CORK CONSTITUTION head coach Brian Hickey praised his side’s defensive display in their dramatic All-Ireland League Division 1A triumph over Clontarf at Castle Avenue last Saturday.
Despite also acknowledging frustration at certain aspects of the performance in north Dublin - they fell 13-3 behind before Aidan Moynihan’s stoppage-time penalty completed a remarkable fightback - he was pleased to see Con dig deep when required.
“I kind of felt we hadn’t really played in either half. It upsets me a bit that we had to wait until our backs were to the wall to play our best rugby of the game.
“Because we had set out to do it from the opening minute. I suppose that’s credit to both sides really,” Hickey remarked after the game.
“I thought we put up a great rearguard action. Not least when we were down to 14 men [Niall Kenneally’s early sin bin] and I think they did exactly the same, not least when they were down to 14 men.
“It was just at a level of intensity in keeping with what the Con-Clontarf games have been for the last few years.”
When Con last encountered Clontarf back in April, they suffered a comprehensive 43-12 reversal. Whereas that wasn’t enough to secure a play-off spot at the end of the 2017/18 season, ‘Tarf accumulated six straight victories prior to Saturday’s clash.
Already a formidable outfit on top form, Hickey believes the influx of players from Dublin University (Trinity) has made them an even tougher proposition for the current campaign.
“They’re a very, very strong side. They’ve got a few players in from Trinity this year, who are players that we would have admired in the last four or five years playing for Trinity.
“It was a slightly different team we were facing in terms of the Paddy Finlays, the Angus Lloyds and the Michael Courtneys. Players we knew well but weren’t quite sure where they would slot into the Clontarf system.
“What I was most pleased as well is the game on the astroturf. We don’t train or play on astroturf, but I think today we were more comfortable on it.”
After finding themselves adrift of Tarf heading into the weekend’s fare, Con are now two points clear of Andy Wood’s men at the summit of the All-Ireland League top-flight.
There is a lot of rugby to play before the semi-final pairings are decided, but Hickey is aware of the motivation Young Munster will have moving into their meeting at Temple Hill this coming Saturday.
“It’s a long way out to be looking at where tables are, but we would have seen that last year when we were champions.
“The first seven or eight matches you’re there to be beaten,” Hickey said. "The team that gets to the top of the table, everyone wants to knock them off.
“It’s our turn now next week, I suppose, to see if we can stay up there. I’m sure Young Munster will be relishing the opportunity to take us down a step or two as well.”