Clontarf forwards to test favourites in Ulster Bank League final
Lansdowne look to win title back against defending champions
Clontarf’s Matthew D’Arcy makes a break against Cork Constitution. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The Ulster Bank League Division 1A final pits the defending champions Clontarf against their predecessors as title holders Lansdowne in what promises to be an enthralling contest peppered with a host of excellent young players and two teams who will pursue an expansive approach.
Statistically Lansdowne are in the box seat as the last three finals have been won by the team that finished first in the league proper. Mike Ruddock’s side finished 13 points clear of Clontarf, who finished third.
The teams have met twice previously this season with Lansdowne winning both matches, 9-6 at home last January, before producing what their captain Ron Boucher considered to be the club’s outstanding performance in a five-try, 35-0 rout at Castle Avenue.
While there is no quibbling with the quality of Lansdowne’s display that day, they faced a depleted Clontarf team that also lost two players in the first five minutes of the match.
Pedigree The north Dublin club demonstrated their mettle and pedigree in the semi-final when travelling to Lakelands and securing a 9-0 victory over Terenure College in dismal weather conditions.
Clontarf are again without first-choice outhalf David Joyce, who will be replaced by Evan Ryan, but in centre Matt D’Arcy they have Ireland’s club international captain and the main catalyst for their attacks.
Lansdowne were fortunate to escape the clutches of Young Munster after extra time in the semi-final, having lost to the same opposition in Limerick in the final match of the league format. They are searching for the best form of late having been the division’s outstanding team for much of the season.
If the home side get enough ball then they proved at Castle Avenue they can slice and dice any opposition but they face a Clontarf side better equipped for the task in hand today, especially up front.