Ballyanly was the venue of Mallow RFC's latest Junior Cup triumph where they faced league rivals Muskerry. Despite the recent rain and freezing temperatures, Muskerry's home turf was still as close a team will come to playing on a carpet. Unlike Pairc Ui Chaoimh, the turf was immaculate and allowed for a free flowing brand of rugby to be played. There was a strong wind behind Mallow for the opening forty and Mallow sought to use this to their advantage. From the off, Muskerry went at Mallow and attacked every breakdown, demonstrating their desire to progress in this competition. Owing to ill-discipline on the visitors' part, Muskerry were allowed to exit and clear their lines with relative ease. In an uncharacteristically error-ridden first half, Mallow spilled the ball and conceded turnovers under pressure from a solid Muskerry back row. Mallow's totemic No. 8 Sean Glynn was needlessly sin-binned to leave the visitors down to 14 min for ten minutes of the opening forty. As the home side scored the games first 7-pointer, this was a shot in the arm for the visitors. They pressed for a score and it eventually arrived on the 25 minute mark. Dogged work from the Mallow pack including Rory Murphy, Ronan Cremin and Brian Ward put them in an advanced field position. Following a period of sustained pressure inside Muskerry's 22, Mallow built the phases and eventually flashed the ball wide. Captain Conor O' Donovan ran an excellent switch line off a Richard Weedle pop pass and against the grain. He powered through several tackles in the opposition defense and finished with aplomb in the left corner. Dave Breen was narrowly wide with the conversion attempt as Mallow went into the interval with a 2 point deficit.
Playing into a stiff breeze in the second half, Mallow had it all to do if they were to progress in this competition. Muskerry opened their account in the second half with a simple penalty in front of the posts to go 5 clear. Right from the resultant restart, Mallow stamped their authority on this tie. Glynn caught a pin-point restart from Breen and steamrolled his way over the Muskerry try line from 35m out, leaving a trail of defenders in his wake to level the scoreline. Breen added a penalty shortly afterwards to put the visitors into a 13-10 lead. Within minutes, Muskerry knocked over a drop goal to tie the game up for the second time and add even more excitement to the match. Mallow found themselves under territorial threat again but Tysone Stephens won a crucial turnover inside their half to relieve some pressure for the away side. Mallow's next try came directly from a very well worked line-out maul. The away side threw Glynn up and he won the contest in the air. Upon landing, he held onto the ball as the maul assembled around him. With Muskerry failing to engage, the maul advanced to the try-line where Glynn grounded to put Mallow into a 5 point lead. They failed to build on this lead and ran out 18-13 winners.
Mallow RFC's progression in the Munster Junior Cup has been impressive to say the least. The north Cork side have used this competition to blood some of the younger talent in the club and this has paid off with great effect as they have now booked their spot in the next round. Since seeing off Old Crescent 2 weeks ago, Mallow beat league rivals Muskerry last Sunday and now find themselves in the last 16 with a hugely demanding tie against current holders Cork Con in a few weeks.
This Sunday, February 10th, sees the league return to Irish Independent Park as Mallow face Thurles at 2.30pm. If Mallow manage to overcome Thurles, promotion into Division 1 next season will be guaranteed.
Updated 12:35 - 6 Feb 2019 by Michael Sweeney