There should be a big crowd in Richmond tomorrow as the Munster Junior Representative team aim to make it a clean sweep of victories and with it claim the Interprovincial trophy.
Connacht are the visitors who will be aiming to spoil the party. After the Western province’s draw with Leinster, Ulster are the only team who can overtake Munster should they lose but they will need a big win over Leinster and hope Connacht can do them a favour.
Once again Munster had to show all their character and determination to come-back from an early deficit. However, while against Leinster, it was an open game and Munster were able to run up a high score in the second-half, it was much tighter and more intense in Clonakilty last weekend.
Captain Courtney Canning inspired his side on his home-turf to seal a narrow 11-10 win, after Ulster had ran into a 10 point lead after enjoying the advantage of the strong wind.
The strength in depth of this Munster team was demonstrated when replacement Ian Fitzgerald made the crucial breakthrough while John Lillis showed nerves of steel to kick the winning penalty that effectively leaves Munster with one hand on the Interprovincial trophy.
The Munster team has developed a great understanding and are a well balanced outfit. They have plenty of power and subtlety up front.
The Castleisland pair of Kieran Downey and Mike Cronin will be looking to have a big impact on the game, carrying strongly over the gain-line while also playing a big part at the crucial break-down.
The set-piece will prove crucial and the propping of Pa Ryan and Colm Skehan will aim to give their back-line a strong plat-form to work off.
Cronin’s accuracy at the line-out should be supplemented by the jumping ability of St Mary’s Rory O’Donnell while Aidan Ware along with his captain Canning will be lively in the back-row and be aiming to challenge for turn-over ball.
There is a strong Thurles contingent out in the back-line and crucially the understanding between the half-backs Nicky Irwin and John Lillis has proved central to the side’s success.
Their own individual abilities would see them as worthy holders of their places in the team but that bond is a nice bonus for the team to have.
With the pack looking to give the backs a strong platform, there is plenty of speed, power and skill out wide which will aim to stretch the Connacht defence. Kieran Merrigan will seek to control the tempo of the game. Dan Horgan’s power is a lethal weapon while the speed and skill of Warren Kelly would cause issues for any defence.
However, Connacht won’t be coming just to defend and will look to cause an upset. They impressed in attack against Leinster and Munster will need to put in a strong defensive display. If things are tight early on, Munster will be buoyed by their strong finishes in the last two matches. They have a strong bench that they can unleash and many of those replacements are likely to have as big an impact on the outcome as the starting fifteen.
Dean O’Brien (Newcastle West); Dan Horgan (Muskerry), Shane Moloney (Thurles), Kieran Merrigan (Clanwilliam), Warren Kelly (St. Senan’s); John Lillis (Thurles), Nicky Irwin (Thurles); Pa Ryan (St. Senan’s), Mike Cronin (Castleisland), Colm Skehan (Thurles); Rory O’Donnell (St. Mary’s), Dave Foley (Newcastle West); Courtney Canning (Clonakilty) capt, Aidan Weir (Old Christians), Kieran Downey (Castleisland).
Darragh Fitzgerald (St. Mary’s), Darren Collins (Muskerry), Brendan Childs (Galbally), Ian Fitzgerald (St. Senan’s), Sean Herlihy (Newcastle West), Aidan Dwyer (Thurles), Brian Collins (St. Senan’s), PJ O’Connor (Charleville).
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