Tomás Quinlan and Joey Carbery ready to lock horns in AIL final

Cork Con versus Clontarf clash will showcase the talents of two young gifted outhalves

This is what happens when a bottleneck gets smashed. Peter O'Mahony, a Cork Constitution man to his dying day, told all at this week's Irupa awards that "we are bred to win now".

The Munster captain was talking about composed upstarts like Clontarf's Joey Carbery and Con's Tomás Quinlan.

There are heaps of stories surrounding the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League final. Here’s one. Well, two that intertwine.

Clontarf versus Cork Con should provide an engaging battle in itself while also providing a clear shop window for these rare gems.


Carbery and Quinlan are worth the Sunday journey up Lansdowne Road. Ideally, certainly from a Leinster and Munster perspective, they will be duelling outhalves (certainly off the kicking tee) but all that really matters is how they adapt to a Test match arena that someday, conceivably, could be their own personal domain.

There is enough evidence to presume both young men will be swallowed whole by the professional game this summer. Quinlan has further to travel what with Johnny Holland almost establishing himself as Munster's starting 10 while Ian Keatley, Tyler Bleyendaal and Bill Johnston will also, presumably, continue to block his path to a jersey once monopolised by another great product of Cork Con in the 1990s.

Storied career

Long after the sun has set on his storied career Ronan O’Gara still casts some shadow.

“Tomás has had a fantastic season,” said Con captain James Ryan. “He was our starting 10 last weekend and had a great game [in the Bateman Cup final victory over Galwegians. He’s kicked fantastically well and won a lot of games for us this season.

“He needs to get a chance at least [for Munster] because he hasn’t got one yet.”

Quinlan was a very late addition to the Ireland Under-20s World Cup squad last summer due to Ross Byrne’s injury. Off the bench he came on, for Carbery, in the pivotal Pool match against Argentina to land a touchline penalty that secured the 18-16 victory.

Carbery had kicked the other 15 points but it was the way Quinlan went about his business, prancing up on big toes as he willed a clean-left footed strike through the uprights, like he’s done so many times before in Christian Brothers garb, before celebrating with a stony faced trot back into position that would make O’Mahony grimace approvingly.

Free-taking hurlers don’t celebrate, they resonate. A thin smile couldn’t but spill across his face when mobbed by beaming team-mates. The game was over. The game was won.

Quinlan looks a natural who could evolve into a sustainable professional but only cruel fate looks capable of halting Carbery's rise. That and Cathal Marsh or the aforementioned Byrne.

Ian Madigan’s imminent move to Bordeaux vacates Johnny Sexton’s understudy role at Leinster next season.

“We’re not going out to the marketplace and signing a whole host of players, that’s not the way we operate.” said Leinster coach Leo Cullen. “We’re trying to grow players through and produce young talent.”

Professional contract

Marsh is next in line, having been promoted to a professional contract last summer, followed by Byrne, whose presence at UCD precipitated Carbery’s switch this season to Clontarf, where he shined to the tune of 134 points allied by a stream of mesmeric ball handling displays that has coach Andy Wood facing the inevitable loss of the northsiders’ newest and most prized possession.

“Joey is quite clearly a super talent,” said Wood this week. “For us he’s shown a wide range of skills which have been well noticed at Leinster. I’d say he’s got a big, big future, I certainly wish him well because I don’t know how much we’ll see him after this season; he’ll graduate on pretty quickly.”

Ben Reilly, Clontarf’s veteran captain, agreed: “He’s a special player. I’ve been playing AIL for about 10 years and he’s up there with the most a talented players I’ve played with. He’s different class.”

Carbery is six foot and closing in on the 90 kilogram mark so the heavies won’t be rolling over him in a hurry. Rivals further up the queue are not so structurally sound.

Of course that natural head swivelling awareness comes from Kiwi stock. Born in Auckland yet raised in Athy, he soared through the youth ranks and this led to the opportunity to finish secondary school at Blackrock College. Landing on Peter Smyth’s training paddock as a scrumhalf, he was moulded into a centre then offloading fullback by the time he cut up Donnybrook amongst the stunningly talented 2014 Leinster Senior Cup winning side.

Of that starting XV, 11 are spread around the provincial academies. Garry Ringrose is a year older. After school the Leinster and Irish underage coaches identified a creative outhalf. This season is Carbery’s first proper one in Leinster’s academy.

During last month's league semi-final Ross Byrne played with his usual authority yet Carbery's matadorial sleight of hand and twisting stride proved the difference as Clontarf flayed UCD 24-10. Byrne has completed year two in the Leinster Academy while Marsh is now a full pro but waiting in line has never been Carbery's formula for progress.

“He’ll go a long way in the game and I am looking forward to watching him,” Wood added.

Not the pre-season to get injured then. There’s a bundle of game time to be had in the blue 10 jersey before 2016 is out. Who will survive the cruelly inevitable outhalf cull? Sunday’s final could tell us more about that.

If that cannot swell the lower decks of the Aviva not much will.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent