Final four scramble for Division 1A decider slot

Cork Constitution’s form in the capital has not been great this season - four losses in six trips - but a repeat of last April’s 19-16 semi-final win at Lansdowne would do nicely when they visit Terenure College this afternoon.

Con’s gnarled pack and sharpshooting out-half Tomas Quinlan came alive in last season’s Ulster Bank League play-offs, lowering the colours of Lansdowne (19-16) and Clontarf (25-21) to guide the club to their first Division 1A title since 2010. Holding onto the trophy is a very tough task - Shannon last achieved the feat in 2006.

Brian Hickey’s men are certainly battle-hardened after last Saturday’s 32-12 Bateman Cup final defeat to Lansdowne, so this is as much a mental battle as they look to spoil Terenure’s Lakelands party. 

‘Nure are yet to reach a league decider, going closest in 2015 when Clontarf ended their hopes in the last-four, so Con will hope that their greater play-off experience can come to bear.

There will be a reshuffle of the Con back-three with Munster calling up Shane Daly, and that is a real area of strength for Terenure who averaged 35 points per game in the last four rounds. 

Their former Leinster winger Sam Coghlan Murray and Jake Swaine sit on eight tries each.

Conor Kindregan and Brian Hayes are up against Ireland Club International second rows Michael Melia and Alex Thompson. 

Luke Cahill, Gerry Hurley, Hayes and Quinlan, who landed the decisive late penalty in the 30-27 home win over ‘Nure three weeks ago, need to produce big performances today.

Meanwhile, in the other semi-final, Garryowen will attempt an ambush of Lansdowne’s league and cup double bid. 

They have a potential match winner in captain Neil Cronin who has earned a one-year deal with Munster. 

The goal-kicking scrum-half has led the Light Blues to Munster Senior Cup glory and their first Division 1A semi-final since 2009.

Garryowen beat Lansdowne 24-16 at Dooradoyle in early February when Cronin kicked 14 points and helped to set up Munster Academy winger Liam Coombes’ clinching try (one of his 11 during the regular season) - but doing it in the Aviva is the acid test.

Bookmakers have priced Garryowen (minus Bill Johnston) at 4/1, while Mike Ruddock’s powerful Lansdowne side, who have some unsung heroes in Josh O’Rourke and Willie Earle, are 1/7 favourites to progress to their first league decider since 2015.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A SEMI-FINALS: 

LANSDOWNE (1st) v GARRYOWEN (4th), Aviva Stadium main pitch, 2.30pm 

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form:

Lansdowne: WWWWWWWWWWWWLWLWWW; Garryowen: LWWLWLWWWLLWWWLWWW 

Ulster Bank League Top Scorers -

Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 196; Tries: Mark O’Keeffe, Alan Bennie 9 each; Garryowen: Points: Neil Cronin 173; Tries: Liam Coombes 11 

Recent League Meetings

- Saturday, November 4, 2017: Lansdowne 32 Garryowen 22, Aviva Stadium main pitch; Saturday, February 3, 2018: Garryowen 24 Lansdowne 16, Dooradoyle

TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd) v CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd), Lakelands Park, 3pm 

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form:

Terenure College: WWWWLWLLWLWLWWWWLW; Cork Constitution: WLWLLWWWLWWLWLWWWL 

Ulster Bank League Top Scorers -

Terenure College: Points: Mark O’Neill 116; Tries: Jake Swaine 8; Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 149; Tries: Rob Jermyn 6 

Recent League Meetings -

Saturday, September 23, 2017: Terenure College 39 Cork Constitution 35, Lakelands Park; Saturday, April 7, 2018: Cork Constitution 30 Terenure College 27, Temple Hill.

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