Cork Con's Quinlan saved his best for last after an epic rugby season

Cork Con's Quinlan saved his best for last after an epic rugby season
Player of the match Tomás Quinlan. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Mark Woods

Rugby

IT was entirely fitting that Tomás Quinlan should keep his best for the last and most important game of another marathon season.

The talented out-half kicked a campaign-high of 20 points, courtesy of six penalties and a conversion, in Cork Constitution's thrilling 25-21 victory over defending champions Clontarf in a gripping All-Ireland League final at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

It crowned a quite magnificent season for the 22-years-old because Quinlan was practically ever-present throughout Con's history-making achievement of national league and cup glory, provincial cup success as well as the Charity Cup.

He not only shouldered the onerous responsibility of goal-kicker, but directing operations from the key position on the pitch as well. And this on top of being the only recognised number 10 in the squad.

Quinlan finished with 185 points to his name from 40 penalties, 30 conversions and a lone try, scored in the 50-25 home win over UCD.

Tomás Quinlan kicking a conversion. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Tomás Quinlan kicking a conversion. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The former CBC player still dreams of a life as a professional rugby player despite having been left go by Munster Academy.

“Maybe this will open up a door, though it's out of my control. I have done as much as I can.

“I absolutely would love to play professionally. I have always wanted to play professionally and I'm only 22, so I hope the door isn't shut.

“I don't think I was going our there with the intention of proving Munster wrong. They have their reasons and whether they are right or wrong., they have the final say.

“I just have to accept that, keep the head down and work. When you kick your goals and play the way you're expected to, it does feel good.

“There's nothing spiteful, you are doing it for the boys around you. I put those balls over the bar for those lads, the 23 or 30 in the panel. It's just the best feel I have ever had,” Quinlan said.

The out-half showed he was in the zone from the start. When Con were awarded a third minute penalty from an acute angle on the right and well away from the target, Quinlan acted decisively.

“There was a temptation to go for the corner, but it's a final and you're kicking all year for those scenarios and you have to back yourself when they come up.

“If you don't back yourself, you might as well not be there,” he said.

Quinlan nailed a beauty and that gave him the confidence and encouragement to produce a kicking masterclass, enjoying a 100% record at the end of a gruelling game, which included almost 13 minutes' injury-time in the second-half.

Con's emotions at the final whistle were a mixture of joy and relief given what happened 12 months ago, when they were on the receiving end.

“I suppose it is the complete opposite of what happened to us last year. There was a lot of hurt taken onto the pitch and it showed there in the end in our defence. 

“Everyone stepped up individually and that allowed us to pull through. They kept coming at us in waves and we just wouldn't back down.” 

Cork Constitution's Rory Burke celebrates after beating Clontarf at the weekend. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Cork Constitution's Rory Burke celebrates after beating Clontarf at the weekend. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

So, there's a right old knees up expected, when Con come together to celebrate 125 years and the fantastic achievement of a clean sweep of trophies.

In all, the Temple Hill club played 29 games, an extraordinary amount amount for amateur players and the likes of Quinlan, Brian Hayes, James Murphy among others featured prominently throughout.

They played 20 league games, four Munster Cup ties, including one walk-over, three Charity Cup games, with a walk-over, and two matches to lift the Bateman Cup for a record fifth successive season.

Con scored 44 tries, including a penalty try, and had 16 different scorers, split evenly between backs and forwards though the former bagged more with 24 scores.

Hayes led the way with six, one more than fellow lock Conor Kindregan, who was joined on five by Ned Hodson. Rob Jermyn, scorer of that crucial try, has four, the same as Shane Daly, who supplied the pass.

Cork Constitution's Niall Kenneally and Mick Noone of Clontarf climb high for the ball. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Cork Constitution's Niall Kenneally and Mick Noone of Clontarf climb high for the ball. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

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