Munchin’s had turned over leading 8-5, when Wood, son of former Ireland captain Keith and grandson of another Ireland and Lions forward, Gordon, gained possession a couple of metres inside the Christians half. A combination of dexterous footwork and forceful running carried him past a host of defenders, until he touched down behind the posts without a hand being laid on him.
It was certainly the outstanding moment in a keenly and honestly contested game between two excellent teams who battled to the end and provided huge entertainment.
Christians gave their all in a bid to retain the trophy for the first time in their history and, in full-back George Coomber, their match-winner in last season’s final, they had a player fully capable of turning the tables. Not alone did he score both of his side’s tries, but he always presented a serious threat to the winners.
However, it was a day that St Munchin’s and Wood will savour for a long time to come, with head coach Ger Slattery emphatically outlining how much the victory meant to them.
“It’s massive for us, because 20 years is too long [a wait] to win a Junior Cup. That ends that and now we can kick on from here. A lot of work went into these lads from first year and it paid off today. Converting it to senior success is a totally different challenge and, while we’re not thinking about that now, long-term we also want to be competing for senior cups.”
Munchin’s were strongly fancied before the competition began, but Slattery admired how his team had coped well with that pressure to perform.
“They dealt very well with it, they are a very hard-working and honest group of lads and never got carried away,” he said.
Munchin’s dominated exchanges early on and took the lead after eight minutes with a Darragh Long penalty, but Christians quickly found their feet and Coomber finished off a fine attack in the right corner. Munchin’s regained the initiative on the stroke of half-time, when second-row Graham Kirwan forced his way over from a ruck to put the Limerick side 8-5 ahead at the break.
The decisive score came within a couple of minutes of the restart, and it clearly swung the game in Munchin’s favour, much to the delight of Slattery.
“It was a brilliant, individual effort and was the difference in the end. I was delighted for Alex. He’s a very professional kid, never complains and just gets on with it, far from arrogant or cocky. Sometimes, it’s difficult when you’re the son of a famous father, but he’s a credit to his parents, a very grounded young fellow and really a team player.”
Having opened up a 10-point advantage, Munchin’s weren’t inclined to take chances, but they were made to endure anxious moments, as Christians displayed their resilience and skill, which brought them within touching distance of another last-ditch win. Scrum-half Eoin Birchall caught his own chip ahead in the Munchin’s 22 and the ball was flashed out along the line for Coomber to again touch down near the corner flag.
His conversion attempt was off target, but Munchin’s were now only five points ahead and had to sweat it out before ensuring that two-decade drought was at an end.
J Egan; J Costello, S McCarthy Burbage, D Long, C O’Shaughnessy; A Wood, D O’Callaghan; K Sheehy, J Clohessy, K Ryan, L McCormack, G Kirwan, D Higgins capt, E Hickey, L Neilan.
M Bateman for Ryan 48.
G Coomber; J McGrath, D Burke, P O’Hara, B McGarry; A O’Mahony, E Birchall; A McDonald, L McAuliffe capt, C Hanlon, M Ludgate, J Morrison, P McBarron, D O’Connor, R O’Sullivan.
W Waterman for McDonald, 35; T McCarthy for O’Mahony, 38; J Ahern for McBarron 42; D McPolin for McGrath, 45; G Kennelly for Hanlon, 51.
Ken Imbusch (MAR) ends