After a long hard slog of a season, Shannon and Clonmel have one more round to go, with the Munster Junior Cup at stake.
Following last weekend’s exciting and nervy draw at Thomond Park, the sides will have to get up again for the replay at Musgrave Park.
The first game ebbed and flowed last week, with both sides feeling they would have let chances slip, but they will both need to readjust and refocus.
Once again, the kicking duel is going to be crucial, with Conor Cooney for the Tipperary side and Ronan McKenna making some vital kicks for Shannon. McKenna was one of the star players, scoring all his sides points with a finely taken try and Clonmel will be eager to reduce his influence on the game.
Likewise, Shannon know that they can’t give Alex Sheehan any space, with the quick and skilful scrum-half wrecking havoc last weekend. Greg Carroll and Darren Cass will also pose numerous threats to the Limerick side’s defence.
Shannon’s best hopes of preventing the Clonmel danger-man is to cut them off at source by winning the crucial forward battle. The Limerick side possess a good mix of power and pace in their pack. Eoin McCabe and Tony Cusack will be among those aiming to put Shannon on the front-foot, particularly from set-pieces, while Kelvin Brown and David Quinlan will be looking to carry strongly as well as competing at the breakdown.
Clonmel have their own big carriers with Neville Melbourne a focal point from the back row. Ronan Crosse and Pádraig Keating will be happy to get through a lot of the dirty work to give their side an edge.
Once again, there is very likely to be little between the two sides and one moment of inspiration could prove pivotal. Equally, controlling nerves could be crucial, especially if the game once again proves a close affair.
While Sunday will effectively decide the top side at Junior level in Munster rugby, the previous day will see the two top Junior Two sides facing off in the Tony O’Flynn Cup. Both Highfield and Thomond have effectively done a clean sweep of the trophies in their respective sections. They will both be full of confidence and are very well balanced sides.
It should be an eagerly fought affair and the forward battle should be especially gruelling. The game takes place in Wilton, which may give Highfield a slight advantage but Thomond no doubt will have a vocal support behind them as well while both sets of players will want to end a memorable season on a high.
After a disappointing defeat up in Ulster, the Munster Junior side will be back on the road at the weekend as they face Connacht in Creggs. It is unlikely that they will be able to claim the title, even with a win but the side will be eager to restore some pride and finish the season on a high.
Munster (v Connacht, Creggs):
M Chandler (Cobh Pirates); E O’Dwyer (Thurles), A McMahon (Dungarvan), G Higgins (Cobh Pirates), W Kelly (St Senan’s); E Geary (Cobh Pirates), N Irwin (Thurles); Pa Ryan (St Senan’s), M Cronin (Castleisland), D Lambe (Kilfeacle); R O’Donnell (St Mary’s) capt, D Foley (Newcastle West); D Kiersey (Kilfeacle), M Culhane (Newcastle West), K Downey (Castleisland).
F Lawlor (St. Senan’s), R Colclough (Waterpark), R Hannon (Waterpark), B Duggan (St. Mary’s), I Fitzgerald (St. Senan’s), S Herlihy (Newcastle West);V Grisewood (Clanwilliam).
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