Munster is too close for comfort
This year's Munster campaign will be tight and full of twists and turns, but a Cork-Limerick finalcould be on the cards
this year sees the introduction of a slightly changed format in Munster with the first Round 1 draw corresponding to both Senior and Junior Cup fixtures. It all got under way at Thomond Park on Tuesday last with both Crescent and CBC representative of the current strength at under-16 and under-19 in both major cities.
Back in 2008 Castletroy College as the new kid on the block caught everybody by surprise. Five years on, they followed that up with a second success at Junior level. On the back of that under-16 final win in 2013, Castletroy hopes are high that 2016 could see a second under-19 trophy make its way to the now firmly established Limerick City school.
Round 1 is still a double header but with JCT and SCT teams splitting up for Round 1 match 2, depending on results and draws in match 1. We won't even attempt to explain what happens after that, other than to say that for the quarter-final one of the five Round 1 match 2 winners (by lottery) will be away. For the semi-final it's an open draw.
The Senior final is scheduled for Tuesday March 8, with the Junior final down for decision five days later on Sunday 13th.
Because of that Junior success in 2013 and strengthened by some younger players, there is strong support for Castletroy this time around and yet the general consensus is that this could be the most open cup in years with as many as seven of the ten contenders in with a very real chance.
While it would be stretching it to suggest that familiarity breeds contempt, both Castletroy and Glenstal are looking forward to getting on with it from here, having met on Wednesday in the opening round for the third year running.
Just a point separated the big Cork two in the pre-Christmas Br O'Reilly Charity Cup match, with CBC taking the spoils (16-15). It is six years now since the most revered underage trophy in the province resided on Leeside (PBC beating Rockwell in 2010). Since then Rockwell (3) and Crescent (2) have dominated the under-19 age group, with Ardscoil making great progress when finishing runners-up to Crescent in 2014 and Rockwell last year.
Crescent have also made it through to five of the last six Junior finals, including the last three in a row. Rockwell don't appear to have the same strength in depth as the last few highly successful years but it would be a brave or foolish man that would write them off.
All pre-competition evidence suggests Castletroy and Crescent marginally ahead of Munchin's and Ardscoil out of Limerick, with the Cork twins joined at the hip. Beyond that your guess is as good as mine. The element of surprise is gone for Castletroy, which brings with it a different type of pressure.
Sit back and enjoy what is sure to be a campaign full of complicated twists and turns before the eventual finalists will go head-to-head on March 8. We haven't had a Limerick-Cork Senior Schools final since Castletroy beat CBC at Dooradoyle in 2008. Could there be an omen in that?