4 Dec, 10:19
Grand Slam winners Fiona Coghlan and Nora Stapelton have returned the Women's RBS 6 Nations trophy to Chief Executive John Feehan at the Six Nations offices in Dublin.
Brian Walsh's young Cork Constitution side have certainly helped breath fire into the AIB Cup competition in its maiden season.
Their exciting and expansive play has netted them 81 points and ten tries - six to lightning full back-cum-winger Richard Lane - in their three games to date.
Captained by former Ireland Under-19 flanker Frank Cogan, Con have been dubbed "cute" by many an observer this year - perhaps that's a nod to some of the players' "boy band" looks, but undoubtedly there's been a business-like quality about how they have clocked up 12 wins from 15 AIB League and Cup outings.
Con's arrival in the final - off the back of victories over League champions Shannon (away), last year's beaten League finalists Belfast Harlequins and Connacht Senior League and Cup champions Buccaneeers (away) - is both tinged with sadness and nostalgia.
Wednesday, March 22 last saw the sudden death of first team Con centre Conrad O'Sullivan at just 25 years of age - an event which not only touched the hearts and minds of his entire Con brethren, but also those of his former UCC and Munster colleagues, and the whole Munster and Irish rugby fraternity beyond.
Walsh admitted his players were still "trying to come to terms" with O'Sullivan's passing, describing him as "the heartbeat" of the side, but what better way to go out and mark the former Cork minor hurler and Ireland Under-21 international's passing, then to lift the first ever AIB Cup.
In doing so, the current Con crop would provide a neat link back to the past as the Temple Hill club were also winners of the inaugural All-Ireland League competition back in the 1990/91 season.
The addition of former Ireland hooker and captain Terry Kingston in a coaching capacity this season, after a spell assisting with UCC last term, has galvanised a Con pack, bolstered by the likes of back rows Cogan and Brendan Cuttriss and prop Mike Ross, who scored a try in Con's last League outing - a 53-22 trouncing of Belfast Harlequins on March 4.
Walsh said after the win over Quins: "There is a great work ethic within the squad. We have tried to set new standards in the way players are expected to work for one another and it's starting to play dividends."
Runners-up in the League in three of the last five seasons, claiming the club's first All-Ireland title since their League success in 1998/99 would certainly go someway to ridding Con of their bridesmaid's tag, and just reward for some hard work all round.