The Cork side go in search of a 28th title when they meet cup rookies Castletroy College in Limerick on St Patrick’s Day, but will have to up their game after struggling to cope with Glenstal’s vigorous challenge.
Christians sealed the win by scoring two high-quality tries, one of them in the first half when they faced into a ferocious wind, but they were never comfortable in the face of Glenstal’s persistence.
Indeed, after powering into what seemed like an unassailable lead with their second try in the 61st minute, Christians took the foot off the pedal, conceded a fourth penalty and then had to defend their lead and territory as Glenstal threw everything into a huge effort to save the game.
Glenstal coach Paul McMahon was disappointed but he paid tribute to his troops for their refusal to accept defeat: “We lost our second row Chris O’Connor early in the game and that cut our line out options and affected our performance in the scrums, but the guys battled on.
“I couldn’t really have asked for more — other than a positive result — the guys are a tight-knit group and they can be pretty proud of their record over the season; 14 wins from 18 games is a good record over a long season,” he said.
McMahon’s CBC counterpart Peter Melia was magnanimous in his praise of Glenstal although “happy and relieved” to be through to another decider.
“You would have to admire them for being so bloody minded and for putting it up to us right to the end. We had to work very hard for this victory, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Having won the toss, Christians decided to play against the elements and it proved to be an inspired decision even if it didn’t look that way in the very early stages.”
Glenstal started in aggressive mood and their hard work was rewarded with two penalties from out half Michael O’Fallon.
Christians lifted the siege very briefly and struck a huge blow when they grabbed a ninth-minute try after their first meaningful attack. Several players, James Mulcahy, Willie Ryan, Brian O’Callaghan, Daryl Foley, Patrick Parfrey and Billy O’Regan were involved before O’Callaghan popped up to finish it off.
Christians had another chance in injury time when Jack Bransfield was stopped on the line but that was after several scary moments when Glenstal threw everything into attack.
Theo Lambton worked wonders to help supply Glenstal with good possession out of touch and there were inspired moments from Duncan Casey, JJ Clarke and Dan Heffernan. But Christians were willing and able to defend and Glenstal had to be satisfied with a third penalty from O’Flynn.
The defensive roles were reversed for much of the second half as Christians set about their task in a workmanlike and calm manner. Odhran Mulrooney banged over a 4th-minute penalty and Patrick Parfrey neatly dropped a goal in the 9th minute.
O’Flynn was a Glenstal hero when he brought off a try saving tackle on winger Darren Loftus as the CBC pack, with O’Callaghan, Bransfield and Kyle O’Dwyer in top form, turned the screw.
A move straight off the training park — when Christians switched play from left to right — worked a treat and Parfrey sent Mulrooney in for his second try of the competition. The full-back added the conversion and the Cork side looked set for a more comfortable victory.
But O’Flynn knocked over a difficult 65th minute penalty after a brilliant break by Ross Ferrara and Glenstal found a new lease of life, with Christians having to call on all of their defensive capabilities before time brought respective doses of relief and disappointment.
B. Bradley, R. Fullam, F. Carney, C. Hughes (captain), D. Costello, M. O’Flynn, J. Hunt, D. Casey, JJ Clarke, P. Lynch, D. Heffernan, C. O’Connor, O. Grennan, T. Lambton, B. Costigan.
Replacements: R. Madden for O’Connor (injured. 15), P. Mullin for Lynch (37), R. Ferrara for Kearney (53), S. Holt for Hunt (65),
O. Mulrooney, D. Loftus, J. Holland, B. O’Regan, B. O’Leary, P. Parfrey, D. Foley, C. Corkery, K. Stokes, J. Bransfield, J. Mulcahy, K. O’Dwyer, J. Crowley, B. O’Callaghan (captain), W. Ryan.
Replacements: B. Hayes for Crowley (60).
L. Colgan (M.A.R)