The success of amalgam of Shannon and St Marys at this level has been well documented, but this will surely be their biggest challenge to date.
Nass RFC hosts the final between Shannon/St Marys and Ulster champions Malone at 2.30pm with a curtain raiser of fellow Limerick side Bruff facing Navan in the U/17 decider at 12.30.
A comfortable semi final win over Monivea by 20-0 was how Shannon /St Marys progressed to the final and even tough this will be
their first national final, they are a side, which has grown in stature, and experience in the past two seasons.
Already North Munster league champions with a final win over Garryowen way back in December, they went onto claim the pan Munster league with another gritty final performance over regular contenders Highfield by 19-10.
The culmination of a steely determination and a professional approach from coaches and players has been rewarded with their appearance on Saturday.
Malone were equally impressive in their semi final against Gorey, recorded an emphatic 33-3 win, and will be an entirely unknown quantity for the Parish men.
What is known that the Belfast outfit will make their fourth final appearance of the year after sweeping all before them in their local and regional leagues and cups. Take for example an October drubbing of Ards by 60-0 followed a week later with a 34-11 win over Intonations. Then a few weeks later, they racked up 71 points over Lurgan. Their biggest test appears to have been against Ballynahinch who ran them close losing out by a slender 21-24 margin.
It's obvious to even the most casual of rugby supporter that teams don't score such a mass of points of they don't possess the talent . Ireland U/19 captain Conor Joyce in amongst their ranks and this wing forward seems to have an abundance of ability and flair if reports of Irelands exploits this season are to be believed.
There's no doubt that Shannon/St Marys coaching team of father and son Brendan and Barry McNamara have any reason to underestimate the challenge of the Ulster Champions , and they will have their side well prepared for the task.They have a very well balanced side with power players throughout the team. There is no over reliance on either back of forwards to create the scoring opportunities , it's a case of a strength across the park and beyond.
Indeed, a headache for any coach heading towards a final is how to pick the team, and who to disappoint, but the McNamara's have nurtured a wonderful bond amongst the squad and each player will do whatever is required.
The half back pairing of Conor Burns and Dave Evans has cultivating a running game to great effect throughout the season, with the likes of Mel Corbett ,Alex McNamara and Tim Tobin the main beneficiaries.
The pack has plenty of big hitters and are well served by a great sense of unity when faced with a challenge. David Wallace has been a powerhouse at tight head as well as a considerable menace ion the loose ,while Craig McCallum has a devastating turn of pace from the back of the scrum.
It's probably a little unfair to the team to mention names specifically such is the talent that threads through this squad. The ability and willingness of each and every one of the Parish lads is undoubted , and in this their biggest test of their young rugby careers they will certainly bring need every ounce of such attributes.
It would be fair to say that anyone that has seen this group of players in action regular action has always had an inkling that they could reach the All Ireland Final. However , reaching the final and winning it are different matters and with an equal determination from Malone, this is sure to be a great game.
We are hoping that, as many Shannon supporters will make the relatively short trip to Nass on Saturday to lend their support to these worthy young men.
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