The Connacht Juniors maintained their record-setting romp through the Interprovincial competition, scoring their seventh on the trot 13-9 over Munster in the deep south.

The win, their fourth consecutive against the highly-favoured but hapless Reds, nabbed their second title in as many winters. The clean-sweep in 2012 mirrored that of last year, but for the fact only one game played out at home this time around.

Munster shot out to a three-nil lead in Castleisland, County Kerry, on Saturday before Connacht equalised through Rob O’Beirne, and traded one more apiece in the first half for six-all at the break. John Hayes at seven worked tirelessly in broken play to confine and contain the Munster forwards, ably-assisted by a largely-unchanged side from that which claimed the first two interprovincial scalps in this campaign.

It opened as a winner-takes-all fixture after both combatants logged victories over Ulster and Leinster in weeks one and two. On the balance of those results, Munster’s strong showing against Ulster – a team which missed a penalty on full-time to draw scores level against Connacht – gifted Munster the “favourites” tag but the Ambrose Conboy and Cory Brown-coached west coasters paid little heed to the bookies.

Defensively sound against Leinster, Connacht had relied on outside backs Rob O’Beirn, Kevin Corcoran and Pete Cosgrove in week two for the bulk of the scores. Corcoran and Cosgrove, two of the biggest backs in Connacht Junior rugby, could not repeat the feat in Castleisland, fireworks falling instead to stand-in scrumhalf Greg Faherty of Boys Club.

Shortly before Saturday’s third quarter expired (at nine-six Munster’s way), Munster cleared the ball from a ruck midway between halfway and their own 10m. While the clearance to 10 was safe, Faherty had taken a lead on Munster’s 10-12 channel and latched on to a predictable pass from 10 intercepting it and making short work of the 40m tract between he and the posts. The conversion was a foregone conclusion.

Co-coach Cory Brown said Munster had relied on slung floaty passes for width throughout the first half, and said the tactic equated to a formal invitation for an intercept. Once Connacht went ahead, the tireless defence so apparent in weeks one and two kicked up a further notch and the greens shut out Munster for the remainder.

The final 13-9 scoreline allowed the visitors to etch their name on the McGee Cup for the second year in a row.

Conboy was delighted with the victory; a successful culmination of a campaign which began with several pleas for player support in the early stages. Stuck for numbers prior to week one, Conboy commended those who fronted in others’ absence. The 2011 team was peppered with Monivea and Sligo stars, Brian Murphy and Ronan Coughland the only two from almost a dozen to return from that particular complement.

This team, without the benefit of Sligo’s 2012 senior players, and all but Murphy and Coughlan from a handy Monivea mob, was every bit the measure of the other provinces this year or last, Conboy said, and showed no shortage of heart and determination from preliminary trainings through to the weekend just gone.

“It was never more apparent than when defending and any side as proud as this one on defence is going to be very difficult to beat. They proved that on Saturday.”

Connacht 13 bt Munster 9, HT6-6

Connacht Junior XV: 1. James Walsh (OLBC), 2. Mairtin Lee (Crrb), 3. Paul McCreanor (OLBC; 4. Mark Mullins (Lghr), Brian Murphy (Mnva); 6. Willie Cullinane (Lghr), 7. John Hayes (Bslo), 8. Stephen Burke (Tuam); 9. Greg Faherty (OLBC); 10. Jamie Murphy (Tuam); 11. Peter Cosgrove (OLBC), 12. Robert Lee (Tuam), 13. Jerome Harrimate (Blna), 14. Kevin Corcoran (Wstp), 15. Robert O’Beirn (Bslo). Subs: 16. Mike Ward (Tuam), 17. Alex Lee (Blna), 18. Ronan Coughlan (Mnva), 19. James Moran (OLBC), 20. Aidan McNulty (Blna), 21. Mickey Murphy (Blna), 22. David Dooley (OLBC); travelling reserves: Conor Hurst (Tuam) and Eamonn Dowling (OLBC).


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