Subscriber OnlyRugby

AIL final: Terenure prove they can be heroes with a historic title win over Clontarf

URC: Leinster increase Aviva capacity to 27,000 in anticipation of an epic semi-final showdown with Munster

Terenure's Stephen O'Neill celebrates after scoring his team's third try in the Energia All-Ireland League final at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

As David Bowie’s words echoed around the stadium, “We can be heroes, just for one day” wasn’t entirely apt, for the celebrations alone will continue all week. The season that keeps on giving, especially at the Aviva Stadium, delivered again on Sunday as Terenure College – a junior club up to the 1960s – made history by winning their first-ever Energia All-Ireland League title.

On a noisy, sun-drenched day in front of an official crowd of 8,642 – also eclipsing last year’s record – there was a whiff of cordite in the air, literally and figuratively, as Terenure avenged last season’s final against Clontarf by winning an equally memorable decider 50-24.

Man of the match Caolan Dooley was a back-up goalkicker to Ben Healy when Glenstal won their first and only Munster Schools Senior Cup in 2018 under current Terenure coach Sean Skehan. The 23-year-old from Newcastle West landed an astonishing 11 kicks from 12 for a 30-point haul.

The game also pivoted on an audacious try by left-winger Craig Adams in the last play of the first half, and Cathal Bloomer’s medical science-defying return off the bench to first set up Stephen O’Neill – last year’s captain, who missed the final through injury – and then scored himself.


Skehan’s side completed a four-trophy haul to round off the greatest season in the club’s 63-year history. Amid raucous celebrations in Lakelands Park that are sure to go on for a few days and nights, captain Harrison Brewer reflected on the greatest day in Terenure’s history: “It just means everything to us and our community. We’re going to party hard for a week now in Lakelands, I’m buzzing for it.

“I was looking at photos the other night of my debut against Shannon in 2014, I think we were in 2A, so it has taken a long road to get here. A lot of tough days out to get there.”

Clontarf and Terenure face off again in AIL final that could go either wayOpens in new window ]

Some advert for the AIL too.

“The club game is growing and growing, you can see it. It’s absolutely unreal. I’ve said it to you a million times, the provincial lads’ playing is huge. That showcase today was huge. I’m sorry, but it’s probably better than any URC game I’ve watched.”

He wasn’t far wrong there.

All roads lead again to the Aviva for the next two or three weekends as well, after Leinster and Munster set up a URC semi-final renewal next Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm) with Saturday’s contrasting 35-5 and 14-5 wins at home to the Sharks and away to Glasgow especially. This will be preceded by Connacht’s semi-final against the Stormers in Cape Town’s HHL Stadium (kick-off 3pm Irish time/4pm local time).

Munster's Malakai Fekitoa scores a try against Glasgow Warriors in the URC quarter-final at Scotstoun on Saturday. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

On foot of Munster’s hard-earned but costly victory, Leinster increased the semi-final capacity to 27,000. Their own 12,200 season ticket holders will have first preference on Monday, with the remainder going on public sale on Tuesday.

“Munster are a team we play a hell of a lot more and they are in the evolution of this new coaching team finding their feet and a slightly slow start to the season,” said Leo Cullen.

“Credit to them, they went away to South Africa and got two huge results against Stormers, who hadn’t lost a game in, what, two years at home, and the Sharks. And there was big pressure on those games.

“Because they weren’t featuring last week, that’s their sole focus and that makes that very dangerous because teams can get a bit distracted if your eyes are on two different things. Whatever group plays for us next week, we just need to be fully focused on that task.”

URC playoffs: Munster’s quarter-final victory celebrations tempered by injury concernsOpens in new window ]

Munster’s win at Glasgow came at a huge cost after a ferocious, bruising encounter, with heads knocks to RG Snyman, Conor Murray, Malakai Fekitoa and Calvin Nash likely to rule them out, and Peter O’Mahony (arm) also forced off early. Glasgow were reduced to 14 men after an utterly deserved red card for outhalf Tom Jordan following his 25th-minute dangerously high hit on Murray, which ended the latter’s match.

“We’re going to have to be better than we were tonight to beat Leinster on Saturday,” admitted Graham Rowntree after Glasgow had been reduced to 14 men following Jordan’s red card. “There is so much more we can do better. Overall, there was a bit of frustration but we’ll take the win.”

The Connacht squad stayed overnight in Belfast after their deserved 15-10 win over Ulster to recover properly before returning to Galway on Saturday before flying a 27/28-man squad to Cape Town on Tuesday.

“Monday is our main training session now. We’re flying on Tuesday, we land on Wednesday, we recover Wednesday, probably do a little bit on Thursday and Friday and then get ready for a semi-final,” said “an immensely proud” Andy Friend after the win.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times