Relentless tackling key to Terenure win
TERENURE have had flashier teams, they've arguably had better ones too, but this crew earned a rightful place in club folklore at, Lansdowne Road yesterday. In augmenting their promotion to the All-Ireland League first division and their Leinster League success, they added the Aluset Leinster Senior Cup for the second time in three years and fourth overall. These boys are winners.
It's easy to see why, too. They're a tight knit, spirited and disciplined team who seek to keep their errors down and make their tackles count. This was a true team effort for in time-honoured tradition they were utterly cleaned out by Paul O'Connor in the lineout and Lansdowne had the better of the game territorially.
However, Terenure defended brilliantly and took their chances, winning the game in the third quarter thanks to the opportunism of their half-backs Niall Hogan and Joey Muldowney. The Irish captain it was who returned from national duty a day beforehand at the same venue to score a typically sniping try after which a brace of Muldowney drop goals effectively sealed the outcome.
The rumours that the indefatigable Dr Hogan completed a night shift, pumped weights and found a cure for the common cold in between times are apparently false, though you never know with this fellow. He was blowing hard by the end, but had done his bit for club as well as country. Meantime, his counterpart Gus Aherne wandered off into the sunset, a career that perhaps yielded considerably less caps than it should have done failing to end on a winning note. A shame that for he is one of the game's good guys, but Lansdowne deserved less from this poor final than Terennre did, simply because they made even worse use of the ball.
Ultimately, the winning and the losing of it was all that mattered and it will hardly bother Terenure that the finale to perhaps their best season in a 56-year history was not especially memorable.
The pack retains much of the club's traditional mobility, epitomised by their small but fine number eight Joe Kelly. However, the talented Muldowney kicked too much yesterday, as did his accomplished counterpart Johnny Woods.
Muldowney's 20 yard touch kick, into the wind from clean second phase ball was loudly applauded by a more numerous Terenure contingent in the dismal crowd of maybe 1,000. Six kicks in the opening four minutes set the trend. All told, five times attacking ball was kicked inside opponents' 22.
Admittedly, one of the five kicks inside the opposition 22 yielded a try, Woods's superbly placed chip enabling the lively Mick Kearin to pounce. Aherne converted after seven minutes and Lansdowne, misleadingly, were looking good, recycling the ball quickly and attacking in waves.
However, the tackles kept going in. A Peter Walsh penalty after 36 minutes kept Terenure nicely in touch, and, crucially, Lansdowne's concerted pre-interval pressure failed to add to a paltry 7-3 buffer facing into the wind after the interval.
Three times they appeared to have an overlap in the making. After an O'Connor take, Peter O'Malley and Joe Kelly brilliantly held up drives from the ensuing maul.
Another Walsh penalty from only their second foray into Lansdowne territory within three minutes of the restart cut the deficit to a point. Kearin's covering tackle denied Ciaran Clarke as the pressure mounted but after 52 minutes Hogan darted over from the base of a five metre scrum with his trademark dummy pass.
Muldowney's drop goals - the first when checking after being fed on a congested blind side and surprising everyone, the second an orthodox effort from a scrum - put Terenure more or less out of sight.
Credit where credit is due, Terenure have been by some distance the club of the season, in Leinster at any rate. Many factors went into this, not least the arrival of Gerry Murphy in November, an appointment which more or less coincided with an unbeaten run ever since. Contrary to public perception of the club, they have also broadened their recruiting horizons,