TWO weeks after the disappointment of bowing out in the All Ireland Junior Cup at the semi-final stage to Tullamore, Kanturk RFC deservedly got their hands on some provincial silverware after they defeated Richmond to take the Munster Junior Clubs Cup in dramatic fashion.
The north Cork side had to claim this title the hard way after what will go down as one of the most dramatic days seen in junior rugby in many a year. A brace of yellow cards, one red and nine minutes of injury time all went against the Limerick side as Kanturk made the most of the additional time to wrestle the title away from the reigning champions. This was always going to be an explosive tie as the two top sides in Munster junior rugby were going head to head for the second time this season.
With the first meeting going the way of the Duhallow men there was little doubt that Richmond were keen to exact a revenge on the side just trailing them in the J1. With Richmond's loss to Kanturk in the league fixture remaining their only previous defeat this season the men from Richmond Park were definitely not short of motivation. While one cannot rely too much on what happened in the past, Kanturk would have come away from that earlier win buoyed by the knowledge that Richmond were beatable.
The game last Saturday was simply, a war of attrition. Right from the start, hard hits reigned in from both sides as all players refused to give an inch at the home of St. Mary's Ground in Corbally. Kanturk not only stood up to the very physical Limerick men but they also had the audacity to take the lead. Mark Healy broke through the Richmond defensive line on three minutes and fed Phillippe Trippier who passed to the ever ready Darach Meade.
The Kanturk talisman greatfully received the ball and went over for a shock early lead. Meade then rose to his feet and slotted home the conversion to put his side in a 7-0 lead with only five minutes on the clock. Richmond responded almost immediately with a penalty from Brian Mullins. Kanturk were reeling minutes later after a great break from Mike Kelleher saw him cut the Cork side's defense to shreds and grab his team's opening try. Mullins again had the range to put Richmond into a 10-7 lead.
Just before the quarter hour things got even worse for Kanturk as Kelleher put in a terrific kick behind the defensive line which was taken over by Finbarr Hogan. Another successful conversion from Mullins put the Shannon siders into what looked like an unassailable 10 point lead. A brace of penalties from Meade with one in response from Mullins sent the sides in at the break 20-13.
On the resumption, the kickers again took centre stage with Mullins firstly failing to slot over a penalty attempt before Meade cut the gap to four with a tremendous long-range effort that split the posts. From this point on the game's intensity, physicality and excitement reached near fever pitch as Kanturk threw everything the had at Richmond. The Cork men passed up several opportunities to kick for the posts as they went in search of what would have been a match winning try.
Many times in the history of rugby the failure to take the easy points has proved to be a side's downfall but fortunately for captain Dan McCabe and his band of hardy warriors this was not one of them. Nine minutes after the official clock passed 80, Paul Cotter sent the Kanturk faithful into dreamland as he managed to burst through the Richmond rearguard and touch down for what was a well deserved try.
There was just enough time remaining for Meade to again do the honours with the extra points and move Kanturk into the winner's enclosure 23 – 20. Kanturk will now resume their quest for league glory but the players involved in this one will never forget the day they came back from the dead to defeat a brilliant Richmond side.
Kanturk: P Cotter; P Earlie, D Meade, P Trippier, L McCabe; M Healy, A Jones; B Kelleher, C O'Sullivan, B O'Neill; B Buckley, C Noonan; K O'Leary, G Pigott, D McCabe. Replacements: MDaly, N English, J Duggan, M Twohig, K Buckley
Richmond: J McNamara; F Hogan, M Kelliher, S Clancy, G O'Hanlon; B Mullins, T O'Brien; B McNamara, P Humphries, P McNamara; S Bennett, J Hayes; J Deedigan, G Phelan, D Sheehan. Replacements: E Harty, J Kelly, S Coppola, T Aherne, J Tully
Referee: G Finn (M.A.R.)
Muskerry also had a taste of cup success last weekend as they saw off Ballincollig to book their place in round five of the Munster Junior Cup.
In reality this game was much tighter than the 20 – 0 final score line would suggest as both sides battled hard for long periods in the middle third of the pitch. With 35 minutes on the clock the sides were level. As they ran in for the break Muskerry led 13 – 0. A John Herlihy try set the ball rolling before Jonathon Buckley kicked the conversion and two penalties to give the away side what has to be said was an unlikely lead.
After the half-time chat Tyrone O'Regan added to the home side's woes as he scored the games final try with Buckley again obliging with the boot to send the J2 leaders into latter stages of this prestigious competition.