Monivea rugby has the opportunity to achieve something no other club in the province has done - win an All Ireland cup.
On Saturday they face Munster’s Crosshaven in St Mary’s in Templeogue in the All Ireland Junior Cup final (12 noon ).
A victory on Saturday would be a deserving reward for a club that has flown the Connacht flag for the last decade. Winning eight of the last 10 Connacht Junior League titles, Monivea has been the most consistent junior club in the province, yet has never achieved its stated ambition to qualify for the All Ireland League. Now, having lost the league title to Sligo this season, Monivea has a glorious chance to win some silverware outside the province in what is the biggest day in the club’s history.
“It was a sickener to lose our provincial crown,” says captain Eoin Rooney. “We have contested the qualifiers nearly every year for the last decade but this year lost only two games - both of which cost us the league and the cup.
“Now we have an opportunity to play for some silverware and we really want it. The hunger to win is definitely there - to win an All Ireland Cup and create a bit of history.”
Rooney epitomises the typical player in Monivea - most of whom come from a GAA background, including Galway hurler John Culkin. Rooney played hurling with his home club Craughwell and was a late starter to the game - introduced to rugby at Athenry Vocational School in his last year at school. Although he had won three minor A championships and three u-21 medals with Craughwell, he took a liking to the oval ball.
Since then he has become a key player in Monivea's ambitions to gain All Ireland League status. Leading by example, the big No 8, nicknamed the Tank from his early hurling days, is a dynamic ball carrier who this year joined Buccaneers' ranks as a dual status player. He started in four games and participate in most division one games this season, and it is that experience of playing at a higher level that he hopes will help Monivea over the line on Saturday.
“ In the All Ireland qualifiers over the last number of years we needed to step up a grade, but we were unable to deal with it. I hope playing in the All Ireland League has helped my game.” And, he says, Monivea, also possesses an X-factor.
“We are really part of a family. We are all friends, play sport together and socialise with each other so there is a great camaraderie and spirit within the team. The supporters are also a huge plus and we know they are always 110 per cent behind us.”
Monivea, like most junior clubs, boasts a mix of young up-and-coming youngsters and some experienced older heads. Lock Conor Kindregan is currently in the Irish u-19 squad and is a member of the Connacht Academy, while outhalf Ger O'Connor is Monivea’s top points scorer and his cousin Rory is the club’s top try scorer with 24 tries from 11 appearances.
Rooney says Monivea will continue to try to play a fast-paced and open game on Saturday.
“We have been trying to up the tempo of our game because we believe that is the way the game is going. We are trying to keep ahead at junior club level.”
That strategy has worked well in this season’s cup, overcoming Cashel (23-19 ), Ballymoney (24-0 ) and Cooke (27 - 22 ) to qualify for the final. Connacht supporters will hope it also serves them well on Saturday to see off Crosshaven and claim a first All Ireland Cup.