After watching the Cork side succumb to table-toppers Shannon at Thomond Park on Saturday, he is more convinced than ever that the way forward is through youth. “Already the age profile of teams in the AIB League has come down. It will fall further and both Shannon and Garryowen have benefited from youth policies.”
Unfortunately, Walsh noted that, in some areas of the country, the resources are not there, and in Cork, particularly, there is tough competition between clubs for the available talent.
Traditionally, Constitution recruit either directly from the major rugby playing schools or from UCC, but Walsh noted: “College are flying at the moment, they could be in the first division next season and that will affect our supply.”
Shannon do not have similar problems and three years ago embarked on a planned campaign to develop without the players contracted to Munster and Ireland.
In doing so the club has unearthed several young talented players.
Shannon are in a home semi-final against Clontarf after this latest victory, but Shannon coach Mick Galwey warned: “We’re happy to get a home draw in the semi-final but we are conscious that Clontarf will be no pushover. We struggled to beat them at Thomond Park a few weeks back and we will have to be at our best to see off the challenge again.”Pat McCarthy gave Constitution that early boost with two expertly struck penalties, the second from near half way. But Shannon dragged themselves back into the game and it was obviously a day for the goal kickers as Tom Cregan displayed unerring accuracy with three successive shots at goal.
Then Shannon turned the screw when Ian Dowling got in for a try after Johnny O’Connor stole Constitution’s throw at a line-out. Cregan converted and also added the points to a try from James Blaney that came after a line out take and maul.
Shannon’s 23-6 lead was enhanced six minutes into the second half and O’Connor, again, had a major part. He broke through a tackle, made 40 metres and sent Cregan away on his left. The full-back was hauled down short of the line but gave Fionn McLoughlin an inside scoring pass. For the second time in the game, Cregan’s kick went in via an upright to establish an unassailable lead.
Constitution had a lot more territory in the second half but the Shannon defence was as mean as the attack, that is until Cian Mahony was sent through the middle to grab a consolation try near the posts midway through the half. McCarthy kicked the conversion to narrow the gap to 17 points.
Dowling grabbed his second try and Cregan converted before Constitution struck back at the end for a Brendan Cuttriss try, converted by McCarthy.
: T. Cregan, I. Dowling, B. Tuohy, E. Cahill, F. McLoughlin, A. Thompson, F. O’Loughlin, F. Roche, J. Blaney, T. Buckley, E. Halvey, T. Hayes (captain), C. McMahon, D. Quinlan, J. O’Connor.
: L. Hogan for Roche (47), G. Noonan for Hayes, F. McNamara for O’Loughlin (both 57), N. Conroy for Blaney, D. O’Donovan for Cahill (both 67).
: C. O’Sullivan, P. O’Brien, J. V. Igarza, C. Mahony (captain), A. Ross, B. Keeshan, P. McCarthy, T. Ryan, T. O’Callaghan, M. Ross, T. Bowman, S. O’Connor, N. O’Sullivan, B. Cuttriss, F. Quinlan.
: D. Fogarty for O’Callaghan (27), J. Cullen for O’Connor (57), J. Stringer for O’Sullivan (65).
: A. Rolland (IRFU)