Thurles, Skibbereen and Ennis collect titles
A fantastic weekend's rugby concluded last Sunday as the second round of Bank of Ireland Underage finals took place at a beautiful Thomond Park, still resonating from Munster's victory against Toulouse.
The first game saw Thurles play Mallow, and Thurles' Eoin Currane burst through the Cork defence to cross for the afternoon's first score which Jack Flanagan converted.
Flanagan then added a further three points from the boot with a strong kick from the right-hand side. The Thurles fly-half was flying, and he powered past a covering tackle to stretch under the posts for Thurles' second try.
The North Cork outfit battled hard and deservedly crossed for the first time, John Willis the finisher. With that the momentum changed, and the Cork side got a second, again Willis proving to be the deadly finisher. Thurles held their nerve, however, and saw out the closing moments with consummate professionalism to hang on for a 17-12 victory.
In the second game a fantastic performance from centre Jordie O'Brien led Skibbereen to a deserved U-16 Cup title.
In an all-Cork affair, Darren Daly crossed the line first for Skib after a brilliant run to add to O'Brien's earlier penalty, riding the tackle of several defenders before powering over the line. The second came soon after as Jason Connolly set up Euan O'Donovan to cross in the corner.
After O'Brien knocked over another three points just after the half, Connolly got a try of his before O'Brien did the same with an intercept breakway score before doubling with a carbon-copy.
However, Kinsale refused to give in, and Daniel Graham's inventive offload found Faelan Stewart, whose quick feigns sold the Skib defence down the Shannon for him to cross, and they showed great hands to score a second try in quick succession in the corner to make it 39-13 on the final whistle.
The final game was an absolute classic between Ennis and Garryowen, which saw the title decided with the last kick.
Ennis opened the scoring early with a David Mescall penalty before at the other end Garryowen captain Harry Byrne made it level at three apiece before Mescall added a second to restore Ennis' initial three-point lead.
Garryowen touched down first as after relentless Ennis pressure Ben Moloney intercepted, and sprinted the length of the famous Limerick ground. The second try saw the Limerick side spread the ball out wide before hooker Derry Gleeson stretched out in the corner. That left the scores 13-6 at half-time, before Ennis, deserving of a score, saw Ikem Ugwueru suck in two defenders before playing in David McNamara who showed fine feet to touch down in the corner.
The Dooradoyle outfit regained their composure and Gleeson showed his speed by blitzing through under the posts.
Ennis simply refused to give up, and Alan Culligan took advantage of a quick restart to nip in over the line. Byrne kicked his third penalty to make it 26-20.
However, McNamara was crucial in the winning score, setting up Zack Whelehan to touch down under the posts. Byrne was then unlucky to see two sweet penalty strikes miss the target, and Ennis held out to win a historic title.
Lethal Kavanagh adds gloss as Ul Bohs march on into decider
Sunday was also a big day for UL Bohemians' ladies, who went into their All-Ireland League semi-final against Galwegians strong favourites to advance on the UL 4G pitch.
Bohs have had a fantastic season thus far; just one defeat in 14 has set them apart from the chasing pack, and they had stormed past the Connacht side last time the pair met in Limerick; however, life wasn't as easy on this occasion.
Bohs opened the scoring - Anna Caplice intercepting a pass inside her own 22 before racing down the other end to touch down under the posts - but Galwegians struck back.
Nicole Fowley got an unconverted score before fellow Ireland international Eimear Considine made it 12-5 to the hosts.
It was a see-saw first half, and Galwegians' Mairead Coyne then made a break on the left for a try that was converted by Claire Raftery to bring the sides level at 12-12 going into the interval.
However UL were a different animal in the second period, and four second-half tries secured victory.
The first came from captain Fiona Hayes, and despite Galwegians striking back through an unconverted Denise Redmond's effort, Bohs never looked like they were going to give up the tie.
Star performer Niamh Kavanagh's solo run was rewarded with a try near the posts which Edel Murphy converted and two minutes later, another Irish cap, Liz Burke, broke and crossed down the right, the score converted by Ireland Sevens regular Claire Keohane.
The salt was applied to the wound in the final minute: Galwegians were on the attack but a fumble was pounced on by Kavanagh, who was home and dry to make it 41-17 at the finish.
They will face Old Belvedere in the final, who secured a thrilling 13-12 victory over Railway Union.
That game kicks off tomorrow afternoon at 5.30 in Donnybrook.
Munchin's blitz a big success
Munster Rugby, in association with Community Rugby partner Marks & Spencer, ran the last of their first-year blitzes after two already in Cork and one held in Limerick.
This was North Munster's second blitz of the season, with St Munchin's College the host venue for the event that saw first-year boys from the college joining Crescent Comprehensive, Villiers and St Clement's on a wet afternoon in Limerick.
With the schools competitions having come to a close, these blitzes allow first-year players yet another opportunity to hone their skills in a competitive environment, many who are still in their first season of playing rugby.
They also allow Munster's community rugby officers to keep up with the progress of young players, ensuring their skills continue to develop under the expert tutelage of the CROs.