TULLAMORE go in search of third All Ireland Junior Cup title when they face Enniscorthy in the Final of the Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup at Cill Dara Rugby Club’s grounds in Beechpark at 2.30pm on Saturday.
Tullamore are the defending champions having beaten Monivea in last year’s decider and they come into the game already crowned as Leinster League Division 1A champions.
It has been a memorable year already for Tullamore as along with the coveted league title, they are still involved in the Towns Cup and will fight it out in a four way round robin with the other three provincial champions for a place in the All Ireland League next year.
It is the club’s 75th Anniversary this year and they are well on their way to making it a truly unforgettable occasion.
This season saw Enniscorthy in the All Ireland Junior Cup for the first time. The competition is open to the top four teams in each province. However while newcomers to this competition, the Wexford men are a hardened side as is evidenced by the fact that they won the Towns Cup last season. They are currently fourth in the Leinster League Division 1A and a strong finish would see them return to the competition again next year.
Tullamore’s route to the Saturday’s decider included an opening round 52-15 home win over Ballymoney from Antrim, a second round 47-17 victory over Monivea from Galway, also at home in Spollanstown before travelling to north Cork for a 24-0 semi-final success over Kanturk. The win over Kanturk is particularly noteworthy as the Cork side had not lost a game at home in over three years. Not only did Tullamore beat them, in atrocious conditions they also kept them scoreless. Enniscorthy started with a long journey to west Cork in the 1st round where they beat Skibbereen 26-10 before a 2nd round 15-8 home victory in Ross Road against Donaghadee from county Down and then a 29-17 win in Fermanagh at the penultimate stage over Clogher Valley. The sides met in the league in early November and Tullamore came away with a win on a scoreline of 32-20.
Interestingly the sides will meet again in the league at the end of the month.
Tullamore come into the game having not conceded a point in their last two league games or in their cup win over Kanturk. Over the course of those three games they have amassed 135 points.
If their defence remains as tight and if their dynamic back-line continues to run in points at will, it is hard to see them being beaten.
However as last year’s narrow 9-6 over Monivea showed, cup finals are a very different kettle of fish and Tullamore will more than likely have to grind it out with their powerful pack and grind down Enniscorthy before trying to open up the game.
Tullamore had a reputation as a great cup team in recent years but this season they have dispelled the notion that they are only a cup team by wrapping up the league title. Yet they still have the cup pedigree and know what it takes to win a one off big game.
They are loaded with home grown talent with the half back combination of Richie Hughes and Aaron Deverell providing the fulcrum of the team.
Up front the front row should provide a stable platform in the scrum back row will cause their usual problems with Adrian Hanley and Rob Connor likely to figure prominently.
In the backs Tullamore have power and pace with converted second-row Brian Geraghty a real danger when he enters the line while the centre partnership of David Clavin and Ivor Scully will not be found wanting in defence or attack.
Make no mistake however, this will be a tough encounter for Tullamore against a talented Enniscorthy side who will come out hard to try and put Tullamore off their game. And as their Towns Cup win last year showed, Enniscorthy can perform in a one off final.
However if Tullamore play to their full potential and maintain the form of recent games, they should add their second piece of silverware in what is shaping up to be an historic 75th Anniversary season.