The sides produced a highly entertaining final in front of a fine crowd before Con bridged a 20-year gap by capturing the title for the 23rd time.
The AIB League champions had to withstand stern resistance from opposition who belied their Division Two status in emphatic fashion. Crescent even made light of conceding a try to the favourites within 35 seconds of the kick-off to lead 13-11 with 56 minutes played. It was then that the opportunism of winger Cronan Healy and the greater experience of the Constitution side told and they went on for a deserved win.
In a competitive and well refereed game, Munster prop FedericoPucciariello, Crescent’s stand-in coach on the day, was well entitled to praise his side for its impressive showing.
“I think we made everybody in Old Crescent very proud with the way we played,” he said. “We have a great band of players now and there are lessons to be learned from this and we have to keep going. We had a great game plan but, unfortunately, we lost too many line-outs”.
While Constitution coach Brian Walsh has savoured success at national level, the club have suffered a Munster Cup famine in recent years. Their elation at laying their hands on the coveted old trophy was understandable, with Walsh understandably happy to see his side prevail:
“There was huge physicality in the game and a lot of good rugby and I felt the skill levels were good, given the high levels of passion and enthusiasm,” said Walsh. “We have been telling the younger players how hard it is to win a cup and they know that now after wins over UL Bohs, UCC, Shannon, Garryowen and now Old Crescent.”
Con got the start they wanted, attacking from the kick-off and Evan Ryan and Duncan Williams, a hugely influential player over the 80 minutes, set up a try for Tom Gleeson. As rank outsiders, this early blow could have seriously undermined Crescent, but they relished the challenge.
Con lost the injured Jeremy Manning after 13 minutes withAnthony Horgan coming off the bench to play at full-back and Darragh Lyons moving to out-half. They stretched their lead to 8-nil with a Richard Lane penalty, Mark Woods narrowed the gap with a Crescent penalty and they went in front with a well-taken try at the posts by veteran hooker Pat Humphreys. Woods converted and Crescent led 10-8 until the stroke of half-time, when a moment of madness by back-row forward Juan Pablo Ruiz cost his side dearly.
Not alone was he yellow carded for throwing a punch, but Lane knocked over the penalty from halfway.
Even though they played the first 10 minutes after the break with only 14 players, Crescent were the better side, not only keeping Con scoreless through the 10 minutes but regaining the lead through a second Woods penalty.
That was as good as it got for Crescent. On 56 minutes, Cronan Healy struck the crucial blow.
He followed up his own clever kick into the left corner, hand tripped Alan Purcell as he tried to clear and then pounced on the loose ball for a try. Lane landed a fine conversion before opening the gap to eight points with a 68th minute penalty.
The trophy was on the way to Temple Hill for the first time since 1989.
D. Lyons; R. Lane, T. Gleeson, E. Ryan, C. Healy; J. Manning, D. Williams; G. Murray, L. Gabriel, T. Ryan, M. O’Connell, D. Kelly, E. Leamy, B. Cuttriss capt, W. Holland.
Replacements: A. Horgan for Manning 17 mins; F. Cogan for Kelly 50; R. Hassan for Murray 54.
R. Moloney; A. Carroll, W. Leahy capt, D. Grace, E. Dalton; M. Woods, A. Purcell; P.J. McLoughlin, P. Humphreys, E. McGovern, L. Toia Tiola, M. Ryan, L. Viapula, J. O’Neill, J.P. Ruiz.
Replacements: T. Bowles for McLoughlin half time; D. Sheehan for O’Neill 59; K. Ellis for Dalton 64; McLoughlin for Bowles 67.
Darragh McCormack (MAR).