’Hinch complete dream quadruple

UCC’S brave bid to put back-to-back AIB Division 2 titles together came undone in their final game of the season against Ballynahinch on Saturday.

With promotion to next season’s newly restructured Division 1B already secured, it was asking a lot from the students to summon up one last effort against the quadruple-chasing County Down side, conquerors of Cork Con in the AIB Cup final.

At the final whistle the students looked a mentally and physically exhausted outfit, but nevertheless can look back on pride on a season when, for the first time in their history, College achieved promotion to the top tier of Irish club rugby.

However, Saturday also marked the break-up of a team. The nature of College rugby is that they’re in a constant state of flux, and the process of rebuilding for next season has already begun. Their outstanding out half, Gavin Dunne, moves to Dublin for work reasons, Peter Shallow starts an athletics career at Loughborough University, specialising in the 110m hurdles while Alex Kelleher begins a Masters course in Dublin in September. But despite the changes in personnel, Twomey is confident UCC can sustain a challenge in Division 1B.

“Players are moving on but David O’Callaghan played today, his namesake Brian is coming through. Also John Ryan, Gavin Duffy – I could keep naming them. In fairness to the schools, the Munster U19 and U20 set-ups they’re emerging well prepared. They can handle senior rugby.”

Twomey criticised a long season which saw UCC players, currently locked in studies for exams, having to put the books aside and risk injury to play this final. “You’d have to ask the powers that be to have a bit of respect for people, to have a bit of respect for the clubs. A bit of commonsense helps. It’s hard for these players: they started here in a Sevens tournament last August and here we are second weekend in May still playing. Last year we had a World Cup and the league was finished a month earlier.”

One player Twomey hopes to hold onto next season is his captain, Sam Cronin. For the second year running, he was named as the Ireland Club International No 9 but Cronin was never invited into the Munster Rugby Academy.

“I’m doing my finals in finance, and I don’t know what I’ll do next season,” admits Cronin. “There are no jobs out there so I may apply for a post-grad or masters.

“I wouldn’t say I’m bitter about not picking up a contract. I’m disappointed alright. Everyone has got aspirations; I am disappointed it didn’t happen for me. There are very good scrumhalves out there and in the Academy who play well week-in, week-out. It’s unfortunate I didn’t get the nod. Getting a contract is a bit of a longshot now because I’m 22.”

Meanwhile, ‘Hinch’ completed a memorable season bagging their fourth senior title adding this Division Two play-off trophy to the Ulster Senior Cup, Ulster Senior League and AIB Cup.

However, their dream of a quadruple looked to be in trouble in the first half where UCC played their best rugby of the season. After six minutes they posted a brilliantly worked try. It started with a midfield break by Kelleher before the ball was worked cleverly down the blindside, where Dunne fed centre Ivan Dineen who cantered along the touchline and over. The out half added the difficult touchline conversion.

Jonny Cullen replied for Hinch but, on 16 minutes, Wayne Falvey pounced for UCC’s second before Dunne came into his own landing peach of drop goal and two penalties as College went in at the break leading 21-15.

After the interval, UCC lost their shape and composure, making too many basic efforts. Hinch capitalised with Neil Hanna and man-of- the-match Nevin Spence notching tries that ultimately sealed the title for the Ulster men.

Scorers for Ballynahinch: Tries: Cullen, Ferris, Spence, Hanna; Con: Bambry; Pens: Bambry 2.

UCC: Tries: Dineen, Falvey; Con: Dunne; Pens: Dunne 2; Drop: Dunne.

BALLYNAHINCH: J Cullen (capt); A Ferris, N Spence, D Nicholson, N McBriar; R Bambry, H McAleese; C Stevenson, N Hanna, J Cronin; J Gunson, C Napier; P Orr, M Graham, R McBride. Replacements: L Johnston for McBride, 48; D McGregor for Orr, 53; B Mannus for Gunson, 83.

UCC: S Deasy; P Shallow, A Kelleher, I Dineen, C Crowley; G Dunne, S Cronin; R O’Neill, W Falvey, S Archer; N Keogh, I Nagle; D O’Callaghan, S O’Sullivan, R Barry.

Replacements: D Barnes for Kelleher (blood 26-ht); W Walsh for Kelleher, 54; J Moynihan for Falvey, W O’Donovan for Archer, both 60; J Ryan for O’Sullivan, 61; D Barnes for Crowley, 67; E Nugent for Keogh, 75.

Ref: P Fitzgibbon (IRFU).

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