CHAMPIONS Cork Constitution stretched their lead at the top of energia All-Ireland League Division 1A to eight points after thumping nearest challengers, UCD, 53-10 at Temple Hill at the weekend.
Garryowen are now second in the table, leap-frogging the students, who were left stunned at the concession of nine tries and had centre Gavin Mullin red-carded after 35 minutes to compound a miserable outing.
But, it was the professional side of the sport’s decision to pull a plethora of players from all the leading club because of pending A games which provoked as much debate as the shock score line.
Con, who are now eight from eight together with three bonus points, had to plan without the likes of Alex McHenry, Sean French, Jonathan Wren, Jack Crowley (and the injured Greg Higgins in the backs) along with prop Brian Scott and abrasive number eight Evan Mintern, all because of Munster A v Leinster A next Friday.
“I don’t believe anyone expected a scoreline like that, but we knew UCD would be in a similar situation,” said Con coach Brian Hickey afterwards.
“When the fixtures came out at the start of the year, we fully expected it would be next weekend against Young Munster that we would without the players.
“We didn’t realise we would be without them this weekend until we were informed on Monday.
“This season is different, however, because we are losing players both the week of the game and the week after, too.
“Once again it calls into question the timing of the A matches.
“We were down a few players, but saw it as an opportunity to introduce others which is great.
“We still had most of old-stages in the pack and that was important,” he added.
Brian Hayes and Ross O’Neill with two tries apiece, together with another from replacement James Murphy, reflected the forwards’ major contribution.
Wings Barry Galvin and Rob Jermyn and centre Jack Costigan also scored in a superb all-round team display in which Gerry Hurley showed his versatility by playing out-half instead of his customary number nine role.
“Gerry is just one of those brilliant footballers with an equally brilliant rugby brain who is going to be an outstanding coach.
“He thinks very deeply about the game as would the UCD captain, second-row Jonny Guy, who I’m told also has a very good rugby brain.
“Our scrum coach, Paul McCarthy, likens him to the great Anthony Foley.
“I love those kind of guys, students of the game who improve standards all around them and Gerry certainly does that with us.”
Mullin’s dismissal clearly impacted as UCD played over half the game with 14 players.
“I can’t say I saw it. I heard it was an open fist or something like that. I don’t know.
“It meant their openside flanker Alex Penny was taken off.
“He had picked up some kind of knock so, maybe, because of the injury, he was the player to come off.
“Penny had a super game against us last year, but his absence benefitted our continuity,” Hickey concluded.