Cork Constitution 23 Dublin University 3
A brilliant defensive effort highlighted Cork Constitution’s progress to a fourth successive All-Ireland League Division 1A final after frustrating Dublin University in a top-quality semi-final in ideal conditions at Temple Hill yesterday.
The cup and league specialists called on all their winning attributes to restrict the Dublin students to a mere penalty just before the end of the opening quarter and then keep the scoreboard ticking along in their favour.
A critical period came during the third quarter when Con led 16-3 and had a man advantage after Trinity No.8 Niall O’Riordan was shown a yellow card for a no-arms tackle.
And, still, the visitors, appearing at this stage of the competition for the first time, managed to create their best opportunity following a thrilling run through the middle by left wing Colm Hogan.
He left a trail of defenders in his wake, forcing Con to concede a penalty deep inside their own 22. Trinity opted for the corner and looked poised to at last threaten the home line.
However, hooker Dan Sheehan didn’t connect with his receiver in the subsequent line-out and Con’s ambition was reflected in their willingness to counter-attack through the hands via the dangerous Sean French on the right flank.
Trinity’s annoyance at not taking a golden opportunity was made worse by Con putting the game to bed with their second try on the hour.
Wing Rob Jermyn sensed the chance by dribbling a loose ball on the Trinity 10m line and the alert Aidan Moynihan was quickest to react by kicking ahead and winning the race to touch down. The out-half also converted.
It left Con primed for a place in Sunday’s decider against Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium and while Trinity never gave up the chase, such was the home side’s resolute defending that even a consolation try was beyond the students.
The game started like a whirlwind with both sides keen to keep the ball in hand and use the width of a well-manicured pitch, though it was evident from an early stage that space and time in possession would be at a premium.
Trinity forced early pressure and should have taken the lead after 15 minutes only for Micheal O’Kennely to drag a penalty left and wide from a favourable position.
The out-half made amends three minutes later, after Con were penalised in a scrum in front of their own posts and O’Kennedy edged his side 3-0 in front.
Con settled into an attacking rhythm with No.8 Luke Cahill prominent and Moynihan levelled matters with his first kick after 27 minutes.
Six minutes later, Con nudged 6-3 in front with Moynihan’s second kick, Trinity wandering offside in midfield, before the half ended on a high note for the past champions.
French made maximum use with just enough room to engineer a head of steam on halfway and close to the touchline, kicking ahead before gathering again and leaving defenders clutching at air to score the opening try. Moynihan converted for 13-3 at the break.
Con increased their advantage within two minutes of the resumption as Moynihan made it four kicks from four after a deliberate Trinity knock-on.
Trinity needed a try, badly, to get back into the contest and Hogan’s stirring gallop seemed to be the catalyst only for the students to cough up a glorious try-scoring chance. With it went all hope of a first final.
Scorers for Cork Con: Tries: S French, A Moynihan; Cons: A Moynihan (2); Pens: A Moynihan (3).
Dublin University: Pen: M O’Kennedy.
CORK CONSTITUTION: L O’Connell; S French, S Daly, N Kenneally, captain, R Jermyn; A Moynihan, J Higgins; G Duffy, V O’Brien, D Murphy; B Hayes, E Mintern; J McSwiney, L Cahill, K Sheehan.
Subs: P Casey, B Quinlan, J Murphy, A McHenry, R O’Neill, D Williams, J Wren,
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY: M Sylvester; J Kelly, J Hickey, P Murphy, C Hogan; M O’Kennedy, R Osbourne; G Coyne, D Sheehan, D Doyle; J Dunne, R Pim; J McKeown, N O’Riordan, M Kearney.
Subs: J Horan, B Vermeulen, A Nazir, A Greene, C Lowndes, J Fennelly, R Russell.
Referee: S Gaffikin (IRFU).