There is a residue from the not-too-distant past when up to a third of the Clontarf first team were from the south, mostly from Cork Constitution. The club was once affectionately known as “Contarf.”
As the Ulster Bank League champions get ready to defend their title at the Aviva Stadium today (1pm), there are still a few from the south endeavouring to overcome this final hurdle against Lansdowne.
The impact of the Munster contingent over the last few years is clear, and two of the number, Evan Ryan and Sam Cronin, were rewarded with the captaincy of the north Dublin club in recent seasons.
Cronin is the current skipper and he is looking forward to this afternoon: “It’s probably the toughest match of the year though, it’s cup final rugby, the last game of the season, so everyone will want to leave everything on the pitch and there won’t be a holding back.
"In one sense, it’s something like the games against Cork Con (Bateman Cup final) and the semi-final against Terenure, but it is a grander occasion coming to a place like the Aviva.
“Sometimes occasions like this can get to guys but I think we have enough experience within the squad that it won’t matter, the motivation will be there.”
Of late, Clontarf have started matches as favourites, the last two in particular, but recent form against Lansdowne suggests they face a stern test against Mike Ruddock’s side, champions from the year before.
“We can’t ignore, I suppose, the fact that they beat us quite well in our most recent encounter (35-0), they’ve beaten us twice this season, they were top of the league because they have been the most consistent and strongest team throughout the year.
"We are underdogs but it is only a small part of our motivation and build-up to the match. We recognise we are going to have to produce our biggest performance of the year to beat this Lansdowne side.”
After five years of Leinster dominance in this competition, Cronin is proud to be one of those keeping the Munster flag flying at headquarters today.
“It’s just the way Ireland has gone, a lot of guys of my age found there were no jobs available so we had to come up to Dublin, but it’s great to have myself, Evan and Dermot O’Meara involved, although there were a few more; there is huge strength in underage rugby in Leinster at the moment and they’ve pulled away a bit from Munster. But the time will come again for Munster, Ulster and Connacht clubs because it is a cyclical thing.”
Cronin wouldn’t be overawed by the setting for this showpiece. “Most of us have played here at least a couple of times now and I really don’t think it is an issue we have to worry about, it’s a great pitch and a great opportunity for everyone go get to run out in the national stadium.
"There will be a huge sense of occasion that gives some more attention to the league, which was needed anyway. It gives guys a platform to perform at the highest level and the chance to show what they can do to a wider audience on television, especially younger guys in front of academy or provincial coaches.”
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