Cork Con retain spine for bid to retain crown

Cork Constitution captain Niall Kenneally insists that his side will have to go back to square one as they aim to retain their Ulster Bank League crown in 2017/18.

Cork Con retain spine for bid to retain crown

Con claimed their first UBL title in seven years with a thrilling triumph over previous champions Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium last May, and also enjoyed final victories in the Munster Senior Cup, All-Ireland Cup and Cork Charity Cup during an unforgettable campaign.

Yet, because of how unpredictable the league has proven to be in recent seasons, Kenneally is aware that the Temple Hill men can’t afford to be complacent.

“Start again, back to square one. Every team says that they will try and win everything at the start of the year. We secured the Munster Senior Cup just after Christmas, and we were able to put that to bed,” Kenneally remarked.

“Then we could really focus on the All-Ireland Cup and the AIL. If you don’t concentrate on the Saturday every time in this league, you get beaten. There is no gap between top and bottom, everyone beats everyone. You see that with the fixtures, you couldn’t bet on this league because it is so unpredictable.”

Kenneally was speaking yesterday at the launch of the new Ulster Bank League season at Old Wesley RFC in Dublin, where he was joined by players from the remaining nine teams in Division 1A.

Con are expected to be one of the key challengers once again this term, and while he acknowledged that a number of players have left the squad in the off-season, he believes the spine of the team will not be affected.

“A couple of guys have moved away, and a couple have come in, but the spine is the same. Rory Burke has gone to play professionally in Nottingham, and John Poland is playing with UCC. Gerry Hurley is back in his professional career in France. Craig Higgins and a couple of guys have come in.

“I don’t think we will be weakened necessarily, but the other side is that some guys are beginning to push with Munster. Sometimes you are victims of your own success because you see less and less of these guys as they do well. Part of you is happy that they are doing well, but the selfish part of you is that they will play for you.”

At 26 years of age, Kenneally’s sole focus as a rugby player is now on playing for Cork Con. However, he was previously a member of the Munster Academy himself, and made seven appearances for the province’s ‘A’ side in the British & Irish Cup.

After his time with the Red Army came to an end, he had offers to play professionally in France and England, but ultimately opted to combine domestic rugby with a new career path.

“I suppose the timing wasn’t great [at Munster]. Rob Penney would have been involved when I was brought in. Then when it was my time to graduate from the Academy, Penney was out and the new management team at the time then took charge of recruitment. Maybe they wouldn’t have seen the same amount of me as the previous administration did.

“The alternative option then was to go and ply your trade somewhere else. There were options on the table in France and the Championship. I suppose I would have been 23/24 at the time, and I decided just to focus on my career. I’m doing a Masters in structural engineering.

“I was able to get my competitive fix of the rugby playing with Con and by playing at a high level,” Kenneally added.

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