AIL: Highfield struggled with higher standards in Division 1A play-off

And new champions Terenure College raised the bar even higher again for next season with swashbuckling display in final
AIL: Highfield struggled with higher standards in Division 1A play-off

Highfield's Eoin Keating winning a line-out against Shannon in the energia All-Ireland League Division 1A play-off. Picture Brendan Gleeson

EARLY in the second-half of the Shannon-Highfield energia All-Ireland League Division 1A play-off at the weekend, one of the loudest roars came from the sizeable Cork contingent, who cheered their approval at the way the visitors stubbornly defended their line.

Highfield, the outsiders playing higher-graded opponents, held a precarious 12-10 lead following four penalties from out-half James Taylor, who duly found touch with the clearing penalty to seemingly lift the siege.

But the Cork side couldn’t retain possession from the subsequent line-out and quick as a flash Shannon sensed their moment, moving the ball swiftly to the right, where speedy wing Josh Costello crossed spectacularly in the corner.

It was one of those close calls. Had the Shannon player brushed the whitewash of the touchline in scoring or was it a brilliant finish? A touch judge confirmed its legality.

To add further insult, out-half Michael Cooke landed a brilliant touchline conversion to edge his side 17-10 in front after 46 minutes, and from there on there was only going to be one winner, Shannon smelt blood and went for the kill.

Within a couple of minutes, Costello capitalised on a Highfield handling error to kick ahead and sprint clear of the cover with an impressive dash from half-way to bag his second try, followed by a Shannon fourth in the 56th minute.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye Highfield found themselves 12-29 down and staring at the inevitable, another season in Division 1B.

There’s a huge gap in standards between 1A and 1B and even within the top tier, there’s almost another split, the leading four or five clubs ahead of the others.

What Highfield found to their cost and others like them in these promotion play-offs is that any mistake is almost invariably punished, especially at critical times, too, like the third quarter of games.

Shannon inflicted the same damage on Old Wesley in their semi-final, recovering from 0-6 early on to dominate the second-half en route to a 24-6 triumph.

Access to Munster Academy players hands an obvious advantage to Limerick clubs, too, notably Young Munster and Shannon, who had the former PBC prop Darragh McSweeney packing down in their front row.

Highfield will face more Limerick opposition next season following Garryowen’s relegation from the top section for the second time in the club’s history though they rebounded immediately, something the Light Blues are clearly intent on repeating.

Highfield, who again have UCC for company, will be happy with just one trip to play Ulster opponents after Malone and Banbridge slipped to 2A and City of Armagh claimed the automatic 1B promotion spot.

But Queens edged out Blackrock College in a tight finish to 2A so it’s off to Belfast for the Cork pair and the Dublin club emerged from the play-offs to accompany the northern students, handing the duo a fifth journey to the capital.

Dolphin will see a lot of the country in 2B with four games in Ulster, three in Dublin and two up west while Midleton’s schedule in 2C takes in another trip north to play newcomers Clogher Valley from Co Tyrone.

The season finished on a high with Terenure College’s maiden title following a sensational 50-24 win over Clontarf in a final watched by a record attendance of over 8,500 at the Aviva.

The trophy stays in Dublin for another year, the ninth in the past dozen years. Cork Constitution were the last club outside the capital to win it in 2019.

Star man Caolan Dooley, who kicked 30 points, won a Munster Schools Senior Cup medal with Glenstal Abbey in 2018, when Sean Skehan masterminded the historic breakthrough before guiding Terenure to their moment of glory.

Next season’s lineup: Division 1A: Terenure College, Clontarf, Cork Constitution, Young Munster, Ballynahinch, Trinity College, Lansdowne, UCD, Shannon, City of Armagh.

Division 1B: Garryowen, Highfield, Old Blevedere, Old Wesley, Buccaneers, St Mary’s, Naas, UCC, Queens, Blackrock College.

Division 2A: Malone, Banbridge, Nenagh Ormond, NUM Barnhall, Cashel, Navan, Ballymena, Old Crescent, UL Bohemians, Greystones.

Division 2B: Dolphin, Corinthians, Dungannon, Sligo, Wanderers, Rainey Old Boys, Belfast Harlequins, Malahide, Instonians, Skerries.

Division 2C: Enniscorthy, Galwegians, Tullamore, Bruff, Clonmel, Bangor, Omagh Academicals, Ballina, Midleton, Clogher Valley.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

People holding phone with App

It's all about Cork!

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

It's all about Cork!

App Store LogoGoogle Play Logo
The Echo - Women in Sport Awards - Logo



Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Contact Us Cookie Policy Privacy Policy Terms and Conditions

© Evening Echo Ltd, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork. Registered in Ireland: 523713

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more