As player coach Mike Prendergast stressed after Saturday’s 21-15 defeat of Garryowen at Clifford Park, Munsters have still to play the two teams ahead of them in the table, St Mary’s College (on the last day of the campaign at Templeville Road) and Clontarf at Clifford Park.
The Dublin sides are currently on 45 points, two ahead of Munsters, with the destination of the title now looking a three horse race.
“Last week’s game against Shannon took a lot out of us and we’re a tired bunch, physically and mentally drained after four games on the trot,” Prendergast maintained. “But we still stood up and there were some very good performances. Mike Kelleher gave us a lot of front foot ball and we worked well off that. In the derbies, there’s always going to be only a kick of a ball between teams. We have a well deserved break now and I’ll give the lads a few days off before we prepare for the next few games that will decide the season. The beauty of it is that we have five games left and we’re all playing each other but it’s not all about the matches between the three leading teams. Mary’s have to play Cons in Cork while we have to go to Lansdowne so there’s still a long way to go.”
Young Munster just deserved their win over an improving Garryowen side who scored a couple of cracking tries though wingers Ian Hanley in the first half and Alan Gaughan after 65 minutes. The latter score, converted by Declan Cusack, still left Young Munsters 16-15 ahead but the turning point came immediately after the restart. A ruck developed just outside the Garryowen 22, the ball squirted out sideways and Munsters centre Andrew Burke was first to react, gathering in his stride and coasting unchallenged to the line.
Burke also scored the first try for his side and a fine effort it was too, set up by a lovely little dink behind the Garryowen defence by Willie Staunton. Staunton also hit his old club hard with two early drop goals along with a penalty and conversion. To add further irony to their defeat, Burke also played his early rugby in the light blue jersey.
Garryowen coach Paul Cunningham accepted that “you can’t argue with the final scoreline. They took their opportunities when they were there and we didn’t. We’re trying to play a decent brand of football but the two tries against us in the second-half were entirely our own fault, the second especially as we had just scored a really good try and that made for a huge momentum shift against us. We’ll just have to finish as high as we can, play as hard as we can and we still have the All-Ireland final to look forward to at the end of the season.”
YOUNG MUNSTER: R Moloney; M Doyle, M Kelleher, A Burke, D O’Neill; W Staunton, M Prendergast; A Cotter, G Slattery, H McGrath, D Gallagher, S O’Neill, L Óg Murphy, J O’Neill, N Melbourne.
Replacements used: J Moroney, G Burke, G Flaherty, C O’Hanlon.
GARRYOWEN: L Bourke; R O’Mahony, C Hircock, D Cusack, I Hanly F Lawlor, N Cronin; J P Cooney, M Sherry, P O’Shea, F McKenna, D Sherry, P Neville, K O’Forman, L Viapula.
Replacements used: J Rael (temp), D Lavery, S Buckley, C Hartigan, A Gaughan.
Referee: P Haycock (IRFU).