Out-half Aidan Moynihan held his nerve to kick an injury-time winning penalty for a much-changed Cork Con on Saturday.
The defending champions got their Energia AIL season underway but the devil was in the detail — just seven of the players who started last season’s AIL final were suited up on Saturday.
With 15 Munster players in Japan at the Rugby World Cup, the province has been dipping into their Academy and back-ups for their opening games in the PRO14.
The domino effect is that for their Celtic Cup outings, Munster ‘A’ have pulled players from the club game.
“We had a lot of guys away with the Celtic Cup,” head coach Brian Hickey said, suggesting that the competition should have been postponed this season.
“Maybe they would consider in a World Cup year that they would let the players play with the clubs — I would question what they get out of it.
“It’s different in a year where you are trying to get game time for the Academy players as well as professionally contracted players,” he added.
“A lot of the clubs were very heavily hit, no different to the Cara Cup (where Munster A toured the US) in the second half of last year where it was predominantly club players that were taken.
“Certainly the players would have told me that the intensity of an AIL game would have been much higher.”
While Hickey acknowledges that it is good for players with ambitions of stepping up to provincial level to learn from playing the same style of rugby as the provincial side does, he doesn’t feel those benefits outweigh the disruption.
Add to that the fact that Munster ‘A’ have played seven games in the Celtic Cup and that makes it a long season — with the 18-round AIL just underway.
“(Munster A) aren’t being coached by the senior management, they are being coached by the Academy management,” he outlined.
“The players have ambition to play professional rugby or to break into the Munster set-up, so we wouldn’t be denying the players that opportunity but I would question how long the season is for them now.”
It will certainly be a long tough season for Cork Con as the defending champions will have a target on their back.
However, with two wins — one in the Senior Cup, now this win in the AIL — over Garryowen already, there is plenty of reason for optimism.
Three Moynihan penalties saw them win against their Limerick rivals in the Cup and he kicked three more on Saturday along with a Greg Higgins try to get the campaign off to a winning start.
“He puts in a huge amount of hours, he’s very diligent and a very good footballer,” Hickey said of Moynihan who held his nerve to kick the winner.
“At that level, you need to kick those chances, otherwise we’re three points different, but it was a tough kick under pressure — the last kick of the game.”
In wet and windy conditions, it was the Limerick men who led 6-3 at the break thanks to two Jamie Houston penalties.
With both defences on top, it would take an error for to lead to the games’ first try. A poor clearance kick from Garryowen landed invitingly into the chest of Greg Higgins who ran the ball home from 30 metres out, touching down in the corner.
Moynihan missed the conversion but five minutes later made amends kicking a penalty to extend the lead to 11-6 with just over 20 minutes to play.
Garryowen were now forced to attack but handling errors in tough conditions thwarted their efforts time after time.
Their pressure finally paid off when Tommy O’Hora crossed to level the game. Houston added the extras to give the Limerick men the lead with half an hour gone in the second half.
And they led until the sixth minute of injury time when Moynihan held his nerve to kick the game-winner.
T. Quinlan, B. Matthews, J. Costigan, G. Higgins, R. Jermyn, A. Moynihan, D. Williams; G. Duffy, M. Abbott, D. Murphy, B. Hayes, S. Duffy, J. McSwiney, R. O’Neill, E. Mintern.
J. Sutton, P. Casey.
J. Houston, C. O’Shea, B. Fitzgerald, J. Hurley, T. O’Hora, D. McCarthy, E. Maher; C. Fitzgerald, L. Cronin, A. Keating, R. Whelan, K. Seymour, J. Keane, C. Walsh, S. Rennison.
D. Gleeson, T. Ferguson, R. Guerin.
Nigel Correll (MAR).