Battle-hardened Cork Con gunning for glory

Cork Constitution captain James Ryan believes his team’s historic Bateman Cup victory will breed further success at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow when Con face Clontarf in the Ulster Bank League Division 1A final.

Ryan led the Cork side to a fourth successive All-Ireland Cup triumph on Saturday when they retained the Bateman Cup with a pulsating 38-19 victory at Galwegians. And the No.8 has already seen the benefits of that win in the build-up to tomorrow’s decider as Con attempt to win their first league title since 2009-10, when they also landed a double.

“The double, yeah, and we’re in the final of the Munster Senior Cup Saturday week as well so it’s a busy few weeks,” Ryan said.

“Winning last Saturday was huge. There was such a buzz at training on Tuesday and we’re raring to go again this weekend. If we’d have lost it would have been a different story and heads would be down but we’re all excited now.”

Victory, unsurprisingly, lessened the soreness of the bodies in the Con camp and Ryan said he was embracing the run of tough games his club have been involved in, having beaten provincial foes Young Munster the previous week in the league semi-final. Clontarf, who defeated capital rivals UCD 24-10 in their semi, enjoyed a weekend off as Con were battling Galwegians although their coach Andy Wood said: “You can look at that two ways. I know Con will be very battle-hardened after a very physical game.

“Galwegians are a very big side and Con are a big, physical side also.

“They’ll be licking their wounds, but they’ll know they’re battle-hardened for the match. We’d be rested and going through the normal match-day prep. We’ll be a bit fresher but they’ll be possibly a bit more hardened from it.”

Ryan relished the run of games that has brought Cork Con to a first All-Ireland League final in six years.

“Absolutely. That’s three tough games now with Galwegians on the last day of the league, Young Munsters in the semi-final and then Galwegians again last weekend. So it’s going to stand to us I think.”

As important as their Bateman Cup victory was, it will not distract Con from pursuing their major objective for the season which was to put a mediocre couple of league campaigns in the shade with a long-awaited title success.

“At the start of the season this was the goal for us, the league. A lot of the younger lads have never played here (in the Aviva) so it’s great to get Con to a final here.”

Ryan continued: “I’ve been here five years now and this is the best run we’ve had in the league. We finished fourth in my second year, I think, and it was mid-table then. Last year was a poor performance again so it’s great to be back up there. I joined the club to win the league and that’s something I’ll hopefully do on Sunday now.”

If Con are to emerge victorious in Dublin tomorrow they will have to beat a side that finished eight points clear of the runners-up from Cork at the top of 1A, although honours were even between the two teams during the league campaign, both winning the away fixtures in their meetings.

Clontarf fly-half Joey Carberry, like his opposite number Tomás Quinlan an academy player with his province, does not believe league form will have any impact on tomorrow’s final insisting: “It’s just another game of rugby.” Yet the 20-year-old Auckland-born playmaker, who made his Leinster debut off the bench in March in a PRO12 game against Glasgow, believes the experience he has around him in the backline from the likes of Mick McGrath can tip the balance in ‘Tarf’s favour.

“They’ve been huge, and the close games, where it comes down to the last five minutes, to have a reassuring voice there, and someone who has been through it in your ear and telling you what to do, is really helpful,” Carberry said.

“You can learn a lot from them because they’ve played a lot more games than me. It’s always good to learn from them. They’ve been through a lot more and they’ve seen a lot more games. Even just a bit more of a calming voice. It does get frantic out there, so it is really reassuring and it helps me a lot.”


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