CORK Constitution overcame Clontarf at Temple Hill on Saturday to book their place in the AIB League final against Garryowen, but the Cork side had to battle hard for their win.
An emphatic 36-7 away win over the Dublin outfit earlier this year suggested one-way traffic for Con at home, but that wasn’t how it turned out, with Richard Lane’s 70th minute try finally making the game safe.
Con coach Brian Walsh wasn’t surprised. “People were talking us up during the week, saying Clontarf might as well not turn up for the game, but we didn’t see it that way. We thought it was going to be a very close game, and it was.
“When we beat them earlier in the year I don’t think they were at full strength. They were coming down for this game with nothing to lose.”
Clontarf had the wind in the first half and didn’t stand off their fancied opponents, but in the 25th minute, when the Dubliners were again on the front foot, a loose pass was picked off by Cronan Healy, who galloped home from the halfway line. Daragh Lyons missed the conversion.
A Lyons error coming into first-half injury time gave Clontarf a scrum on the Con line, an ideal opportunity to get back into the game, but the Cork side repelled a series of attacks under the posts. It was a huge boost, as Brian Walsh acknowledged later.
“Playing into the wind we were lucky to be five points up at half-time, to be honest. We stood up to some good pressure from Clontarf just before the break – of our own making, maybe. It was absolutely vital that we hung on at that stage – it gave them nothing to hang onto.”
Darragh O’Shea kicked a penalty for Clontarf early in the second half, a score which stung Con into action: on 53 minutes Tom Gleeson made a fine break which yielded a penalty. Lyons kicked to the corner and after a series of drives, Tim Ryan got the touchdown, and Lyons converted.
Lane killed the game with his try ten minutes from time. The full-back joined a sweeping Constitution move and kicked ahead to the corner; he needed a kind bounce and he got one, and Con were fourteen points up. Lyons didn’t convert but the score deflated Clontarf, and they never looked like reeling in their opponents afterwards.
“They kicked three points in the second half but we withstood everything else,” said Walsh afterwards. “It was our defence which won us the game.”
His counterpart, Andy Wood of Clontarf, was understandably disappointed but had nothing but praise for his side.
“We gave it our all, we gave it everything and we came up short,” said Wood, “But I’m delighted with the effort the guys put in. It’s been a super season for us.
“It’s just the tries they got – a couple of intercepts and one just scrambling... we couldn’t take advantage of the patterns and the half-breaks we made. But credit to Con, they’re a dogged side and they earned it at the end.”
CORK CONSTITUTION: R Lane; J Kelly, T Gleeson, E Ryan, C Healy; D Lyons, J Stringer; D Hurley, D Murray, T Ryan; M O’Connell (capt), S O’Connor; F Cogan, B Cutriss, B Holland.
Replacements: D O’Leary for Stringer, 60; E Leamy for Cutriss 67; D Kane for Kelly, 67; C. Murphy for Hurley, 72; J Moloney for O’Connell, 72; R Quinn for D Murray, 76; P Broughan for Lyons, 80.
CLONTARF: I Keatley; P Howard, D O’Shea, C Keegan, M Hewitt; P O’Brien, S Treacy; N Treston, N Carson, A Clarke; A Trenier, D O Siochain; S Crawford, C Elvin, M Garvey.
Replacements: S O’Donnell and D Keane for Keatley and Hewitt, 58; K Dorian for Treston, 60; N O’Brien for Howard, 68; P Perdue for Trenier, 75; B O’Donnell for Keegan, 77.
Referee: G. Clancy (IRFU).
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