Junior clubs enjoying spoils of 'Metro' shake-up
A year ago, following a Junior Rugby Forum in the Red Cow Hotel, a decision was taken to overhaul club rugby in the capital, and the Metro Leagues were reorganised from their traditional, decades-old format of J1, J2, J3, etc ... into 11 divisions.
While it promised to be exciting, nobody was quite sure how it would work; how would the logistics around teams playing on different days and under subtle regulation alterations impact on the competitions?
Well one year on, the revamped Metro Leagues have turned out to be an unqualified success.
Yes, there have been minor teething issues but on the whole there were fewer walkovers, fewer teams withdrew from competitions and in many cases play-off places went right down to the wire.
The play-offs were the central tenet to the overhauled competition, with the top two teams in each division meeting to decide the winner and in most cases who gained promotion, while the bottom two clashed to decide relegation, the higher placed team in each situation enjoying home advantage.
St Mary's College won Division 1 and with it the Col Bill Duggan Cup when they travelled to Castle Avenue and surprised Clontarf 19-10 in the decider, the hosts having finished 10 points clear in the league phase.
The northsiders did make amends when they won the 98FM Metropolitan Cup with a 32-8 victory against Old Belvedere at Donnybrook, but were beaten 36-6 at HQ by Lansdowne in the Senior Seconds League Cup final.
NUIM Barnhall finished runners up to Naas in Division 2 but the Leixlip club lifted the John Doddy Cup when they won the final 20-5 at Forenaughts, and repeated that success with a 48-0 hammering of the same opposition at home in Parsonstown in the Senior Seconds League Shield final.
St Mary's College 3rd XV have been dominating J2 rugby for the past couple of years and that dominance continued when they beat Lansdowne 28-11 in the Division 3 final at home in Templeville Road to raise the Jack Dawson Cup, before completing the double by defending their Albert O'Connell Cup crown with a 34-10 home win over Bective Rangers.
Old Belvedere travelled to Ballycorus and beat Old Wesley 13-6 in the Division 4 final, winning the Harry Brooks Cup in the process, but the losers gained a modicum of revenge when they won the Moran Cup final at their other home in Donnybrook, beating the league winners 24-23 in an exciting decider.
St Mary's excellent season continued when their 4th XV won Division 5, beating visitors UCD 24-5 in the decider at Templeville Road to capture the Ken Ging Cup, while Terenure College won the Division 6 final 17-10 away at Clontarf and received the Evelyn Quinn Cup for their efforts.
Anglesea Road was the venue when Old Belvedere hosted Old Wesley in the Division 7 final and the home side won the Dr Bill Lenehan Cup on a 23-14 scoreline, before going on to complete the double when they beat Wanderers 29-14 in the Winters Cup final at Templeville Road.
Seapoint made the short journey to Kirwan Park for the Division 8 final and beat hosts De La Salle Palmerston 6-0 to hoist the Gerry Maher Cup, while Malahide won the Tony McSharry Cup when they beat Unidare 38-14 at home in Estuary Road in the Division 9 final.
Railway Union beat Terenure College 14-9 in the Division 10 final at home in Park Avenue to win the Terry Doyle Cup.
Kilkenny, meanwhile, used home advantage at Foulkstown to beat Clondalkin 22-13 in the Division 11 final and pick up the Chris Stapleton Cup.