Clontarf book place in Division IA final as Carbery wins battle of outhalves
UCD fail to capitalise on territory and possession as ’Tarf prove tough nut to crack
Clontarf’s Mick McGrath scores a try against UCD. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
Joey Carbery possesses the unruffled elegance of a bullfighter, nerveless, unflinching, agile in thought and deed, and a taunting presence for opponents. Lurking beneath the dapper exterior is a calculating ruthlessness that can be devastating.
On a warm, sunny afternoon in Castle Avenue, the Belfield student was primarily responsible for sending his former teammates back across the Liffey empty-handed a as he propelled Clontarf to the Division 1A final where they’ll face Cork Constitution in two weeks.
Carbery’s decision to join Clontarf from UCD last summer allowed him to escape the shadow of Ross Byrne, whom he had understudied for both club and the Ireland Under-20 team during the 2015 Six Nations Championship.
The two prospects are in the Leinster academy – its new director Peter Smyth watched on – so the presence of senior provincial coach Leo Cullen amongst the crowd provided added piquancy to the battle of the outhalves.
Ross Byrne had a decent game, chivvying his team into the right areas, intelligently altering the point of attack, and taking ball to the line and beyond, when choices were limited further out.
Carbery was mesmeric. He carried the ball in two hands, waving it like a glo-stick that flummoxed defenders as they inadvertently followed with their eyes and feet, and his timing of the pass was exquisite, as was his footwork that allowed him to escape the tightest of confines. He had a hand in three tries, showcasing the range of skills to complement an awareness of UCD’s weak point at that precise moment.
The Auckland-born, Athy- raised outhalf made an eloquent case in the scramble for the departing Ian Madigan’s jersey next season.
“Joey’s a super talent,” said Clontarf coach Andy Wood. “He’ll go a long way in the game and I am looking forward to watching him.”
There were other collegial tussles, notably at hooker where Clontarf’s Brian Byrne, a try scorer on the day, went head-to-head with fellow academy player Sean McNulty.
Adam Byrne (UCD) and another of the home side’s try scorers, Mick McGrath, spent Sunday morning as team-mates at an Irish Sevens squad training session, 24 hours after clattering into one another.
Clontarf jumped into a 10-point lead with tries from Brian Byrne and Mick McGrath before UCD muscled their way into the match, dominating both territory and possession through to the interval but with just a Ross Byrne penalty to show for their efforts.
Negligent in protecting the ball on occasion, throw in a couple of forward passes that cost them tries and it’s not difficult to discern UCD’s regrets.
The visitors enjoyed plenty of possession in the second half but Clontarf’s excellent goal-line defence and an ability to be more clinical saw them grab two more tries through Michael Noone and Evan Ryan, with the excellent Barry Daly getting one for UCD.
“We certainly had to work hard in defence,” said Wood. “UCD had the majority of the territory and the majority of the ball so we had to defend for huge periods, had to work very hard to get a foothold and our hands on the ball.
“It was fraught, hard-earned and I’m just pretty pleased. Once we held onto the ball and built some phases, when we did get opportunities we were clinical. There are some guys out there who can make some line breaks, so we are very lucky in that department this year.
“Con in the final. We have had a couple of seriously good battles with them this year. They’re going to bring plenty.”
Scoring sequence – 8 mins: B Byrne try, 5-0; 10: M McGrath try, 10-0; 13: R Byrne pen, 10-3. Half-time: 10-3. 58: Noone try, Carbury con, 17-3; 62: Daly try, R Byrne con, 17-10; 79: E Ryan try, Carbury con, 24-10.
CLONTARF: R Keogh; M Brown, C O’Brien, M D’Arcy, M McGrath; J Carbery, S Cronin; I Soroka, B Byrne, V Abdaladze; T Byrne, B Reilly (capt); M Noone, K Moran, T Ryan. Replacements: R McGrath for Keogh (24 mins), A Dundon for B Byrne (57 mins), I Hirst for Soroka (51 mins), E Browne for T Byrne (62 mins), Soroka for Abdaladze (67 mins), P du Toit for Cronin (68 mins), E Ryan for R McGrath (68 mins). Yellow card: K Moran (68 mins).
UCD: B Dardis; A Byrne, J Glynn, B Holland, B Daly; R Byrne, N McCarthy; A Porter, S McNulty, J Loughman; B Cawley, E McMahon (capt); W Connors, D Leavy, P Timmons. Replacements: L Hyland for Loughman (42 mins), T Fletcher for Holland (50 mins), G Jones for Cawley (70 mins).
Referee: D Wilkinson (IRFU)