Sunday 18 March 2018

Blade believes Monivea have cutting edge to get over line

All-Ireland Junior Cup

Monivea v Tullamore, Dubarry Park, 2.30

AFTER last year's heartache at Templeville Road, Monivea make the shorter trip to Athlone today on a mission as they take on Tullamore in this decider.

The Galway side were level going into injury-time in last year's final, only for Crosshaven to provide the heroics and take the cup. Now, they are back at the same stage and determined to take glory this time round.

Standing in their way are the Offaly men, who are going into their third final in five years. Having lost to Navan in 2008, only to beat them in 2009, Tullamore have gone through plenty of change, yet have managed to get back to the top table.

But Monivea captain Darren Blade is keen to banish the memories of last season.

"I wouldn't say we felt we left it behind last year, but we know we have what it takes and we have a lot of cup experience in the team," he said.

"At the start of the season we said we wanted to go well in the league and cup. And once it was clear we were doing well in the league, we really wanted to go for this as well.

"We had a tough game against Skerries first up and we just edged them out. We knew then that we could go hard for the final again."

Blade has an extra reason to succeed today. A victim of the recession, he is currently out of work, but has stayed in the area to play at a club for which his two brothers also line out.

He admits he may have to leave at the end of the season, and with brother Caolin due to play for the Ireland U-18 club side in Italy today and Eoin at reserve scrum-half at Dubarry Park, today should be an emotional day for the Blade family.

"Rugby has kept me here this year," he admitted. "We were determined to build this year and I also coach the U-19s, but once the season is done, I may have to look at emigrating."

He has led Monivea to the Connacht Junior League already this year, but they crashed out of the Connacht cup last weekend. The All-Ireland Junior trophy would cap a fine season -- but Tullamore will take some beating.

Verdict: Monivea

Monivea (squad) -- Backs: D Blade (capt), G O'Connor, E Blade, J Culkin, G Divilly, K Higgins, C Neary, S Fahy, C Maher, B Flaherty, I Murphy. Forwards: G Fitzmaurice, R Coughlan, D McNeilis, C Divilly, B Ryan, J Connolly, W Parker, B Murphy, V Lally, S McHugh, P Fitzmaurice, M King, D Madden, K Concarr, E Rooney.

Tullamore -- B Geraghty; C Draper, D Clavin, T Gilligan, R Deverell; A Deverell (capt), R Hughes; T Bennett, AN Other, E Brady, D Milne, I Deverell, J Clancy, R Connor, A Hanley. Replacements: C Glennon, G Molloy, K Browne, D Hanlon, P McNiff, I Scully, C Hughes, D O'Neill, D Lowry, O McIntyre.

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Irish Independent

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