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Captain Butler discusses rugby-hurling tug of war ahead of Ennis RFC’s Munster final

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*Photo by Helen McQuillan

ENNIS captain Tony Butler was revelling in Harty Cup glory two weeks ago as St Flannan’s disposed of CBC Cork in the final. Moments after the final whistle in Mallow, Tony’s attentions were turned to rugby as less than an hour up the N20 in Old Crescent RFC, Ennis were about to kick off in the Munster Cup semi-final against Abbeyfeale.

Tony explains, “Initially I wasn’t going to play the rugby and then the referee was 45 minutes late so a fella came onto the pitch after the Harty final, one of dad’s friends, to say the game’s been pushed out an hour or so. So we hopped into the car and made it back for the last 20 minutes. We were winning anyway so there was no need to come on.”

Tony along with Ennis scrum-half Ethan Coughlan and No8 Conor Moloney have all enjoyed call-ups to international duty and are members of the Munster U18 set-up. They have formed the spine of this Ennis team since U14 level. “It’s definitely helped create a bond and chemistry on the pitch that we’ve played together for so long,” says Kildysart man Conor, with Ethan adding, “It does help on the field but I think off the field, the whole team are really good friends, every single one of us. We’re a really tight group. There’s that bit of confidence now but it’s controlled confidence so we don’t take stuff for granted. For the semi final when we were missing Tony, even though we had beaten Abbeyfeale 36-0 earlier in the season, we didn’t take anything for granted because it’s the same again, 15 men aginast 15.”

That mentality is part and parcel to Ennis’s success. With history on the line and a second Munster Cup in three years at stake, Conor insists, “We take it one game at a time. If you get caught up in that stuff you won’t win much. Our focus now is on training Friday night.”

The trio are hoping for a call-up to the Ireland clubs and schools team, who are due to play two tests against England during Easter holidays. Their involvement with previous Ireland and Munster sides is a source that Ennis hope to draw on. Tony tells The Clare Echo, “Whatever we learn we try to bring it and implement it on the pitch.” Conor adds that it helps create a competitive environment within the team, and that introducing what they’ve learnt in Munster “is easy enough to do though because most of the boys we play with here are just as good really, they’re top quality here as well.”

For Conor, it also raises the stakes that of the four Cobh counterparts on the Munster development panel, two play in the back row alongside him. “We know enough about them, I played with them all summer, with their so-called best players and I’d be friendly enough with all of them as well but we know what they’re going to do. They’re going to be bring it up front, they’ll be very physical. After that I’d say we have the beating of them. I’m actually really looking forward to facing up against them now, put down a marker because there’s good competition there. I can always have that to my name that we won a Munster title, if we do, please God.”

A quiet confidence is exhumed from the trio ahead of Sunday and Conor says that his captain Tony isn’t of the loud variety, much like the Kildysart man. “He just leads by example, that’s what I go off too. If you’re roaring and shouting you’re not doing something else. If something has to be said, say it short and sweet, there’s no point effing people out of it, noone’s going to learn that way.”

Conor admits that the goal was to go unbeaten this year and the character of the panel has ensured they’ve managed to keep their winning record intact. “You’re going to find it hard to win if you don’t go into every game confident. Even whenever it looked like we weren’t going to pull it off and drop the heads, we never did. We always came back, there’s been a few games. Against Bandon we were down and came back to win comforatbley, there’s just a winning mentality.”
When asked what they’re focussing on ahead of Sunday, he adds, “There’s always room for improvement. There’s endless ways to be better so we focus on that. Whatever we do bad on a Sunday we bring that into training on a Wednesday and we get that right and bring it to next Sunday’s match.”

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