It was with a huge degree of trepidation that Clonmel took to the sunny field in Clonmel last Sunday to take on the fancied St. Senans side in their first round of the Munster Junior Rugby League.
St. Senans, on the back of a fantastic win over Crosshaven the previous week, and with Clonmel being hit with a lot of injuries, even this early in the season, were to be feared. However, it was the young Clonmel side, sprinkled with a few old wise heads, that drew first blood.
Five minutes into the game, after some quick work by the forwards, the ball was swiftly passed along the Clonmel backline. Conor Cooney, who had an excellent game at full back, scampered from halfway, sold a few dummies, drew in the Senans fullback, and released a lovely pass to David Lonergan on the wing. Lonergan made it look easy as he scored near the post. Cooney converted to make the it 7-0.
St. Senans had a much bigger and stronger pack aqnd the pressure was working and Clonmel were forced to concede a couple of kickable penalties. Dick Collins, Senans outhalf, stepped up to the mark and reduced the deficit. But it was Clonmel that rounded off a good, gutsy first half performance with a penalty from Conor Cooney and an excellently executed try scored by Robbie Carroll. Cooney converted to leave the halftime score Clonmel 17-6.
Clonmel were under a lot of pressure for the first twenty minutes of the second half. Eventually the heavy Senans pack made their prowess count when their second row player Stephen Ryan was at the end of a pushover try. Collins converted to make the score Clonmel 17-13. And then the mobility of the young, light Clonmel pack supported by towering performances by Mark Foley at No. 8, and Jacko Oosthyusen at scrumhalf, set the platform for Conor Cooney to run in two tries, one of which he converted. This gave Clonmel not only the win but a bonus point also.
This was a great start to the Munster Junior League campaign for Clonmel as they were the eventual winners 29-13.