Monivea open yet another high-return account this weekend, having had previous balances vanquished already this winter.

They host Richmond of Munster, a Limerick Club with as much of a history and pedigree as any in the province, in the first round of interprovincial clashes to determine the next senior rugby club candidate. Monivea, undoubtedly Connacht’s strongest junior contingent this winter (and arguably several other winters prior), stumbled at the final hurdle in the All-Ireland Junior Cup to Tullamore.

Cruelly denied a chance to make domestic history by a rampant and youthful Gawegians juniors in the Heineken Cup, this is Monivea’s final roll of the dice.

Given it’s a throw which could elevate them to a starting role in the national rugby drama – rather than sporadic cup cameos of recent times – it’ll be one keenly watched and keenly contested.

The IRFU’s Gordon Black has seen a lot of domestic rugby, and knows the Monivea name as well as he knows the challenge facing those carrying its burden.

“The Ulster Bank Division2B has always been an ambition for aspiring junior clubs and over recent years many have entered the league and progressed.

“This season Cashel, new arrivals in the League, are at the top and are unbeaten with three games to go.

“The IRFU believes this League is a competitive structure and finds it especially thrilling to see how the newcomers fare against more-established senior club heavyweights,” Black said.

Locally, the talk continues.

Club President Dermott Cowman was delighted to be where Monivea is, but knows only too well that with so much success this winter, there have been as many disappointments.

“It’s been tough, tough for the club and tough for the players. It was so tough on the players that we suffered as a result against Tullamore. The lads were wrecked.

“This week is a different story. As far as I’m aware, everyone is healthy and rearing to go.

“We know a wee bit about this Richmond crowd too, so we’re at least as well-prepared as we can be,” he said. The game kicks off at 2.30pm, and the forecast promises running rugby.

“Our forwards have always been very strong, they’re a very tight pack and have done the basics well for so long.

“Weather and mucky tracks have conspired against us since Christmas, and Saturday will be the first time in months the backs can get back to being backs – something they’re very very good at,” Cowman added.

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