AIL: Margins look wafer thin in intriguing final as Terenure seek to double up

Cork Con possess the better set-piece but Terenure perhaps boast the greater X-factor

Jack Kelleher (Cork Constitution) and Harrison Brewer (Terenure College) at the launch of the Energia All-Ireland League finals. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

All-Ireland League Final:

Terenure College v Cork Constitution, Venue: Aviva Stadium. Kick-off: 4pm. On TV: Live on TG4.

For the third year running, the Energia All-Ireland probably has the final it deserves to again showcase the rejuvenated club game. First and second over 18 games, there was only a point between them and they’re both very good to watch.

After last season’s memorable 50-24 breakthrough win over Clontarf, Terenure are seeking to become the first club to retain the title since Shannon in 2006. They lost three of their first six but though hit by departures and injuries, the arrival of outhalf Aran Egan and winger Conor Phillips has contributed to a 13-match winning run.

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Con are also a somewhat remodelled side under Johnny Holland but their 20-0 win at Lakelands Park last October was a statement of intent. They have perhaps surprised even themselves, although then again this is Con, and this is their 13th final.

Five weeks ago Terenure came from 14-0 down to win 26-23 in Temple Hill, but Con’s elegant playmaker, James Taylor, was missing that day and he makes their phased attack click. Winger Matthew Bowen has ten tries in his last six games and his duel with Phillips could be worth the admission money alone.

Con possibly have the better set-piece but Terenure the greater X-factor in Harrison Brewer and Jordan Coughlan, very much big-game players.

The forecast is not quite as favourable as for last week’s thrilling semi-finals but should facilitate their ambitious, running rugby. Both are unchanged save for Billy Crowley returning to the Con bench.

Terenure had the best defence in 1A while Con’s ability to keep 15 players on their feet has been striking, albeit Clontarf carved them open with some clever strike plays last week.

A year ago, Terenure’s supporters swelled the attendance to an ‘official’ 8,642 which was probably much more given extra gates were opened to cope with the unexpected demand. Con are bringing up several busloads for their first final in five years and ticket sales were close to 8,000 yesterday. Whatever about the flares of a year ago, there will be smoke. This could be a cracker. The margins look very tight. Extra time is not beyond the bounds.

Terenure College: Adam LaGrue; Conor Phillips; Sam Berman; Peter Sylvester; Craig Adams; Aran Egan; Alan Bennie; Campbell Classon; Levi Vaughan; Adam Tuite; Harrison Brewer (Capt); Matthew Caffrey; Adam Melia; Luke Clohessy; Jordan Coghlan.

Replacements: Max Russell; Ben Howard; Conan O’Donnell; Michael O’Reilly; James White; Conor McKeon; Yago Fernandez Vilar; Barry Galvin.

Cork Constitution: Rob Hedderman; Daniel Hurley; Harry O’Riordan; Niall Kenneally; Matthew Bowen; James Taylor; Adam Maher; Alessandro Heaney; Billy Scannell; Luke Masters; Sean Duffy; John Forde; Jack Kelleher; Ronan O’Sullivan; David Hyland (Capt).

Replacements: Danny Sheahan; Brendan Quinlan; Charlie Connolly; Eoin Quilter; Matisse Lamarque D’Arrouzat; Louis Kahn; Rob Jermyn; Billy Crowley.

Supporters are advised to buy and download their tickets from ticketmaster.ie but there will be a ticket booth at Gate P on Lansdowne Road on match day. Entry to the game is via gates C, O and Q, all located on Lansdowne Road.

All-Ireland League women’s final: Railway Union v UL Bohemian, Aviva Stadium, Sunday (1.45pm)

UL Bohemian are aiming for a firs title since 2018 but 14th overall, while Railway Union are looking add to those of 2019 and 2022. Bohs beat Railway 10-7 at home in the league and 34-12 in the Cup final in January, although the latter ended their unbeaten run by 43-22 at Park Avenue this month.

Today

All-Ireland League (2.30)

Division 1A promotion final: Garryowen v Old Belvedere, Dooradoyle.

Third and fourth in 1B, Belvo dismantled Shannon 46-8 after squeezing into the play-offs on the last day, but Garryowen’s four-match winning run includes a 28-3 win in Ollie Campbell Park last month.

Division 1B promotion/relegation final: Queen’s University v MU Barnhall, Dub Lane.

Queen’s are not inclined to return to 2A, judging by last week’s 59-17 win over Banbridge. Barnhall were plucky 25-23 winners in Cashel but this looks a tougher ask.

Division 2A promotion/relegation final: UL Bohemian v Galway Corinthians, Annacotty.

Corinthians recovered from 14-0 down last week against Wanderers with five tries – two by Ireland under-20 outhalf Sean Naughton. UL Bohs were indebted to a retaken conversion for their 13-12 win over Sligo, who finished 16 points behind Corinthians.

Division 2B promotion/relegation final: Dolphin v Galwegians, Virgin Media Park.

Dolphin escaped successive relegations with a last-day bonus point home over Dungannon and last week beat Enniscorthy 42-20. Galwegians avenged last season’s semi-final loss to Bruff by 40-17 win at home as they seek a swift return to 2B.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times