CORK Constitution are only one of two clubs with 100% records at the half-way stage in the five divisions of the energia All-Ireland League.
The current champions, who are chasing a seventh title to move within two of roll-of-honour leaders, Shannon, enjoy a nine-point lead over great rivals, Garryowen, at the summit of division 1A.
The other club is Maynooth University Barnhall, who are blazing a trail at the head of affairs in division 2A with a 10-point lead over Rainey Old Boys from Magherafelt, Co Derry, going into the break.
Both Con and MU Barnhall are nine from nine with the Cork club on 39 points, courtesy of three try bonus points, and with a healthy scoring difference of +78.
Yet, statistics can be misleading because the highly competitive nature of the top tier of club rugby here is acknowledged by all involved and reflected in Con’s one-score games in their opening six ties of the scheduled 18-match programme.
They bucked that trend with big wins over Ballynahinch and UCD but there was a return to the dog-fight nature of the division with their 16-15 win over Young Munster in Limerick last weekend. Being able to come out the right side of so many tight encounters is testimony to what it takes to be a champion club like Con, who always seem to find a way.
And it can come in all sorts of guises. You’d trust the forwards to do what’s required from close range or Seán French’s prodigious boot from the tee from much further out.
Or it could come from finishers like wing Rob Jermyn, who is the leading try scorer with five, all coming in the last three games, starting with a hat-trick against Ballynahinch and then crossing against UCD and Munsters, too.
That’s why Con are so difficult to beat, a team with so many weapons in their arsenal and with such reserves of talent at their disposal their rivals can only dream about.
Take the pivotal out-half position as a prime example of why it’s so critical to have strength-in-depth in coping with such a demanding league in terms of the fixture list and the highly attritional nature of the division.
Con lost regular number 10, Aidan Moynihan, a key component in their success last season, through a serious leg injury in the fourth game away to Terenure College.
Coach Brian Hickey had little hesitation in handing the onerous challenge over to a novice, young Jack Crowley, who played schools’ rugby with Bandon Grammar School last season. And when he’s not available due to his involvement with the Munster Academy, Con cast their thinking outside the box to ask veteran Gerry Hurley, normally a scrum-half, to control matters at 10.
There’s a successful blend of experience and youth in a squad led brilliantly by Niall Kenneally, ranging from former Munster scrum-half Duncan Willians to the fresh-faced Bandon Grammar School pair of Crowley and Bruce Matthews in the backs. The pack is rich with experienced talent in all the key areas with enough back-up to cater for injuries and the requirement to rest players at particular times, too.
Props Gavin Duffy and Dylan Murphy reflect that blend of experience and youth in a forward group that is primed to meet all challenges.
While the majority of clubs take stock ahead of the league’s resumption on January 11, Con find themselves on a cup hunt on the double.
They play Young Munster in the provincial decider at Musgrave Park tomorrow night at 7.30 before heading west to meet either Sligo or Corinthians in the Bateman Cup semi-final on January 4.
Con 14 Garryowen 13; Clontarf 25 Con 28; Con 21 Lansdowne 17; Terenure College 13 Con 10; Con 25 Trinity College 22; UCC 6 Con 10; Con 35 Ballynahinch 19; Con 53 UCD 10; Young Munster 15 Con 16.
Scorers: Tries: 5-R Jermyn, 3-B Hayes, 2-G Higgins, J Costigan, N Kenneally, R O’Neill, 1-D Murphy, T Quinlan, E Mintern, S Duffy, J McSwiney, J Wren, J Crowley, B Galvin, J Murphy, B Mathews, pen.
Cons: 8-J Crowley, 7-A Moynihan.
Pens: 3-A Moynihan, J Crowley, 2-S French.
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