Ennis Rugby players Michael Sweeney and Odhran Flynn. Photograph: Natasha Barton

LOOKING ahead to Sunday’s final in Musgrave Park, The Clare Echo speaks to Ennis RFC captain, outhalf Odhrán Flynn, and vice captain, loosehead prop Michael Sweeney. And is often the case when you put a forward and a back in the same conversation, there’s always the risk a healthy slagging match will follow.

The side is coached by Inagh sheep farmer John Queally, who at the ripe age of 42 has also lined out in the second row with the Ennis seniors on a number of occasions this season.

When asked for their assessment on John’s coaching skills, Michael says earnestly, “He gets very serious sometimes but you need that in a coach.” Odhrán follows this up with a backhanded compliment, “Yeah, he’s a good coach, he’s knows everything across the board – even though he’s a forward.” Some back-and-forth between Odhrán and Michael on the merits of forwards vs backs ensues, with Michael having the final word, “Forwards work way harder too.”

However it’s been the precise boot of Odhrán that has dug Ennis out of a few holes this season, most notably against Corcha Dhuibhne when he sent the Clare side through to the Pan Munster final with a successful conversion – kicking into the very strong wind – two metres from the sideline. The 15-year old St Flannan’s student says that although they’re preparing for the biggest match of their young careers, a Munster final wasn’t on their radar at the beginning of the season.

“Our aim was to win as much as we could and go as far as we could. I don’t think we really imagined that we’d be in this Munster final,” he explains. “As we were going through the games you could see it was more and more possible that we could reach this target.” His vice captain adds, “We worked hard enough for it anyway.”

This team as a group have been finalists in “almost every other competition up to under-14” and they claimed silverware by winning the U13 North Munster Cup title. This year, Bruff defeated the Clare side in the North Munster Cup semi-final but a greater prize is at store this Sunday in Cork.

It will be their first time meeting the unbeaten Waterpark this season and while the Déise men defeated that same Bruff side in the other semi-final, Odhrán says they have nothing to fear. “We know they’ve a few lads inside in [the Munster underage set-up] but I’d say they’re beatable if we all perform on the day.”

Ennis Rugby players Michael Sweeney and Odhran Flynn. Photograph: Natasha Barton

Ennis are a tight-knit group and Michael, a 16-year-old Ennis Community College student, says they “learned a lot” from a challenge match earlier in the year away to St Michael’s College, a fee-paying D4 rugby school. They ultimately lost the game but Odhrán adds that it was a great experience for the Ennis group. “You could see the difference, you could see how tightly compact they were from being in the school together for three years but we weren’t far off them.”

Since 2017, Ennis’ underage set-up has enjoyed a rich vein of success, starting with the U18 Munster Cup winning side that defeated Garryowen in Thomond Park. Ennis will hope to emulate that success this Sunday. “Absolutely, even watching the U18s beat Nenagh Ormond in the North Munster Cup last weekend, that was brilliant to go and watch and see Ennis win… and the group before that with the three lads on the Ireland u20 and with Munster now, Tony, Conor and Ethan.”

Michael and Odhrán speak freely until they’re asked about the teams strengths and weaknesses ahead of Sunday’s showdown against Waterpark. After a lengthy silence, Odhrán adds, “There’s been a few mistakes along the way but I feel like we’ve picked them up and improved along the way.”

Ennis play Waterpark at Musgrave Park this Sunday at 12:45pm.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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