THE club rugby season may still be in its infancy, but it will crank up a number of notches with the first round of games in the Munster Senior Cup tomorrow.
The draw has yielded a couple of cracking games featuring All-Ireland League Division 1A sides, most notably the meeting of holders Young Munster and Cork Constitution at Clifford Park in Limerick.
On Leeside, UCC host Garryowen at the Mardyke in what will be a repeat of their league encounters, when that competition kicks off in three weeks.
But, it’s the match involving Munsters and Con that commands much of the attention because games between these fierce rivals rarely disappoint, be they in the cup or league.
It takes on a different dimension on this occasion because the Limerick club are the current holders after their 26-14 win over Shannon in last season’s delayed final, played only recently.
The game should have been a semi-final, but the other tie between Garryowen and Highfield didn’t take place.
It was Young Munster’s first cup in 11 years, having overcome Con 27-17 in the quarter-final, played over a year ago.
Neither will lack incentive, with Con determined to avenge that defeat and get one over on their opponents, who invariably bring their A-game to such encounters.
Con have been the dominant cup team in recent years, winning it seven times in the last nine seasons, including a five-in-a-row from 2013 until Garryowen interrupted their run in 2018, before Con won it again in 2019 and 2020.
The Temple Hill side have had one competitive outing, a 29-7 win over Cashel in the Charity Cup semi-final last weekend, when Tomas Quinlan contributed 19 points, courtesy of two tries, three conversions, and a penalty. Rob Jerymn and Barry Galvin also crossed for tries.
Highfield won the other semi-final, defeating College 24-21 in a tight game at Woodleigh Park, when former UCC out-half James Taylor made his debut for ’Field.
They pop across to Musgrave Park to play Sundays Well and should have too much power and class for their young opponents.
Taylor was among the try-scorers, with Chris Bannon crossing twice and Miah Cronin also getting in on the act.
This will be the Well’s third competitive outing, having started with a 15-12 away win over Clonmel in the Charity Shield before finding Dolphin too strong in the final.
Brian Scott’s side scored eight tries from different scorers in a 48-14 victory.
The game exposed the difference between clubs operating at varying levels in the All-Ireland League, and it’s unlikely to get any easier for Denis Hurley’s charges.
Rob O’Keeffe and Ciaran Drinan did manage a couple of tries, both converted by Rob Egan, but Field should advance with a bit to spare.
Dolphin head to Limerick to face UL Bohemians on the University’s 4G pitch, in what will be a forerunner of their opening division 2A league encounter on October 2.
The Cork side also scored big in their Shield semi-final against Midleton, scoring 47 points, but this clearly represents a much different challenge, though the pending league engagement might occupy minds as well.
College and Garryowen are in the same situation, though both have strong cup pedigree, and there’s unlikely to be any hint of league chatter.
The students normally scatter to the four winds during the summer and are slow to get their season up and running, but Covid has clearly impacted. They’ll take heart from the Highfield game, when Louis Bruce and Rob Hedderman scored tries, and Eoin Monahan kicked three penalties and a conversion.
Midleton travel to play Nenagh Ormond, who are in the same league division as Dolphin, so the east Cork side have it all to do.
Cashel v Shannon, Cashel, 8pm.
Bruff v Clonmel, Kilballyowen Park; Nenagh Ormond v Midleton, Nenagh; Old Crescent v Kilfeacle, Rosbrien; Sundays Well v Highfield, Musgrave Park; UCC v Garryowen, Mardyke; UL Bohemians v Dolphin, 4GUL; Young Munster v Cork Constitution, Clifford Park. All 2.30pm.