Tough play-off test anticipated in Cashel
After a AIL Div 2A campaign that started last September it has finally come down to the AIL play-offs again for Navan as they seek to sign off the season with another promotion.
Their place in the play-off semi-finals has been secure for some time; the only question is where they would finish in the table and therefore where and who they would be playing?
For sometime also it was pretty clear that Cashel would provide the opposition with Queens University and Div 1B Buccaneers in the other semi-final.
Last Saturday Navan travelled to Nenagh, now they must make the trip to Cashel this weekend.
The outcome of that contest is likely to be close and uncompromising - that's if the games between the two teams so far this season are anything to go by.
During the course of their Div 2A campaign Navan picked up 13 victories while enduring five defeats. One of those came in Cashel's home turf in what was Navan's last game of 2018.
The boys from Balreask Old had travelled down with optimism after a decent run that included victories over Galwegians (28-7) and Queens (24-7). Why couldn't they secure another win?
As events transpired Navan were derailed and ended up losing 7-23.
"We were short a number of players for that game," commented Navan coach Ray Moloney when reflecting on that match.
A few weeks later Cashel made the trip to Balreask Old for the return fixture and we were treated to a entertaining, rollicking contest that ended in dramatic fashion when Paddy Fox went over for a last-gasp try in the corner.
The try was created by an audicious, courageous crossfield pass delivered by Colm O'Reilly.
As Hollywood moments go the creation and execution of the try was hard to beat. Moloney recalls that 20-13 win and the subsequent home victory over Highfield (when Fox also scored a memorable try) as the two highlights of their league campaign. Fox won the February 'Try of the Month' award for that score against Highfield.
Moloney is expecting Cashel to play a typically Munster style of play; pummel Navan up front before seeking to expose any space or gaps in the their defensive set-up.
One of Navan's strengths is a powerful pack that includes highly experienced performers such as Leigh Jackson, Eoin King and Bryan McKeever.
Their knowledge and know-how will be vital on Saturday.
The capabilities of the pack will be tested to the full in Cashel - and that's where the game is likely to be won or lost.
A solid scrum added to the ability to secure quick ball at the breakdown will be vital. Other factors will also be important.
"Discipline and keeping the ball in play will be hugely important for us, we like to play ball," added the Navan coach.
Navan will go into the game with one of the club's biggest wins in years fresh in their minds - the 83-7 trouncing of Dolphin two weeks ago.
That was the game that marked McKeever's 100th senior competitive appearance with his home club.
However, last Saturday 20-21 defeat in Nenagh was a more meaningful indication of the rigours of what the Meath men are likely to face when they travel to Cashel.
Conor Farrell remains a doubt because of injury, but otherwise Moloney has a full squad to work with and he will be optimistic about a positive outcome.
A win will earn a ticket for the promotion / relegation play-off final.