CORK Constitution found out once again the difficulty of winning at Lakelands Park as Terenure College qualified for a second successive energia All-Ireland League final with another highly impressive display on Saturday.
Only champions Clontarf have managed to find a way of defeating Terenure on their own patch this season and starting well is a prerequisite for any team with notions of toppling a side that is so well-balanced, organised and comfortable with or without the football.
Falling 18 points adrift before the half-hour mark left Con facing a mountain to climb and while they enjoyed some promising moments, Terenure’s defensive structure, finely tuned tackling and absence of panic, frustrated the visitors.
This was particularly true in a hectic spell approaching half-time, when Con won a scrum penalty moments before they were restored to 15 following an earlier yellow card to Niall Kenneally, but no matter what they flung at the home side, Terenure stood defiant.
It looked at one stage, Con were about to score wide right after Harry O’Riordan’s drive only for Terenure to scramble enough bodies to keep their line intact.
Not only that, the Dubliners, then, blocked a couple of kicks and turned defence into attack with a lightning break by second-row Matthew Caffrey, who showed an impressive turn of foot and was only hauled down in the Con 22 by Michael Hand’s covering sprint and tackle.
How Con badly needed a score at that juncture after struggling from the get-go. Aidan Moynihan’s early kick skidded off the wet surface following a morning of torrential rain and went dead, handing Terenure the first scrum on the visitors’ 10m line.
Con were penalised in the opening set piece and wing Caolan Dooley offered an opening glimpse of his kicking acumen by planting the resulting kick between the posts, the first of seven successful attempts at the posts.
Con rallied to apply pressure of their own only to meet fierce resistance before Dooley made it 6-0 after 17 minutes with an identical kick.
It grew worse for the Cork club, who were cut open by Terenure’s highly regarded back division with the opening try four minutes later, full-back Adam La Grue finishing off slick handling to score in the left corner, 11-0.
The gap widened to 18 by the 28th minute, Terenure taking full advantage of the extra man when spreading the ball wide from a scrum on the right before powerful number 8 Jordan Coghlan barged over, Dooley supplying the extras.
Having survived a Luke Clohessy-inspired attack within five minutes of the resumption, Con finally struck, substitute James Murphy forcing his way over for a try, converted by Moynihan, 18-7 after 49 minutes.
Sensing the importance of the next score, Terenure were more than happy to offer the responsibility to Dooley, who kicked a couple of penalties in quick succession to extend the advantage to 24-7 after 67 minutes.
Con came again, another replacement, Cathal O’Flaherty scoring try number two out wide to cut the deficit to 12 points, but Terenure were in no mood for any grandstand finish and closed out the game with minimum fuss.
Dooley kicked his fifth penalty within four minutes and then received the approval of the vociferous home following by landing a long-range effort in stoppage-time.
The final is a repeat of last season after Tarf edged Young Munster 13-12 in the other semi-final.
Tries: A La Grue, J Coghlan. Con: C Dooley Pens: C Dooley (6).
Tries: J Murphy, C O’Flaherty. Con: A Moynihan.
A La Grue; C Dooley, C de Buitlear, P Sylvester, C Adams; C Smith, A Bennie; M Hanan, L Vaughan, A Tuite; M Caffrey, M Melia (c); A Melia, J Coghlan, L Clohessy.
R Smyth, C Classon, A Keating, H Brewer, N Lalor, C McKeon, C Marsh, S O’Neill.
G Coomber; B Crowley, H O’Riordan, N Kenneally, M Hand; A Moynihan (c), G Hurley; B Quinlan, B Scannell, L Masters; S Duffy, E Quilter; J Kelleher, D Hyland, R O’Neill.
M Abbott, A Heaney, A Deane, J Murphy, C O’Flaherty, L Kahn, D Hurley, G Higgins.
E Cross (IRFU).