Terenure and Cork Con prevail to set up AIL final showdown

Defending champions beat Lansdowne at Lakelands while Cork Con work past Clontarf at home

As forecast, the sun shone on the All-Ireland League semi-finals across the country and the tries flowed to set up next weekend’s final weekend of the season nicely. It’s also hard to believe there’s been a more dramatic and entertaining semi-final weekend in the top flight since the halcyon days of the ‘90s and early noughties.

None of the dozen meetings among the top four have been one-score games and in keeping with the quality and fine margins between the leading quartet, Terenure College and Cork Constitution were pushed to the last play in eventually overcoming Lansdowne and Clontarf. This sets up a first ever final between the clubs at the Aviva Stadium next Sunday.

Terenure sprang out of the blocks with their ambitious brand of high-tempo rugby before a boisterous late afternoon crowd of 4,000-plus, the club’s biggest ever, at a sun-drenched Lakelands Park. Their first try, a superb move off a lineout inside their 22, when Adam La Grue broke clear and Conor Phillips put Craig Adams away, felt inevitable.

Further tries by Jordan Coghlan and Harrison Brewer either side of half-time put the champions 25-6 ahead and seemingly set fair for a 13th successive win. But, with Peter Sylvester binned and replacement scrumhalf James Kenny upping the visitors’ tempo, Lansdowne drew level through tries by Cathal Eddy, Kenny and current Ireland Under-20 fullback Hugo McLaughlin.


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Aaran Egan and Stephen Madigan traded late penalties but, as extra-time loomed with Terenure prop Adam Tuite binned and the momentum with Lansdowne, Phillips reclaimed the restart before Egan landed a 40-metre penalty with the game’s last kick.

Similarly, Con roared into a 17-3 lead at Temple Hill through tries by John Forde and Ronan O’Sullivan before a nicely disguised, 60-metre strike move saw Clontarf scrumhalf Ben Murphy finish a clean break by fullback Noah Sheridan.

In-form Con winger Matthew Bowen then completed his own 70-metre counter after linking with Billy Scannell but a wildly ambitious exchange culminated in Tony Ryan, Aitzol King and Matt D’Arcy setting up Sheridan for a turnover try.

After the resumption, Sheridan released Peter Maher for another long-range strike try and Clontarf brought their deficit back to 30-29 when Tadhg Bird scored from Conor Kelly’s grubber.

But a 65th minute yellow card for Dylan Donnellan proved pivotal; Con opting for the scrum and Niall Kenneally jinking over. Another fine set piece try, finished by replacement Mark O’Sullivan, gave Clontarf one last chance before Rob Jermyn eased frayed home nerves by winning the final turnover.

Con thus reached their 17th final, and first since their seventh title in 2019, while Terenure are seeking to become the first club since Shannon in 2006 to retain the title.

Shannon’s two-season return to 1A ended when Old Belvedere stunned the nine-time winners 46-8 on the Thomond Park back pitch, David Wilkinson kicking 23 points.

Garryowen, seeking an immediate return to 1A, will host Belvo after their 32-21 win over Old Wesley. Connacht fullback Oran McNulty scored a try and set up another for Jack Delaney.

Queen’s University thrashed Banbridge 59-17 to set up a home 1B decider against MU Barnhall, 25-23 winners in Cashel.

A retaken conversion from Harry Byrne saw UL Bohs snatch a 13-12 win over Sligo at Annacotty to set up a 2A final against Corinthians, who came from 14 points down to beat Wanderers 35-21; Ireland Under-20 out-half Sean Naughton scoring two tries.

Dolphin will entertain Galwegians in the 2B final after recovering from a 15-point deficit to beat Enniscorthy 42-20. Shane Mallon, the 22-year-old Connacht academy centre from Leitrim, scored two second half tries as Galwegians avenged last year’s semi-final loss to Bruff with a 40-17 victory.

Division 1A semi-finals: Cork Constitution 40 Clontarf 34; Terenure College 31 Lansdowne 28.

Division 1A promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals: Old Wesley 21 Garryowen 32; Shannon 8 Old Belvedere 46.

Division 1B Promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals: Cashel 23 MU Barnhall 25; Queen’s University 59 Banbridge 17

Division 2A promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals: UL Bohemian 13 Sligo 12; Galway Corinthians 35 Wanderers 21

Division 2B promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals: Dolphin 42 Enniscorthy 20; Galwegians 40 Bruff 17


Division 1A final: Terenure College vs Cork Constitution, Aviva Stadium, Sunday April 28, 4pm (live on TG4)

Division 1A promotion play-off final: Garryowen (3rd, Div 1B) v Old Belvedere (4th, Div 1B), Dooradoyle, Saturday, April 27, 2.30pm

Division 1B promotion/relegation play-off final: Queen’s University (9th, Div 1B) v MU Barnhall (3rd, Div 2A), Dub Lane, Saturday, April 27, 2.30pm

Division 2A promotion/relegation play-off final: UL Bohemian (9th, Div 2A) v Galway Corinthians (2nd, Div 2B), Annacotty, Saturday, April 27, 2.30pm

Division 2B promotion/relegation play-off final: Dolphin (9th, Div 2B) v Galwegians (2nd, Div 2C), Virgin Media Park, Saturday, April 27, 2.30pm

Division 2C promotion/relegation play-off final: Bangor (9th, Div 2C) v Monkstown (All-Ireland Provincial League Championship runners-up), Upritchard Park, Saturday, April 27, 2.30pm

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times