A late drop goal from the captain Barry Keeshan gave Dolphin the points and, more importantly, ended a staggeringly long wait for competitive success over their city rivals.
With the Constitution dressing room stunned into silence, the celebrations were in keeping with the fact that Dolphin’s last meaningful victory over the Temple Hill club was a Munster Senior League game in 1989.
If the game itself left something to be desired, the manner in which they achieved victory with that magnificent 40-metre kick from Keeshan was certainly worth the wait for the Dolphin supporters.
Understandably, coach Steve Ford was delighted and even managed to suggest that it had been planned for Keeshan to attempt a drop goal in the plight they found themselves in, two points adrift with two minutes to play. “Funnily enough, we did discuss what we might try to do if we were within a point or two coming to the end, but nobody could kick it for Barry – he had to do that himself and he did it brilliantly,” he said.
Ford is aware that the road ahead will be long and hard: “It’s going to be a very intense and very closely-fought league so it’s important to get a good start and it’s crucial at any rate to win our home games. I was very pleased with many aspects of the performance, but I recognise there are areas for improvement,” he added.
One of those weak areas was most certainly the lineout where Dolphin struggled badly after Kyle O’Dwyer retired injured early in the game. Happily, Dolphin benefited through a powerful scrum where Dave Ryan and Christy Condon imposed themselves to the point that Constitution struggled and indeed were forced to concede a penalty try in the first half.
Yet, Dolphin will recognise that they were fortunate to emerge with the win too because Constitution wasted points by missing five of their six kicks at goal, three of them from in front of the posts. The last miss came just seconds before Keeshan’s crucial contribution.
Certainly, the Constitution coach Brian Walsh wasn’t pleased with the way his side gave up those scoring opportunities. “We did more than enough in terms of creativity to put ourselves in with a chance of winning, but failed to capitalise. All credit to Dolphin who took their chances when they arose; in a tight game you’ve simply got to do that.”
Dolphin had hardly time to settle before conceding a kickable penalty to Richard Lane. Happily for them, that second minute attempt went wide but they weren’t so lucky shortly afterwards when Tom Gleeson got in for a fine opening try and Lane duly converted. Barry Keeshan narrowed the gap with a penalty and it took them until the 35th minute to snatch the lead.
With Merle O’Connell in the sin-bin, Dolphin’s strong scrum prospered and referee Alan Lewis had a choice of allowing a try from Dolphin number eight James Coughlan or awarding a penalty try instead. He chose the latter, making it just that bit easier for Barry Keeshan to convert for a 10-7 lead.
Constitution had a dream second-half start with a try from Frank Cogan inside two minutes when he took advantage of poor control by Dolphin on their own throw to a lineout.
Dolphin tried everything to get back on top, but mistakes allied to Con’s aggressive defence combined to keep them at bay – until Keeshan took his scoring opportunity right at the death.
DOLPHIN: D. McCarthy, N. O’Driscoll, D. Barnes, E. Moloney, P. Hurley, B. Keeshan (captain), S. Cronin, D. Ryan, D. Nathan, C. Condon C. Rowe, K. O’Dwyer, R. Allen, J. Coughlan, B. O’Mahony.
Replacements: F. Stone for O’Dwyer (inj., 22), R. Kenneally for McCarthy, J. Brugnaut for D. Ryan (both 56), S. Cotter for Nathan (70), C. O’Flynn for Barnes (78), Ryan for Condon (inj., 79)
CORK CONSTITUTION: D. Lyons, R. Lane, T. Gleeson, E. Ryan (capt), C. Healy, S. Deasy, D. Williams, M. Gateley, R. Quinn, S. Archer, M. O’Connell, B. Holland, E. Leamy, F. Cogan, P. O’Mahony.
Replacements: D. Hurley for Gateley (39), B. Hayes for Cogan (injured, 45), S. Zebo for Healy (injured, 63), A. Ryan for O’Mahony (78)
Referee: A. Lewis (IRFU).