IT was a battle between two of the top three sides in Kerry rugby last weekend as Killarney faced up to Castleisland in the final of the Munster Junior Plate in Tralee.
With both these sides plying their trade in the J2 of the provinces junior grade this game was always likely to be a cagey, exciting and a close run thing as the sides' familiarity with each other was bound to come into play. The Munster Junior Plate is a highly sought after prize at this level of rugby and Killarney were attempting to take back the title that they won two years previously.
However, Castleisland were not going to be any pushovers as they finished above their neighbours in the league this season and had ended their opponents' chances of promotion with a hard fought win less than a month ago. While power and passion were always going to be on show in this cup final it was never likely to be a free flowing open clash with both sides looking to play it tight and finish off what has been a disappointing campaign with a trophy.
While it may not have been a free flowing clash to entertain the neutrals it was an exciting game with both sides refusing to take a backward step. Paudie Sheahan rattled off three penalties in the opening period for Killarney with Connie Reynolds replying once for Castleisland as both sides defended as if their lives depended on it. Killarney would have known that the job was a long way from done at the break, as there would have been little doubt that Castleisland would come out all guns blazing.
Sheahan subdued the islanders with another brace of penalties after the interval, but a try from Mike Cronin and Reynold's second penalty meant this game would go all the way to the final whistle, however, try as they may Castleisland were unable to get another try and Killarney ran out deserved 15-11 winners.
The win will bring joy to the faces in the Killarney camp and give them a platform to build on for next season, while Castleisland will have to dust themselves down and get ready for next season which could be their best chance of promotion to the J1 in some time.