CORK CONSTITUTION senior coach Paul Barr hailed his side after they reclaimed the Munster Senior Cup at the expense of defending champions Garryowen at Thomond Park on Saturday winning 26-23.
Garryowen lost in the inaugural decider to Bandon in 1886 and were aiming for their 40th crown but Con nabbed their 29th provincial title since their first in 1905 in the Treaty city.
Con delivered at the famed old Cratloe Road venue, and deservedly so, although there were a few nervous moments and the Leesiders did have to come from behind twice before captain Niall Kenneally lifted the 128th edition of the cup amid jubilant scenes on Shannonside.
Joseph McSwiney (2) and Sean French crossed over for the Leesiders with Aidan Moyhihan booting over the rest of the points en route to the latest provincial accolades for Con.
Cian O’Shea and Liam Combes, with a try deep into additional time, crossed the whitewash for Garryowen with Ben Healy kicking three penalties and two conversions.
The final score was deceptive, as Garryowen struck too late (seven minutes after the official time was up) to reduce the deficit to one score and possible extra-time.
The Light Blues battled hard but their periods of dominance were, mostly because of lack of composure and their failure to retain possession in key attacking areas, sporadic.
In contrast, Con always appeared the more likely and never really looked – even when they were behind – that they were chasing the game besides a 10-minute spell late in the first half and an error in the second that Garryowen took full advantage off to edge ahead for a second time.
“In terms of our players, I thought the effort was fantastic from start to finish. They scored three fine tries and defended manfully at times because Garryowen was exceptionally committed,” said Barr with the Con players and staff dancing in the background.
“I think it was a fine game of rugby, to be honest. Both sides could have won it right at the death. We were an extra score ahead up to that.
“It was nip-and-tuck and we’re absolutely delighted with the win. It’s a fantastic competition with unbelievable tradition.
”These clubs and these teams, Shannon and Garryowen, Young Munster and ourselves, the great All-Ireland teams, and others built this stadium and it’s fantastic to play the final here.”
Saturday’s win kicked off a positive start to 2019 for Con but it’s back to league basics next time out for the AIL Division 1 table-topper who are five points ahead of Lansdowne.
“We’ve had a break from Christmas and you have to do it from scratch again," added Barr who thanked Con fans in Thomond Park for their support.
“It was a good break and they’ve earned it. It’s a bit like pre-season again in a way.
“It’s going to be really tough. We have to come to Limerick three times now in the league. It’s not getting any easier.“
Barr believes that Con will be well up for those challenges but wanted to savour the moment of another prestigious trophy returning to the club on Saturday afternoon.
“Some of the rugby on show today was of the highest quality.
“There was some really good football played here today between two very committed sides and we’re absolutely delighted with the win.”