Cork Con maintain their grip on Munster Senior Cup by beating Young Munster

Cork Con maintain their grip on Munster Senior Cup by beating Young Munster

Cork Con's JJ O'Neill trying to get past the defence on Friday night. Picture: Denis Boyle

Cork Constitution 24 Young Munster 17

THE late Jerry Murray's remarkable record of seven Munster Senior Cup medals with his beloved Cork Constitution is under threat.

There's a crop of the current generation with designs on matching his magnificent haul after the club survived a stirring Young Munster second-half fight-back to retain the trophy at Musgrave Park on Friday night.

Leading the pack is captain Niall Kenneally, who has six, the same as prop Gavin Duffy, while Brian Hayes, Gerry Hurley, Rob Jermyn and James Murphy have five apiece.

Indeed, Hurley, who again wore 10 instead of his customary nine jersey, would also be on seven, but for missing out on two of the five-in-a-row, when he played in France.

Appearing in their seventh final in eight years, Con compiled a winning first-half score to land an eye-popping seventh title in the spell and a 30th in total.

They led 16-3 at half-time after dominating the opening period despite having skipper Kenneally in the sin-bin following a harsh yellow card for a high tackle in the 20th minute.

At the time Con were 6-0 in front via a couple of monster penalties from Sean French, a grandson of Murray.

The full-back with the prodigious right boot nailed a beauty from near half-way after five minutes and then from the 10m line in the 17th minute.

And while Evan Cusack kicked a Munsters penalty, the holders coped brilliantly with 14 men, sharing it 3-3 after French completed a hat-trick of super kicks from the 10m line after 29 minutes.

Within a minute of Kenneally's return, Con swept to the important opening try, winning a close-range line-out and mauling their way over for hooker John Sutton to score. Hurley converted.

And the holders couldn't have wished for a better start on the resumption because within two minutes, a magnificent individual try from wing JJ O'Neill strengthened Con's position at 21-3. Hurley's conversion struck an upright.

Munsters, though, abandoned all caution thereafter and dominated most of the play.

Young Munster's Sean Rigney taking the lineout. Picture: Denis Boyle
Young Munster's Sean Rigney taking the lineout. Picture: Denis Boyle

Captain Alan Kennedy replied with a try after 57 minutes, converted by Cusack, a deserved reward for some enterprising endeavour with ball in hand from backs and forwards alike.

And Munsters' hopes of an eighth cup soared following a second try from prop Conor Bartley, seven minutes from the end, converted superbly by Cusack, to cut the deficit to four points.

Con were now vulnerable and not even a Hurley penalty, a minute from the end of regulation time, could ease their nerves as Munsters were within a converted try of forcing extra-time.

And they had a golden opportunity in the final play, four minutes into injury-time, when a kick for the corner to set-up a visiting line-out, didn't find touch.

How appropriate then that French should bring matters to a conclusion.

The result will also have brought a smile to coach Brian Hickey, who was in hospital recovering from knee surgery.

Scorers for Cork Con: Tries: J Sutton, JJ O'Neill; Con: G Hurley; Pens: S French (3), G Hurley.

Young Munster: Tries: A Kennedy, C Bartley; Cons: E Cusack (2); Pen: E Cusack

CORK CONSTITUTION: S French; JJ O'Neill, A McHenry, N Kenneally, c, R Jermyn; G Hurley, D Williams; G Duffy, J Sutton, D Murphy; B Hayes, S Duffy; J McSwiney, D Hyland, R O'Neill. 

Subs: V O'Brien, L Masters, G Sweeney, C O'Flaherty, J Murphy, R Foley, J Costigan.

YOUNG MUNSTER: A Tynan; C O'Hanlon, L Fitzgerald, H Flemming, K Stephenson; E Cusack, J Lyons; D Begley, M O'Mara, C Bartley; S Rigney, A Kennedy; J Foley, J Stewart, C Mitchell. 

Subs: J Wycherly, P Allen, F Coleman, D Corcoran, J Kiely, C O'Doherty, T Goggin.

Referee: J Neville (IRFU).

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