Six days after the physical and emotional trauma of losing out on an AIL final battle with Clontarf, Hickey was delighted to see his side overcome another searching examination by Young Munster to win a 27th title.
There may be no national league crown, but Constitution’s haul of two big triumphs — they also won the Bateman Cup in a thrilling run-in — is a cause for celebration.
Hickey said: “The Bateman and Munster Cups are hugely important competitions to us. Today there was always a bit of a worry that we couldn’t get back up for another match just six days after last week’s defeat. We couldn’t work the guys on Tuesday or Thursday, I thought we started very well, looked fresh, were up for it, but in the second half, in the face of some very good ‘Munster’s attack, the fatigue started to creep in. However, they stood up manfully.
“We have played six absolutely massive games in a row, amongst them the bonus point requirement game against Galwegians to get the home semi-final against Young Munster’s, the Bateman Cup final against Galwegians, the All Ireland League final and now this Cup final. It’s fantastic to be there and a great tribute to the players. We went right through our squad, we had a couple of under-20s who came from exams and made themselves available, people like John Ryan, who wanted to play for the club too, and we needed it because we had a lot of injuries.
“Munsters deserve huge credit too, they lost a couple to the Irish U20s, a couple to the Irish Sevens and then Sean Duggan who was injured. Duggan has been the stand-out player in the league this year, he got injured the last game down in Cork and the guy who came in for him today played incredibly well. It was another close encounter and we expected nothing less from them.”
Hickey can be especially pleased with their first half display. There was little between the teams in terms of opportunities, but Con got full value for their efforts with two penalties and a try to give them an 11 points advantage at the break.
They did leave one scoring chance behind though when Aaron Spring lost the ball on the line after a marvellous break by Darren Sweetnam. However, Munster squad member Sweetnam had better luck himself when he dotted down in the 26th minute after being set up by Brian Hayes.
Tomas Quinlan kicked two penalties and Young Munster will regret missed chances — full back Paul Downes sending two penalty attempts narrowly wide while Craig O’Hanlon was disgusted to be called back after he crossed the line four minutes from the break for an earlier knock-on offence that yielded an attacking scrum to his side.
Young Munster had the only try of the second half, a superb effort when Darragh O’Neill was sent over by Abrie Griesel with nine minutes remaining, but Con dusted themselves down and recovered from the loss of two players to the sin-bin — Jason Higgins and Brian Hayes — to get the final score of the game from Quinlan.
For Young Munster coach David Corkery it’s time to move on.
His year in Limerick complete, Corkery is rumoured to be heading for a coaching job with Dolphin, but he said it was far from confirmed. “It’s not confirmed at all, and for now, I just want to wish Young Munster all the best; it has been one of the most enjoyable years in rugby I’ve had, either as a player or coach, and my only disappointment is that they didn’t have some silverware for all the effort.”
D Sweetnam; A Spring, L O’Connell, N Kenneally, R Jermyn; T Quinlan, J Higgins; B Quinlan, M Abbott, J Ryan; C Kindregan, B Hayes; G Lawlor, J Murphy, J Ryan (captain).
C O’Flaherty, G Sweeney, L O’Connor, S Dwyer, D Lyons, R Foley, J.J O’Neill.
P Downes; C O’Hanlon, M Doyle, J Harrington, D O’Neill; A Griesel, R Guerin, G Ryan, G Slattery (captain), E Ryan; T Goggin, D Gallagher; A Ross, D Dee, B Kilkenny.
D Begley, P Allen, S Rennison, C Nash.
E Hogan-O’Connell (M.A.R)