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Gutsy Garryowen Complete League And Cup Double

Gutsy Garryowen Complete League And Cup Double

Gutsy Garryowen won the AIB League Division One title for the first time since 1994 this afternoon, beating Cork Constitution 16-15 in a drama-filled final at Musgrave Park.

AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE FINAL: Saturday, May 5

CORK CONSTITUTION 15 GARRYOWEN 16, Musgrave Park

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Scorers: Cork Constitution: Tries: Tom Gleeson, Denis Hurley; Con: Richie Lane; Pen: Richie Lane
Garryowen: Try: Damien Varley; Con: Eoghan Hickey; Pens: Eoghan Hickey 3

A 73rd-minute try from hooker Damien Varley, with Munster’s Eoghan Hickey crucially converting, helped the Limerick men claim a unique AIB League and Cup double.

Indeed, the Dooradoyle residents also won the Munster Senior Cup and the Munster Junior Cup this year so today’s victory completes a remarkable season for the club.

Con were always in contention though and centre Tom Gleeson ghosted over for a try in first half injury-time, putting the table-toppers 10-6 in front at the interval.

Hickey’s third penalty made it a one-point game and although Con full-back Denis Hurley darted over for a 70th-minute try, Richie Lane’s missed conversion and Varley’s maul effort saw Garryowen end their 13-year wait for league success.

Gunning for their third league title and first since 1999, Con suffered a blow before kick-off when tough-tackling flanker Brendan Cuttriss damaged his shoulder in the warm-up, but Ed Leamy, the younger brother of Munster and Ireland star Denis, was an able deputy in the number 7 shirt.

Centre Kevin Hartigan passed a late fitness test for Garryowen, allowing the AIB Cup winners to field the same team they had out for last weekend’s semi-final win at Clontarf.

In what was a nervy opening, neither side could get into their patterns. Con’s top points scorer this season, winger Lane, who boasted 158 points before kick-off, was gifted a fourth-minute shot at the posts after Garryowen had gone over the top at a ruck.

But backed by a swirling wind, the former Ireland Under-21 star shot wide from a right-sided position. Garryowen out-half Hickey, who was playing his last game for the club before his move to London Irish, then spiralled an excellent touch-finder down the left flank to get his side on the move.

Hickey saw plenty of possession in the first half but Garryowen drifted too easily across the pitch and lacked a cutting edge, until their forwards began to dominate after the break.

Hickey kicked Garryowen in front in the 11th-minute, nailing a close range penalty, but the former UCD player missed two further place kicks, the first from just inside his own half, before his second success had Paul Cunningham’s side leading 6-0 on the half-hour mark.

There was very little in the way of clear-cut attacking opportunities for the long-standing Munster rivals, although Con full-back Hurley, Leamy and centres Tom Gleeson and Daniel Nethery all looked dangerous with ball in hand.

Hurley helped put Con’s first points on the board as it was from his terrific left wing attack that Garryowen infringed and Lane mopped up with a straightforward penalty.

Another sudden attacking burst led to Con’s only try of the afternoon.

The Leesiders snaffled possession as Hickey looked to chip forward, burly prop Tim Ryan barged forward, taking out two men, and he was supported by out-half Daragh Lyons whose lovely inside pass put Gleeson haring over under the posts for a well-executed try. It was undoubtedly the high point of a stop-start half, which ended after Lane’s conversion attempt had sailed through the posts.

The second period was much more open with both sides chasing the game with renewed vigour. Winger Cronan Healy, Con’s try-scoring hero from the semi-final victory over UL Bohemians, came more and more into the game.

Healy should have offloaded when Hurley was in support on a midfield break, but the pass never came and it was Garryowen who bagged the half’s first points.

Con, who struggled with their discipline at the breakdown, went in off their feet at a 53rd-minute ruck and Hickey calmly floated over his kick from the ten-metre line to make it 10-9.

With the game increasing in intensity, space began to open up and Garryowen full-back Conor Kilroy was unfortunate not to touch down in the left corner, with referee Alan Lewis, who was whistling his third Division One decider, calling him back for a double movement. Two great cover tackles from Nethery and Gleeson had seen Kilroy squeezed for space after Garryowen had numbers out wide.

Territorially, Garryowen were now on top and they worked another try-scoring opportunity for themselves when Varley made a superb thrust forward and Hickey and Conan Doyle combined in midfield, but just as the Con defence looked stretched, Doyle was wrapped up in a tackle.

Despite not finding the distance he craved, number 10 Lyons was keeping Con in the game with some vital kicks to touch from inside his 22. Con’s defensive line kept Garryowen out and Brian Walsh’s men then smartly took their chance to move further ahead.

Lyons sent a probing kick down the right touchline, moving Con into the opposition’s 22. They disrupted the lineout, won turnover ball and off a close-in scrum, captain Frank Cogan broke and fed Leamy who was stopped just short of the try line.

Quick ball was required and scrum half Peter McKee delivered it superbly to his outside backs with Hurley easily slipping past a tackle to score to the left of the posts and move Con 15-9 ahead.

However, Lane missed what subsequently proved to be a very important conversion and Garryowen quickly regrouped. Just three minutes later, they were celebrating their first and only try as they raced forward off the restart and a concerted maul effort ended with Varley plunging over.

Hickey held his nerve to ping over the conversion from the left to put Garryowen 16-15 ahead and set up a thrilling finish, with only seven minutes of normal time remaining.

Con’s chances of winning were diminishing by the minute but Healy and Hurley and their ever-willing pack never gave up hope. They saw a chink of light in injury-time when replacement Conor Quaid evaded a tackle, broke clear and sped up towards the Con 22. He had little support but held the ball up well for Con to recycle and cling on to their title hopes.

Lyons then took a drop goal shot, but the ball never made the posts and dropped short. Garryowen seemed to have enough bodies back to collect possession and see out the win, but they dithered and referee Lewis spotted a knock on and awarded a last-gasp scrum to Con.

Skipper Cogan picked and went off the back of the set piece, but despite repeated thrusts, Con made little yardage. Lyons was lined up for a second drop goal attempt but agonisingly for the diminutive number 10 and his team-mates, his effort just tailed away to the right of the posts and Garryowen were proclaimed victors just seconds later.

The win was all the more satisfying for the Dooradoyle men as it came in coach Paul Cunningham’s final game in charge. Former Ireland international Killian Keane is also ending his spell with the Garryowen coaching set-up.

There were joyous celebrations afterwards as Garryowen toasted their third league success of all-time, which will see the Division One winners’ trophy residing in Limerick for the fourth successive year – Garryowen’s neighbouring rivals Shannon were champions in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

TIME LINE: 4 minutes – Cork Constitution penalty: missed by Richie Lane; 11 mins – Garryowen penalty: Eoghan Hickey – 0-3; 25 mins – Garryowen penalty: missed by Eoghan Hickey; 28 mins – Garryowen penalty: missed by Eoghan Hickey; 30 mins – Garryowen penalty: Eoghan Hickey – 0-6; 35 mins – Cork Constitution penalty: Richie Lane – 3-6; 40+1 mins – Cork Constitution try: Tom Gleeson – 8-6; conversion: Richie Lane – 10-6; Half-time – Cork Constitution 10 Garryowen 6; 53 mins – Garryowen penalty: Eoghan Hickey – 10-9; 70 mins – Cork Constitution try: Denis Hurley – 15-9; conversion: missed by Richie Lane – 15-9; 73 mins – Garryowen try: Damien Varley – 15-14; conversion: Eoghan Hickey – 15-16; Full-time – Cork Constitution 15 Garryowen 16

CORK CONSITUTION: Denis Hurley; Richie Lane, Daniel Nethery, Tom Gleeson, Cronan Healy; Daragh Lyons, Peter McKee; Tom Ryan, Des Murray, Tim Ryan, Merle O’Connell, Shane O’Connor, Ross Noonan, Ed Leamy, Frank Cogan (capt).

Replacements used: Conor Quaid for Lyons (18-25 mins, blood sub), John Maloney for O’Connor (56), Robert Quinn for Murray, Colum Murphy for Tim Ryan (both 75), Quaid for Nethery (79)

GARRYOWEN: Conor Kilroy; Adam O’Loughlin, Kevin Hartigan, Conan Doyle, Ciaran O’Boyle; Eoghan Hickey, Gerry Hurley; Rory Brosnan, Damien Varley, John Staunton, Mark Melbourne, Ed Mackey, Paul Neville (capt), Anthony Kavanagh, Peter Malone.

Replacements used: Dave Sherry for Malone (32-37 mins, blood sub), Cillian O’Boyle for Hartigan (49), Donal Sheehan for Mackey (65)

AIB man of the match: Peter Malone (Garryowen)

Referee: Alan Lewis (Leinster)
Touch judges: Dudley Phillips (Leinster), Colin Stanley (Ulster)