In rugby’s professional era, the public perception of the Munster Senior Challenge Cup would be quite different to the view within the clubs.
Yesterday, Cork Constitution head coach Tom Tierney reiterated what players and coaches have been saying when he described the competition as “still compelling and very much worth winning.”
Much of the attention has moved away from those fighting for recognition, but Tierney has no doubt this evening’s quarter-final clash with Bruff at Temple Hill (7.30pm) will be treated as one of the must-win games of the year.
For a small area, Bruff can bask in the glory of a number of huge achievements both at Munster and national level, and they even have one Munster Senior Cup title to boast of.
Constitution, with 25 titles in what Tierney views as the most sought after cup competition in the country, will be taking no chances or expecting any favours against a dogged, resilient club.
“It means nothing that we’re in one division and Bruff are in another in terms of the All-Ireland League; our preparation has been exactly the same as it would if we were playing a team from our own division.
“We’ve done our homework on them and we will be trying to use that to the best of our ability against a side with a good bit of football in them.”
On the broader subject of how important this competition is, Tierney admitted one of his big regrets was that he never won a medal as a player.
“I was in Australia when Garryowen won the cup in my era. That was the only time Garryowen got to a cup final in my five years playing with them. I have a medal as a coach with Garryowen when we beat Bruff in the final three years ago, but that’s it.
“Now Con are going for a three-in-a-row and at the start of the season it was one of the goals we set ourselves. It would be a great feat to do that and I have to say it is a hugely important competition in club rugby in Ireland — it has the tradition, the history, in Limerick, Cork, Tipperary or wherever; if you’ve got a cup medal in this province then you’ve earned it the hard way.
“In relation to the clubs and the players, there is no doubt that it is a huge competition to win. Maybe the public at large might think it has been downgraded but from a player and management point of view the Munster senior cup is as big as it has ever been.”
The Temple Hill clash is just one of four games today. The other three ties are in Limerick and all kick off at 2.30 pm.
Tierney’s old club Garryowen take on Cashel at Dooradoyle and will be seeking to move further towards another decider after losing to Con last season.
The Light Blues accounted for Nenagh in the last round and, although missing the O’Mahony brothers Barry and Ronan, will expect to book a place in the penultimate stage.
UL Bohemians and Dolphin, who meet at Thomond Park, have to go back decades to savour a cup triumph, Bohs losing in agonising circumstances to Constitution (15-14) in the last minutes of the decider at the Mardyke two years ago. Dolphin’s last big win was in 1956 and Bohs go back to 1962.
Young Munster, meanwhile, will hope to get the better of Thomond at Clifford Park.
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