Friday 26 May 2017

Black and Amber aim to add to cup history

Sticking to their principles, Young Munster hope cup win can be start of another glorious season.

Cork Con hope to live up to the heroics of club legend and former Irish international Peter Clohessy. Picture credit; David Maher / Sportsfile
Cork Con hope to live up to the heroics of club legend and former Irish international Peter Clohessy. Picture credit; David Maher / Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Round about 2pm on Sunday at Irish Independent Park, the president of the Munster Branch will be getting ready to present the Munster Senior Cup to either the captain of Cork Constitution or Young Munster.

It is one of key duties of the president in his year as the leader of the Branch, but for Gerry O'Shea it will be either a sour or sweet moment. A staunch Young Munster man since he moved to Limerick more than 40 years ago, Galway native O'Shea is tasked with the duty of presenting the cup.

Young Munster club stalwart Gerry O’Shea will be hoping for a Cookies victory on Sunday as he will be presenting the trophy to the winning team.
Young Munster club stalwart Gerry O’Shea will be hoping for a Cookies victory on Sunday as he will be presenting the trophy to the winning team.

Be it through gritted teeth or with a beaming smile, he is excited by his turn to emblazon the winners of Sunday's Munster Senior Cup final in his season in the prestigious position.

"I suppose I'll have to grin and bear it if we don't prevail," says O'Shea. "But it would be a huge honour to see our captain coming up and receiving the trophy. But we'll enjoy the day no matter who wins it.

"This season has been a great experience. I was asked by the club to go forward for Branch president last year and I was nominated at the same time - even before they got my answer! It is a huge honour for me.

"There is a fantastic buzz attached to the position. Last Saturday evening I was over in Swansea at the Ospreys game in a Premiership soccer ground.

"The next day I was in a field in Mitchelstown at a Junior Cup match.

"That variety is fantastic. It's a fantastic experience. You meet fantastic people from all walks of life."

Sunday will be the 25th time that the Cookies have featured in the blue riband club final in the province.

Specialists Their last victory came back in 2010 - their seventh win in total - but they are very much second favourites to claim the honours this time round against cup specialists Cork Con who are chasing five in a row for the first time.

The loss of ten finals back-to-back during Shannon's period of supremacy from 1990-'91 to 2001-'02 was a difficult era for the club in the competition, but after a seven-year absence in the decider, that 2009-'10 win was a long time coming too.

Even though that is only six years ago, things are much changed for Young Munster in that time. Only one player survives from that team, club legend Ger Slattery, who could yet captain the side in the absence of regular club captain John Duggan, who broke his leg last week against St Mary's College.

That dearth of silverware is in stark contrast to a Con side packed with medallists, although Munsters might be able to gain some insight into what it takes to win with this season's arrival of Dan Walsh from Sunday's opponent.

Flanker Walsh has featured for the Munster 'A' team this season and was part of last year's winning Cork Con set-up, that defeated Munsters last time round.

Even though they won't say it, revenge is bound to be on the minds of supporters at Tom Clifford Park. O'Shea is expecting a tight battle.

"Last year the same two teams were in the final and Con won it by a score, so this weekend there will be nothing between the teams either. Earlier this season Young Munster won the league match down in Cork Con but that won't count for anything on Sunday.

"For the last ten years there has been nothing between the teams, they have both been capable of beating each other any time no matter whose ground the game is played. I'd say it'll be very tight. There'll hardly be a score between them again in the end-up."

It's 89 years since Young Munster won their first Munster Senior Cup, but a real turning point for the Limerick outfit was their 1980 win over neighbours Bohemians, which ended a 42-year wait for title number four.

After a loss to Shannon in the 1982 decider, a second Munster Cup was claimed two years later and since then the cup has frequently resided in the club.

The All-Ireland League win of 1992-'93 was secured in the typical style associated with the club - their game was tough and the forwards enjoyed themselves - but victory was rounded off in the final against St Mary's College, thanks to Ger Earls and Aidan O'Halloran tries, a success that remains the zenith of the club's achievements.

They came close to winning the AIL again in 2011-'12 with a new generation of players, but there is a real feeling that more success could be on the way for the Cookies after last year's third-place finish and their current second place in the 1A standings with five games to go.

But any success that comes in the gate of Tom Clifford Park is hard-earned and well-deserved. Huge effort has been put in at the underage levels in the last decade, and the fruit of that labour is beginning to show.

"The thing about Young Munster and most clubs in the province is the fantastic volunteer structure that is built up over the years," says O'Shea.

"It's massive. I would say there is about 70 or 80 people involved in the underage structure alone in the club. Every weekend we have about 400 children coming in to play from U-6s all the way up to U-18s.

"It is an extremely active structure and they literally feed the adult teams. We'll have a few lads away this weekend with the Ireland U-20s - the likes of Jack Lyons and Calvin Nash have been with us since U-10s.

"Over the years we've had lads like Peter Clohessy, John 'Paco' Fitzgerald and Paul O'Connell who have gone all the way, and seeing lads like that make the grade is a big boost to the youngsters. Having a Lions captain like Paul in the club is a huge honour for young lads to look up to."

In an interview with the 'Limerick Post' recently, club stalwart Noel Kilbridge insisted his greatest memory from his years with the club was winning the Munster Junior Cup in 1960 at the then Musgrave Park.

"There was no sweeter place to win than in Cork against Con," he said.

Perhaps this Sunday will be another similar highlight for the black and amber.

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