Glory Days for Terenure College as Caolan Dooley’s boot leads them to first All-Ireland League title

Centre kicks 30 points and is praised by Ronan O’Gara after brilliant display of placekicking

The Terenure team celebrate with the Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A trophy after their victory over Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Terenure College 50 Clontarf 24

Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Glory Days,’ blasted over the tannoy system seconds after the final whistle, a perfect salutation to Terenure College’s first ever Energia Division One title and as a nod to the iconic American rocker currently in Dublin for three concerts at the RDS.

He’d probably have enjoyed the occasion, the contest a marvellous spectacle played out in front of 8,642 spectators. It was a kaleidoscope of colour and pageantry, the whiff of sulphur that found its way from the stands to the pitch, the purple and white flares marked the beginning and end of an afternoon that will go down in the annals of Terenure College rugby club.

The reprise of last year’s final was a doozy, the final scoreline is a tad harsh in the context of the contest, without in any way devaluing Terenure’s triumph. Last year they watched Clontarf lift the cup, this time they knew that elation, lustily serenaded by their colourful band of supporters who ensured that their team knew of their presence, especially in the pivotal moments when a shot of adrenaline was required.

The teams scored four tries apiece, the principal difference being the 23-year-old Terenure centre Caolan Dooley, who landed 11 kicks from 12 – he hit the post with the one he missed – or in shorthand terms, 30 points. It was a breathtaking placekicking display because many of his successful attempts were taken from the touchline or a different postcode, in excess of 40 metres from the posts.


The Newcastle West native whose mum’s family have connections in Terenure produced a display that was acknowledged on social media by Ronan O’Gara. When the young centre was told of the La Rochelle head coach’s admiration, he conceded that he was chuffed at the news. “You are practising the same way, it is the same as throwing a ball into a lineout, you have to have the same process every time.

“You hear that from all the great kickers. I am from Limerick, grew up with Ronan O’Gara as my idol. Even to hear him [tell] how he was so nervous before some kicks. Sometimes you are forced to do it and it is just about sticking with the same process. If you line the ball up the same way, take the same number of steps in the same direction as you always do, the kick is going to look after itself.

Terenure's Caolan Dooley kicks a penalty during the final against Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

“You are usually hoping that the first kick goes over. After that once you are in your rhythm you are confident. If you hit one, you know you can do it and it’s just about doing the same thing every time, getting through the ball. As soon as you step away from the process you are asking for trouble.”

A year behind Ben Healy at school, Dooley benefited from some placekicking tutelage from the Munster and Scotland outhalf. He didn’t realise that he missed one, his routine to spin away as soon as he’s happy with the strike and trajectory.

Clontarf scored the first two tries of the match through a couple of their outstanding contributors on the day, Aitzol Arenzana-King with a wonderfully acrobatic finish and tireless flanker JJ O’Dea with another, yet they trailed 18-10 at the interval.

Dooley’s boot and two tries against the run of play, an intercept from the polished Adam La Grue and another from Craig Adams gave Terenure a huge confidence shot. Clontarf dominated the scrum, winning a succession of penalties, but their fallibility came at the lineout, six turnovers destabilising a platform that’s usually a launch pad for tries.

They were also ill disciplined at the breakdown and Dooley punished them remorselessly in that capacity. The teams shared four second-half tries, Alex Soroka and Brian Deeny for ‘Tarf, while Stephen O’Neill and Conall Boomer crossed for Terenure.

The game was an absolute treat to watch, superb passages of rugby embellished by individual flair, exemplified by Terenure scrumhalf Alan Bennie and the peerless Clontarf centre and attacking fulcrum Matt D’Arcy to highlight a couple of the game’s most influential performers behind the scrum.

A last word to Terenure’s inspirational captain Harrison Brewer: “It just means everything to us and our community. We’re going to party hard for a week now in Lakelands. 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.” It was worth every bruising step.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 2 mins: Dooley pen, 3-0; 11: Arenzana-King try, 3-5; 21: O’Dea try, 3-10; 25: Dooley pen, 6-10; 35: La Grue try, 11-10; 40 (+1): Adams try, Dooley con, 18-10. Half-time: 18-10. 43: Dooley pen, 21-10; 47: A Soroka try, Bird con, 21-17; 52: Dooley pen, 24-17; 55: Dooley pen, 27-17; 60: Dooley pen, 30-17; 66: O’Neill try, Dooley con, 37-17; 70: Dooley pen, 40-17; 76: Dooley pen, 43-17; 78: Boomer try, Dooley con, 50-17; 80+2: Deeny try, C Kelly con, 50-24.

TERENURE COLLEGE: A La Grue; S O’Neill, C de Buitléar, C Dooley, C Adams; C Smith, A Bennie; M Hanan, L Vaughan, A Tuite; H Brewer (capt), M Melia; A Melia, L Clohessy, J Coghlan.

Replacements: M Caffrey for Brewer (h-t); C Classon for Hana, A Keating for Tuite (both 50 mins); C Bloomer for A Melia (58); Brewer for Clohessy (60); H McErlean for De Buitlear (71); R Smyth for Vaughan, C McKeon for Bennie, C Marsh for Smith (all 76).

CLONTARF: T Bird; A Arenzana-King, H Cooney, M D’Arcy (capt), M Brown; S Crosbie, A Lloyd; I Soroka, D Donnellan, B Griffin; F Gilbert, M Kearney; A Soroka, JJ O’Dea, T Ryan.

Replacements: J Phelan for Griffin (32 mins); B Murphy for Lloyd (45); B Deeny for Gilbert, Griffin for Phelan (both 50); C Kelly for Crosbie (56); C O’Donoghue for Brown (71); D Bolger for I Soroka (73).

Referee: Peter Martin (IRFU).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer