Although willed on by the home fans at the Mardyke on Saturday, College rarely reached their potential against a dogged Nenagh Ormond side. But UCC’s efforts were rewarded by a stunning 77th minute try which was started and finished by Paul Kiernan.
Kiernan began the move deep in the home defence with Cillian Ansbro and Gerry Ryan making the hard yards before the centre was perfectly positioned to touch down the game’s only try. Kevin O’Keeffe, who kicked two first-half penalties, nailed the conversion from the touchline.
With a place in the last four secure – albeit a difficult game away to Banbridge – UCC head coach David O’Mahony was smiling in the aftermath.
“It’s fair to say that today wasn’t about free flowing rugby, it was about attitude, defence, work rate, heart and our guys had it in spades.
“Our defence all season has been great. Defence wins games, you’ve got to ask questions of teams when they have the ball, you can’t be giving away easy penalties and you work and work.
“Tackling is the easiest thing in the world if you want to do it and some of our guys put in 20 odd tackles a man. The work rate was phenomenal. Yes, we made life difficult for ourselves at times and, yes, we made mistakes but we kept working.
“It wasn’t our greatest day with the ball, but this was about a team not prepared to be beaten; to keep Nenagh to zero was some achievement.
O’Mahony is not concerned about having to travel north: “Given what they have done all season they deserve a place in the play-offs.
“It is a pity we’re not at home but we will go to Banbridge with our tails up and I think they will fear us.
“It’s just a pity our captain Paul Derham (broken leg) will miss it, but we’ve got this far for him.”
C McAuliffe, K O’Keeffe, K Slater (captain), P Kiernan, J Kiernan, T Clifford, C O’Regan, C Slowey, B Burns, R O’Donovan, B Mitchell, B O’Byrne, C Barry, C Gallagher, E Earle.
D Healy, S O’Hanlon, R Moran, G Ryan, C Ansbro.
M Walsh, R O’Brien, D Corcoran, W O’Connor, D Corcoran, K Hifo, M Fogarty, J Hayes, P O’Connor, F Brislane, K O’Gormon, K O’Flaherty, M Slattery (captain), A Kavanagh, L Viapola.
C Brislane, A Doyle, A Grey, P O’Leary, E Maloney.
E Hogan-O’Connell (IRFU)