Bruff aim to make the most of forward progress
Newcastle West-Estuary and Bruff face off in Thomond Park on Sunday in what promises to be a thrilling final of the U-18 Munster Youths competition at Thomond Park (ko 12pm).
The game will be followed by the U-16 final between Young Munster and Waterpark in what is set to be a very exciting day of rugby at the Limerick venue.
Holders Bruff are slight favourites ahead of the U-18 final having beaten Newcastle West-Estuary 18-17 in a thrilling North Munster League final.
Tony Clifford, chairman of the underage section in Bruff and one of the managers of their U-18 team, is looking forward to a special day for youths rugby in the province.
"I think youths rugby has come a long way in the last couple of years so it deserves its day in the sun," says Clifford. "We're very happy to be playing at Thomond Park, we were on the back pitch for last year's final so it's a big move forward and no matter who wins it's going to be a good day for youths rugby.
"We've played them twice this year already, they beat us 16-14 in the league in Newcastle West but we came back and beat them in the league final 18-17 in Annacotty, so there's nothing between us, a kick of the ball."
The Bruff squad has plenty of experience with 10 of this year's squad having featured in last year's campaign that culminated in an impressive 22-11 win over Young Munster in the final.
"Our squad is a mixture of last year's U-16s and U-18s. Half of the squad will be U-18 again next year but there's also plenty of experience, they've been there before so hopefully on the day Thomond Park won't be too much of an occasion for them," says Clifford.
The impressive Bruff forward pack has been at the heart of their success this year as Clifford explains: "Our pack of forwards have been superb. Dylan Reeves Wasik gets a lot of the credit - he captained the Munster Youths this year and was capped for the Ireland U-18 Clubs recently against Italy. We have a very good tighthead prop in Jack Fitzgerald, he's with the Munster Cadets at the moment. Seán Hartigan playing number 6 is a big strong, very abrasive player but the pack in general have been dominating.
"We played Young Munster last Friday night in the semi-final of the North Munster Cup and we beat them 25-15. They really put it up to us so that was a hard, tough game and it will stand to us ahead of the final."
The Conor Magner-coached Newcastle West-Estuary side will be hopeful of getting one over on their rivals as co-manager John Liston explains: "We've been unlucky against Bruff down through the years. They beat us in the U-16s North Munster final, the U-18s North Munster final and the quarter-final of this competition last year so Bruff are certainly the team for us to beat.
"They're the favourites because every time we meet them in the final they win it so they deserve their favourites' tag. They're really our bogey side so we'd like to reverse the role for once in our favour.
"It will be the first time that all of these boys will play in Thomond Park so it's a big opportunity to play on a park that has hosted massive games and a lot of rugby legends.
"Bruff are a super team and there's nothing between us. We're very familiar with them because we've played them an awful lot down through the years.
"We have three Munster U-18 Youths players: Seán Ivess, Seán Murphy and Thomas D'Arcy. They have been very good for us throughout the season, to make the Munster Youths they've obviously stood out all the way up along."
Newcastle West and Estuary combined at U-18 last season as both clubs were struggling to attract enough numbers to field a side at the age-group.
"Estuary and ourselves came together last year," says Liston.
"We didn't have an U-18 team for two or three seasons and they came on board as we were both struggling to field teams. Combining allowed us to give rugby to guys in west Limerick so it was a pivotal decision and great credit is due to the people who put the thing together.
"It's working out fantastically so we're very lucky. Our number 10 Colm McSweeney is another lad having a great season, he's from Estuary and he's pivotal to our team. There's great excitement and we're looking forward to the game. There are big numbers at training and everyone is fully committed to the cause and looking forward to having another game against Bruff."
Sunday, April 12
Munster Youths U-18 League Final: Bruff v Newcastle West-Estuary, Thomond Park, 12.0pm.
Munster Youths U-16 League Final: Waterpark v Young Munster, Thomond Park, 1.45pm.