ENNIS will look to make history as the first Clare side to win the Munster Cup as they take on rugby powerhouse Garryowen in the final of the Under 18 Pan Munster Cup at 3.45pm in Thomond Park on Sunday.
It’s a fitting finale to the tournament for Ennis, who take on a side they beat in their first competitive fixture of the season.
Arguably the two teams were destined to meet at Thomond Park. At the official launch of the second phase of the competition in January, the press photograph of all the qualifying teams saw two captains chosen to stand in the centre holding the trophy — that of Ennis and Garryowen.
On route to the final the Ennis side have won 13 of their 14 matches, brushing aside historical giants of regional rugby including Garryowen, Young Munster, Shannon and Cork Constitution.
Speaking to The Clare People, joint head coach John Colleran — whose son Jack captains the side — said that the talented team were aiming for Cup glory when they set out their targets at the outset of the season.
John explained, “The aim of this season actually started last season when these lads moved from U16s to u17s. We didn’t have a huge crop of u18s at the time so last year the u17s lads played with four or five of 18s players. We actually competed quite well last year, we got to the semi-final where Waterpark beat us.
“So the plan was, last year to set up the team, get them used to the competition and go for it this year.”
He continued, “Our goals at the beginning of the season as a team, it was, this was a target.”
However a mid-season loss to Bruff, the team’s only loss of the season, put a slight spanner in the works. Ennis had already qualified for the Munster Cup by emerging as a top-4 side in North Munster when they were beaten in the North Munster Cup final.
“Losing to Bruff was something that we didn’t want to happen,” admitted John, who is joint coach with George Guilfoyle. “We planned on winning the North Munster League as well but it just didn’t happen. But the big thing is to win this. This is the biggest competition for youths in Munster, this is the cup to win.”
Team manager Eanna Lennon noted that Garryowen being the team standing in Ennis’s way is an ‘interesting bookend’ after the teams met on the first day of the season.
“The very first game of this competition was us against Garryowen in Garryowen, so it’s an interesting bookend in that we open and close this competition with the same fixture,” said Eanna.
“We won quite well in that first game. But that’s a long time ago, that was the middle of September, 14 or 15 games ago in terms of the competition but there is an interesting synergy there, the fact that we start and finish the competition with the same game.”
He added, “On our day I would not fear us against any team. Garryowen are a fine side but if we perform to our abilities I have every confidence that we can win. Obviously we’re going to need luck going our way and things like that, but as I said, we’ve beaten them before, we know what we need to do to win and if we can deliver on that, we can win, absolutely.”