Clontarf braced for Cork Con’s confrontational approach in AIL final
Cork side will look to make fourth consecutive final one to relish against old rivals
Cork Constitution’s Sean French celebrates as he scores against Dublin University in All-Ireland League Division 1A semi-final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
All Ireland League Div 1A Final
Clontarf v Cork Constitution
Aviva Stadium, 3.00pm (Live RTÉ 2, coverage starts 2.45pm)
The chip-and-pick try on the stroke of half-time from Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner Seán French that decorated Cork Con’s semi-final win over Dublin University last week should fire him up against Clontarf as the two consistently best sides in the league meet on Sunday at Lansdowne Road.
Before beating the students Cork Con ended their seasonal run on top of the table with 15 wins, Clontarf second with 13 wins and on the way to the final the north Dublin club dethroned defending champions Lansdowne 23-15 at Castle Avenue.
It’s a nicely poised Cork v Dublin match and a throwback to the 2016 and 2017 finals in which the two clubs were involved.
In that respect Clontarf will take what they can from the Joey Carbery-inspired 28-25 win over the Cork side in the 2016 final in which Ireland’s Darren Sweetnam also played.
Cork Con came back the following year and seized the trophy 25-21 before Lansdowne arrived last year beating Cork Con in the final 19-17 but extending the dominant position the three clubs have had on the competition in recent years. This is Cork Con’s fourth successive final.
“We started the season very, very well, had a few hiccups around Christmas but pulled it together in the last couple of weeks and got some good results,” said scrumhalf Angus Lloyd pointing to a resurgent Clontarf. “We’re bubbling nicely coming into the last weekend of it.”
There are names on both sides that could influence the outcome, although Clontarf won’t call on Mick Kearney because he is injured while Leinster hooker Bryan Byrne is an unlikely pick too as Seán Cronin is in a race to be fit for the European Champions Cup final against Saracens. Byrne playing may be an unwanted risk for Leinster.
Both sides have big packs, perhaps the biggest in the league with Cork Con, notwithstanding the scoring ability of Clontarf’s excellent centre Matt D’Arcy, perhaps having a more lively back line.
The nature of previous meetings is of no more than three or four points separating the teams. It suggests this too will also be a close one. The kicking of Cork’s Aidan Moynihan and Clontarf’s David Joyce will be at a premium.
Clontarf coach Andy Wood emphasised Cork Con’s confrontational approach and how his side would have to match them up front, while Clontarf captain Michael Noone, formerly of Leicester Tigers, knows that the familiarity of the teams to each other makes it a difficult match to call.
“Both sides can play good running rugby so on a track like that [Aviva] it’s going to be impressive,” said Noone. “We know each other really well at this stage.”
CORK CONSTITUTION (Possible): L O’Connell; S French, S Daly, N Kenneally (capt), R Jermyn; A Moynihan, J Higgins; G Duffy, V O’Brien, D Murphy, B Hayes, E Mintern, J McSwiney, K Sheahan, L Cahill. Replacements: P Casey, B Quinlan, J Murphy, A McHenry, R O’Neill, D Williams, J Wren.
CLONTARF: J Power; M Courtney, S O’Brien, M D’Arcy, M McGrath; D Joyce, A Lloyd; I Soroka, P Finlay, R Burke-Flynn; C Daly, B Reilly; T Ryan, A D’Arcy, M Noone (capt). Replacements: D Adamson, T Ryan, N Carson, A Feeney, C Kelly, C O’Donoghue, Brian Deeny.