Delight for Mahon as Juniors dig deep to seal Interpro success
Representing your province at any level is always a significant honour but to actually win a medal is a huge achievement for any sports player.
Last weekend Leinster Juniors won their first Interprovincial Championship since 2010 but not without overcoming several obstacles along the way.
Trailing 14-7 at half-time away to Ulster, Leinster’s plight was worsened five minutes after the restart when their northern opponents scored their third converted try of the game.
Not only that but Leinster were forced to plan without any players from the Leinster League champions Wanderers, who opted not to release them – much to the disappointment of coach David Mahon.
“We won it without any of the Wanderers players which was a real pity because they were denied the opportunity to wear their provincial jersey. It was probably their last chance to do so because they’re gone senior now,” Mahon said.
Despite the challenges along the way, Mahon was quick to point to the character that his side showed in snatching a draw that claimed the title.
“We had 12 players on the pitch for six minutes which was tough. We kept giving away silly penalties and struggled for field position but the lads showed brilliant mental fortitude to pull it out of the bag.
“When the coaches all met in January, we were conscious of the dynamic of the group. We didn’t want any negative influences; in other words, no high-maintenance players and that ended up working out well for us,” he admitted.
According to Mahon, who is also head coach of Monkstown RFC, expectation is always high for Leinster junior sides but the fact that the province had gone four years without a title meant that there was an added incentive for his squad.
“There is a huge expectation on Leinster teams at every level any time they play because of the playing numbers we have here.
“All the stats are there to back up that Leinster is the strongest junior league but the last four years proved that it’s difficult to win an Interpro title,” Mahon added.
The players can look back fondly at winning the title and Mahon himself is under no illusions as to how high it ranks in terms of his coaching career.
“I’ve been involved in five promotions as a coach but this outweighed any of them. It was more of a relief than anything else because the expectation is so high,” he said.
“It’s massive for the players. For a lot of guys, once they get past age-grade rugby, they generally only get to wear a provincial jersey in a professional set-up. This is their only chance to pull on a Leinster jersey.”
Looking ahead to the future, Mahon is confident that junior rugby in Ireland is awakening from a slumber and will pick up again in the next couple of years.
“It’s emerging from a difficult period. Like everything else, emigration has impacted greatly,” he said. “A lot of the rural sides have really struggled but things are starting to settle down and the provincial leagues will undoubtedly get stronger again.”