But that’s how much this hugely entertaining game was turned on its head.
A remarkable closing half hour saw Nenagh run off their feet by an inspired Bruff side that avenged their defeat at the same stage last season in sensational fashion.
The rivalry between the sides has been intense in recent years and at present Bruff lead Nenagh by a point at the top of division one of the Munster Junior League. Invariably, there has been little or nothing between them.
Not so on this occasion, however, as Bruff coach John ‘Pako’ Fitzgerald, the former Ireland prop, played his cards to perfection in ensuring the desired outcome for the Co Limerick club. Two of his former Young Munster colleagues, out-half Mike Lynch and prop Des Clohessy, were central to the success.
Lynch was voted man of the match, thanks to a contribution of 24 points that included a vital try. Clohessy only entered the fray at half time and missed out on the last ten minutes having been sin-binned for deliberately collapsing a rolling maul.
But he certainly infused badly needed life into the Bruff pack at a stage when they looked to be losing their grip on the game.
“Even though we were the form team going into the game, we never expected to win by such a margin,” admitted Fitzgerald.
“We have been playing well but the lads excelled themselves on this occasion. We upped the pace in the second-half and didn’t panic when we fell behind. Des is a powerful man and made a big difference when he came on while Mike’s experience was a huge factor for us.”
Nevertheless, the most ardent Bruff fan would have to admit they were flattered by a 19-point winning margin.
Both sides played some splendid football, with Lynch marshalling the Bruff back division quite admirably and early substitute Mike Carroll, Robbie Moore, Cathal O’Regan and Gearoid Ryan always willing to make the hard yards up front.
Nenagh capitulated in the end, but not before outstanding number seven Robbie Powell had played a captain’s role, well supported by Ian Ryan and Jason Nevin in a highly effective back-row while Delaney’s educated left boot kept them in the hunt for much of the 80 minutes.
Bruff had the strong, bitingly cold wind at their backs in the first-half and looked to be making the best use of it when Lynch kicked them 12-0 ahead with four penalties in the opening half hour.
However, it was game on when Nenagh full-back Liam Delaney landed a fine penalty and. right on half-time, a sweeping counter-attack swept play to the Bruff line and Ian Ryan was at the bottom of a rolling maul for the first try of the afternoon.
Nenagh were clearly inspired at turning over with no more than a four point deficit and weren’t slow to carry the game to Bruff on the resumption. Delaney took a flat pass from fellow centre John Keehan and weaved his way through for a lovely try, which he converted himself, to put his side 15-12 ahead.
Then, however, Bruff showed their mettle. Lynch levelled the scores with his fifth penalty and then slipped through a gap in the Nenagh defence on the hour for the all-important try which he converted himself to open a seven point gap.
Bruff never looked back. Six minutes later, full-back Adrian O’Brien ran all of 70 metres out of his own 22 and when he was finally cornered, got his pass away to left winger James Ryan who cut inside cleverly for a magnificent try.
Lynch’s conversion was charged down but it didn’t matter. Bruff were now rampant and just before the end, flanker Robbie Moore galloped over for their third try which Lynch converted.
BRUFF: A. O’Brien; B. Carroll, J. Carroll, S. Conway, J. Ryan; M. Lynch, I. O’Gorman; C. Hayes, C. O’Regan, G. Ryan, D. Murnane, A. Bourke, J. O’Callaghan, R. Moore, M. O’Rourke. Replacements, M. Carroll for Murnane 6 mins; D. Clohessy for Hayes half time; B. Cahill for O’Gorman, 56; Hayes for M. Carroll, 72.
NENAGH ORMOND: L. Delaney; D. Corcoran, J. Keehan, D. Deere, P. Breen; N. Moloney, M. Fogarty; P. Hanlon, D. Farrell, D. Ryan, M. Cairns, J. Moylan, I. Ryan, R. Powell capt, J. Nevin. Replacements, E. Dooley for Fogarty, 60 mins; M. Slattery for Moylan, 67; M. Brislane for Ryan 75.
Referee: R. Coughlan (Munster).