It has been quite the year to mark Cork Constitution’s 125th anniversary, what with Peter O’Mahony becoming the latest player from the Temple Hill club to be selected as a Lion and a record fifth successive Bateman Cup victory already in the bag.
Yesterday they were named Senior Club of the Year at the 2017 Munster Rugby Awards and another trophy could follow if all goes to plan and Con win their fifth All-Ireland League title in Sunday’s final with reigning champions Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium.
That would be the icing on the cake for Con’s senior team manager Kenny Murphy.
In his 11th year as manager, he has lived and breathed Cork Con rugby virtually all of his 50 years, following both his father Noel and grandfather Noel Snr, into the first team, and then earning recognition with both Munster and Ireland.
He has seen a litany of the club’s players capped at provincial and Test level in that time and some remarkable team success yet it is seven years since Con lifted the Ulster Bank League trophy for the fourth and most recent time and last season’s final defeat to Clontarf is still fresh in the memory.
Saturday’s Bateman Cup final win over Old Belvedere and the Munster Senior Cup triumph that preceded it are both great sources of pride but regaining a UBL title for the first time since 2010 would be something special again.
Has Con’s time come again? The former full-back is wary of tempting fate. “You would hope so but they’re a very young side as well and it’s not a young league,” Murphy told the Irish Examiner.
“Of course we’ve been there or thereabouts, like all Con sides have been over the years - we lost one against Belvedere in 2011 in the last couple of minutes with a good few of the lads (Simon Zebo, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Duncan Williams, Peter O’Mahony) that are Munster players now.
“So every year it’s one of our goals to win an AIL title but it’s a tough division. This year was no exception. Every year it’s getting better and better so it’s nice to be there at the end and that’s what we aim for every year at Con.
“Hopefully, in our second final in a row, we’ll get over the line but it doesn’t always work like that.”
Con have had to keep improving to stay the course and Murphy believes the side coached by Brian Hickey with assistance from Paul Barr, Paul McCarthy and Ralph Keyes will be stronger for their 2016 disappointment. He is also confident in the systems put in place to keep producing quality players for the club’s senior team, pointing to two national U20 Fraser McMullen Cup titles in the last four years.
“Years ago, when Con were winning AILs, we had the same system producing great players, and the club always aims to do our own academy system well and it’s been good for us.”
Murphy feels the same way about his own association with the club, having spent a lifetime steeped in the Cork Constitution way, and earning 22 Ireland caps between 1990 and 1992, which included being in the 1991 World Cup squad alongside club-mates Keyes and Donal Lenihan.
“I’ve been very lucky. My grandfather would have started us all off, through to my father, the Kiernans, just like any of the families.
“We’re a family club, the O’Leary’s, Gerry and Niall Murray, my brother Charlie played, my brother in law Mikey Bradley played, so we’re steeped in it.
“It’s great to see Cork Constitution in brackets after a fella’s name, whether he’s playing for Munster or Ireland and we’re lucky again to have another Lion in Peter. That’s huge for us and his father (John) is steeped in it as well.
“It just feels like a special club in this city, like Nemo, St Finbarr’s, Glen Rovers, Blackrock are steeped in GAA tradition, Cork City are going well, so we’re lucky we live in a great sporting city and when we’re on fire it’s a great place to follow sport.
“But whether we win, lose or draw the final, we’ll be back out there again in the middle of July, training for another season.
“We’ve been that way for 125 years and it would be a special way to mark the anniversary, no doubt.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved