than in the mud and muck of their own redzone.

Monivea stalwart Dermot Cowman praised the defensive mettle on show, but added depth was the difference; Tullamore possessing more of it across the board.

“They were very strong, but they were strong from one to 15, and had a bulky bench too. I wouldn’t say we had weak links as such, but to a man they perhaps had more collective muscle.

“It didn’t help that we turned over quite a bit of ball at inopportune times too, it’s something we haven’t tended to do before. It was a bit of a shock to the system.”

Manager Mike Connors said the AIL’s rolling sub system suited the visitors to a tea.

“They were a very big side, you get big guys playing junior rugby sure, but to have such bulk throughout the team and then be able to recycle them freely meant they were a tough enough mob to deal with from start to the bitter end,” he said.

Neither Cowman nor Connors found too much ground on which to criticise Monivea, Saturday’s final simply a case of clutching and converting any and all opportunities.

The fact three different Tullamore backs dropped goals pushed the final into the history books, an outhalf, a centre and a wing.

“I’ve seen a good bit of junior rugby in my time, and I’ve certainly never seen three dropgoals from three players,” Connors said on Monday.

Sadly, for Connacht junior rugby’s shining light, the AIL Junior Cup was yet another carrot snaffled by yet another mule. And whereas Monivea unofficially banked the league title several weeks back, the local league/Heineken Cup double is a prize which may least soften the sting, if it goes their way.

It’s a prize conspicuously absent from their recent history too. While bumps and bruises will heal, disappointment and frustration are wounds best treated by winning.

Time will tell whether Monivea summer this year with a smile, or the faraway look of “if only” in their eyes.


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