AIL round-up: Garryowen set up semi-final with Lansdowne
Elsewhere the Bateman Cup final will see Cork Constitution take on Lansdowne
Garryowen’s Andrew O’Byrne in action against UL Bohemian. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Garryowen’s reward for reaching the Ulster Bank League Division 1A semi-finals for the first time since 2009 is a trip to the national stadium to play table topplers Lansdowne. Munster Academy winger Liam Coombes scored a hat-trick in Garryowen’s 48-21 win over St. Mary’s College, which sealed their top-four finish.
Defending league and cup champions Cork Constitution will contest next Saturday’s Ulster Bank Bateman Cup final with Lansdowne at Temple Hill (kick-off 1pm), before the Division 1A semis take place the following Saturday (April 28th), with Con, who suffered a worrying 35-point reversal at clontarf, travelling to second-place finishers Terenure College.
Elsewhere on a typically dramatic and tense final day of the league’s regular season, Shannon ended their five-year absence from the top flight with a 40-17 bonus point victory over UCC which clinched the Division 1B title and promotion in Tom Hayes’ first full season in charge.
Tight title races in Divisions 2A and 2C went Malone and Sligo’s way respectively, as the Cregagh Red Sox gained automatic promotion with a 43-19 defeat of Nenagh Ormond, while Ross Mannion’s Sligo side took the spoils 37-0 against Thomond in a winner-takes-all clash, adding league silverware to their first Connacht Senior Cup.
Old Crescent had a stunning year as runaway Division 2B champions, achieving an 18-match unbeaten run – the first across the league since Terenure’s 18 straight wins in Division 1B in 2013/14. Crescent amassed 17 wins and a draw for an 83-point haul, which eclipses ‘Nure’s 82 from four years ago.
Brendan Guilfoyle’s free-scoring Crescent also set a new league record for try-scoring bonus points. Today’s 28-8 success at home to Rainey Old Boys saw them pick up their 13th try bonus thanks to converted scores from Kevin Doyle, Val McDermott, player-coach Guilfoyle and Jeffrey Coyne.
It was also a day of sad farewells in terms of relegation and players hanging up their boots, most notably legendary Dolphin outhalf Barry Keeshan. He is retiring after 16 years with the Cork club and kicked a conversion and a penalty in his final game at Naas, bringing his All-Ireland League record points tally to 1726. Naas full-back Peter Osborne’s tremendous 33-point haul, including two tries, would have certainly reminded the travelling support of ‘Keesh’ in his pomp.
Buccaneers, Dolphin, Corinthians and City of Derry are all dropping down a division after tough and unforgiving campaigns, while Bective Rangers went down fighting at the foot of Division 2C as they lost their senior status. Old Wesley and Tullamore both avoided the bottom two by a whisker - staying up in their divisions on scoring difference - and Galwegians also saved the best for last in their Division 2A survival mission, evergreen winger John ‘Luigi’ Cleary rolling back the years in their six-try 50-15 dismissal of play-off-chasing Cashel.
Division 1A semi-finalists: Lansdowne (1st), Terenure College (2nd), Cork Constitution (3rd), Garryowen (4th)
Division 1A semi-finals: Saturday, April 28: Lansdowne (1st) v Garryowen (4th), Aviva Stadium main pitch; Terenure College (2nd) v Cork Constitution (3rd), Lakelands Park; Division 1A final: Aviva Stadium, Sunday, May 6
Relegated: Buccaneers (automatic); St. Mary’s College to contest Division 1A promotion/relegation play-offs
Division 1B champions/Promoted: Shannon
Division 1A promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals: Saturday, April 21: St. Mary’s College (9th, Div 1A) v UCC (4th, Div 1B), Templeville Road; Banbridge (2nd, Div 1B) v Ballynahinch (3rd, Div 1B), Rifle Park; Division 1A promotion/relegation play-off final: Saturday, April 28
Relegated: Dolphin (automatic); UL Bohemians to contest Division 1B promotion/relegation play-offs
Division 2A champions/Promoted: Malone
Division 1B promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals: Saturday, April 21: UL Bohemians (9th, Div 1B) v Nenagh Ormond (4th, Div 2A), University of Limerick 4G pitch; Highfield (2nd, Div 2A) v City of Armagh (3rd, Div 2A), Woodleigh Park; Division 1B promotion/relegation play-off final: Saturday, April 29
Relegated: Corinthians (automatic); Greystones to contest Division 2A promotion/relegation play-offs
Division 2B champions/Promoted: Old Crescent
Division 2A promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals: Saturday, April 21: Greystones (9th, Div 2A) v Navan (4th, Div 2B), Dr. Hickey Park; Rainey Old Boys (2nd, Div 2B) v MU Barnhall (3rd, Div 2B), Hatrick Park; Division 2A promotion/relegation play-off final: Saturday, April 28
Relegated: City of Derry (automatic); Belfast Harlequins to contest Division 2B promotion/relegation play-offs
Division 2C champions/Promoted: Sligo
Division 2B promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals: Saturday, April 21: Belfast Harlequins (9th, Div 2B) v Malahide (4th, Div 2C), Deramore Park; Omagh (2nd, Div 2C) v Thomond (3rd, Div 2C), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields; Division 2B promotion/relegation play-off final: Saturday, April 28
Relegated: Bective Rangers (automatic); Bruff with home advantage in Division 2C promotion/relegation play-off against Round Robin runners-up (Saturday, May 5)