Superior teamwork and a steely determination combined at Thomond Park on Saturday to ensure Cork Constitution were crowned Bank of Ireland Munster Senior Cup champions for the 30th time. Their winning margin didn’t accurately describe the superiority they enjoyed over a Garryowen side who showed their fighting qualities by finishing off the scoring with a converted try deep into stoppage time, although in reality it merely served as consolation score for the defending champions.
Constitution continue to supply Munster with many of their most valuable players but when it comes to domestic matters they rely for the most part on their own home grown talent and this paid off in spades on Saturday. With two-try Joe McSwiney in rampant form up front, the manner in which they teamed up to put attacking moves together, especially when using the blind side, was hugely impressive.
A Garryowen side, replete with contracted players, lacked the same familiarity while their decision to go chasing tries on three first-half occasions when offered guaranteed three-pointers from place kicks came back to haunt them.
The game proved yet another triumph for Con coach Brian Hickey, a man who has masterminded many of their greatest days through the last decade or so, and who on this occasion watched the final with the aid of crutches having undergone a knee replacement operation in the last few weeks.
Hickey then relayed a little anecdote that further emphasised the way in which West Cork continues to produce young rugby talent that is already benefiting Munster with the performances of Darren Sweetnam and the Wycherley brothers, Fineen and Josh, and looks likely to do so even more in the not too distant future.
“Today we had 20-year-old Paddy Casey from Bantry in for his first senior start in the front row, where and it was fantastic to see how well he did for such a young player. And he was replacing an injured player in Dylan Murphy and he’s from Castletownbere. Paddy’s been a fantastic player for us, he’s with us two years now. It’s just fantastic to see it happening.”
Garryowen have also been parading in recent weeks another promising and exciting young prospect in out-half Ben Healy, a hero for Glenstal when they won their first Munster Schools Cup title last year and who in Saturday’s final kept a remarkable scoring run going with a 100% record and 13 points with the boot.
Saturday’s win means that Con are now very much on course for a Munster Cup-All Ireland League double they last achieved as recently as 2016/17, again under the stewardship of Hickey. They already enjoy a five-point lead at the halfway stage of the AIL although Hickey insists that talk of the double is far too premature.
“This stands us in good stead for the second part of the year but we know better than anyone that all the others will now be looking for scalps.”
Scorers for Cork Constitution: Joe McSwiney 2 tries; Sean French try; Aidan Moynihan 3 pens, 1 con.
Scorers for Garryowen: Cian O’Shea and Liam Coombes try each; Ben Healy 3 pens, 2 cons.
CORK CONSTITUTION: L O’Connell; S French, A McHenry, N Kenneally capt, R Jermyn; A Moynihan, J Higgins; G Duffy, V O’Brien, P Casey, C Kindregan, B Hayes, J McSwiney, K Sheahan, L Cahill.
Rolling replacements: L O’Connor, G Roche, E Mintern, R O’Neill, R Cassidy, J Wren, G Higgins.
GARRYOWEN: D McCarthy; L Coombes, M More, P Collins, C O’Shea; B Healy, N Cronin; N Horan, D Barron, A Keating, K Seymour, D Moore capt, S O’Connor, J Daly, C Oliver. Rolling replacements: L Cronin, B Rowley, S Rennison, R Guerin, J Gavin, T Ferguson, A O’Byrne.
Referee: Robert O’Sullivan (IRFU).