West is best as Darcy's late try completes comeback
Last Sunday was a fantastic occasion for youths rugby in Munster as two superb finals were played at Thomond Park in front of a large, vocal crowd.
Newcastle West-Estuary scored a late try to defeat Bruff in the U-18 final before another dramatic finish saw Waterpark retain the U-16 title with a win over Young Munster.
The four sides all played magnificent rugby and were a credit to their clubs.
Thomas Darcy's late try gave Newcastle West-Estuary a thrilling 22-20 win over Bruff as the combined side claimed their first ever Munster Youths U-18 title.
Bruff made a superb start to the game and hit the front after just two minutes when Jack O'Grady crossed in the right corner after a fine move.
Newcastle West-Estuary hit back through a penalty from impressive full-back Seán Ivess on nine minutes and Jason Woulfe then crossed from close range, with Ivess adding the conversion to make it 10-5.
The pendulum swung back in Bruff's favour before the break when Newcastle West captain Dylan Murphy was yellow-carded and Jack Fitzgerald crashed over in the right corner to make it 10-10 at the interval.
A stunning individual try from man of the match Ivess moved Newcastle West into a 17-10 lead early in the second half, with Ivess himself converting.
Bruff winger Matthew Lockhart O'Dea finished in the right corner after excellent work by scrum-half Niall Byrne to reduce the deficit to two and after a spell of heavy pressure, Lockhart O'Dea crossed for a fourth Bruff try to move his side into a 20-17 lead.
Newcastle West-Estuary weren't finished, though and No 8 Darcy dived over in the left corner at the death to claim a dramatic win.
Co-manager John Liston said afterwards: "It's an historic day for the clubs as we had never won a Munster Youths competition before. We couldn't be happier and both clubs are ecstatic.
"The families of the players have followed them through thick and thin so it was nice for all of them to end up with a bit of silverware at the end of it."
Having suffered a number of narrow defeats at the hands of Bruff, the management team feared the worst when they fell behind late on. But the young players from Newcastle West, Shanagolden and Abbeyfeale showed admirable spirit to snatch a famous win.
"The heads of the management were down in disappointment when we went behind," said Liston. "We thought it was gone but the players are a superb bunch with a never-say-die attitude and they kept plugging away and got their reward. Tommy Darcy went over in the corner and the rest is history.
"It looked like déjà vu, we played them in an U-16s final and an U-18s final and lost by the narrowest of margins and it looked like it was happening again. The players were monumental."
There was another incredible finish in the U-16 final with Waterpark centre Gary Healy scoring a late breakaway try to retain the title for the Waterford club.
Young Munster had led 14-5 through converted tries from the excellent Conor Hayes and Luke Fitzgerald.
Second-row Harry Donnelly replied for Waterpark and the Ballinakill side moved to within four points when Alex Deegan crossed.
Young Munster hearts were broken late on when Healy raced away from inside his own half to touch down under the posts, with Glenn Kavanagh adding the conversion.
Waterpark coach Billy Leslie was thrilled that his side were able to keep hold of the title.
"It was fantastic," said Leslie. "Everybody down here is delighted to be able to retain that trophy. Myself, Dave Dawson and Derek Healy took this group at U-8 and they've been successful at each age-group in the east.
"We've been playing Young Munster in friendlies since U-13s and they put 60 points on us in November 2013. That's when I got an eye as to what the standard needed to be.
"Nigel Daly came on board and his input into preparing the forwards made a huge difference to us, he used to be the U-18s coach and is a former Shannon and Munster player."
The day will live long in the memory of the Waterpark players, as Leslie explained: "You can't put into words how delighted and appreciative they are of being able to play at Thomond Park.
"You don't get a chance very often to even get onto the pitch and you could see from how long they stayed on the pitch afterwards - they didn't want to go in! The whole day was a great experience for them. They'll go away hurling for the summer happy!"
The side was captained by Nick O'Donoghue and he followed in his brothers' footsteps by picking up a winners' medal to keep an incredible family tradition going.
"I don't know how many families can say they've won five Munster Youths medals," said Leslie. His eldest brother David won two, his other brother, Munster Academy player Jack won two and now himself. They've got five medals between them, it's absolutely phenomenal."