TWELVE months ago Muskerry junior rugby team was propping up the J2 and fighting for survival in the second tier.
In fact twelve months before that things were pretty similar for the mid Cork men as they again struggled with the pace in the competitive division. Muskerry had to rely on great results at the tail end of each season to remain in the second division. Roll onto December 2012 and everything has changed. Muskerry are and have been the side to beat this year as they have pretty much led the championship from day one to the Christmas period.
Last weekend Muskerry had home advantage against one of the favourites for the title (Presentation). Regardless of the fact that Presentation were languishing in mid table before the game this was always going to be a game fraught with danger as the visitors would have come into the tie harbouring credible title ambitions of their own. The away side may well have been one of the teams expected to challenge for the title late on in the season, but that didn't stop the home team inflicting what could be a season defining 24-6 defeat on the Limerick men.
Muskerry palyed against the wind in the opening 40 minutes and managed to hold their opponents at bay and lead going in at the turn (8-6). A Willie Healy try showed the way for the home side with Jonathon Buckley landing a tasty drop goal before the break. Presentation were under pressure all through the opening half, but did manage to hit back with a brace of penalties from their reliable kicker Mark Phair, which kept them well in touch for the second period.
Unfortunately for the Shannon-siders that was as good as it got for them as they were clinically disposed of in the second half by a confident and powerful Muskerry side. Ben Murphy and Jaydee Meyer added tries in the second period with a brace of drop goals from Buckley securing the points for the high flying Ballyanly men. The win sees Muskerry claim back top spot from Mallow and stretches their unbeaten league run to eight games.
Next weekend sees Muskerry take a break from league action as they prepare to entertain Youghal in the Munster Junior Cup. While Cup honours are clearly not the priority for Muskerry this year, a good run in the prestigious competition can only help the confidence levels grow even further.
Kanturk were the only other local side in league action last weekend as they continue to battle hard near the summit of the J1. There are very few that would begrudge Kanturk promotion from the J1 this season after they have shown themselves to be one of the top Junior side's in the country. Cup success has been intertwined with another great league effort this year as the men from the banks of the Allow and the Dallow continue to impress and defeat most of the sides before them.
Last Sunday it was Galbally that stood in the way of Kanturk climbing back into second spot in the J1 and like most of the sides they have met this year Galbally tasted defeat in the north Cork venue. (11 – 5). A Dan McCabe try in the first half was followed quickly by two penalties from the boot of Darragh Meade. Timmy Casey fired a warning shot across the bow of Kanturk as he scored a try for the visitors but the home side had plenty in the tank and were able to shut the game down and run out comfortable winners.
Although Kanturk have played a game more than most of the sides around them this win sees them move up to the coat tails of league leaders Richmond and firmly has them placed in the bracket of serious title contenders. An away tie against Kilfeacle and District is next up for Kanturk with the home side in this one posing a real threat to the aspirations of the Cork men. Kilfeacle are currently in fourth spot and are still in with a chance of promotion if results go their way.
A loss for either side will probably be the end of their respective chances so Kanturk will have a fight on their hands Sunday afternoon if they want to stay in the title race. Mallow head back into action next Sunday as they have to make the trip to Sunday's Well in the Munster Junior Cup. Both side's will fancy their chances in this one with the home side starting the game as favourites.
However, this won't bother the Mallow men as they have shown on numerous occasions of late that they are well capable of coming away with a result when their backs are to the wall.
SUNADAY, JANUARY 6 Muskerry v Youghal, 2.00pm Kilfeacle and District v Kanturk, 2.30pm Sundays Well v Mallow, 2.00pm