University College Cork got some consolation for failing to win promotion to the top flight when they scored a convincing and deserved win over Young Munster to take the AIB League Division Two title for the first time.
2007/08 AIB LEAGUE DIVISION TWO FINAL: Saturday, April 19
UCC 18 YOUNG MUNSTER 8, Donnybrook
Scorers: UCC: Pens: Gavin Dunne 6
Young Munster: Try: Eoin Ryan; Pen: Mark Connolly
UCC trailed for almost 50 minutes of this keenly contested final but after trading penalties with the Cookies, they pulled clear to emerge victors by ten points.
They can thank Gavin Dunne for their victory. The out-half landed the six penalties that made up UCC’s tally with Young Munster adding just three points to their half time lead of 5-0.
Young Munster just about edged it in the opening half. They got the perfect start with Cian Clohessy passing to Eoin Ryan close to the sideline and the flanker breezed past two weak UCC tackles for the touchdown. Conor Murray was wide with the conversion attempt.
Two penalty misses by UCC out-half Dunne allowed Mike Lynch’s side off the hook while a Murray penalty which came off the right hand upright and the sin-binning of ‘College scrum half Sam Cronin kept this tie at boiling point.
Young Munster captain Derek Corcoran went close to a try, minutes into the second half, and with UCC reduced to 13 men after the sin-binning of second row Ian Nagle, the Limerick side missed a good three-point chance when Mark Connolly pulled his penalty wide from the ten-metre line.
A Dunne penalty on 50 minutes reduced the arrears to two points but Young Munster responded with a Connolly penalty that was to be their last score of the game.
UCC fought for every inch of ground from there to the finish. Dunne reduced the deficit to two points with his second penalty and edged ‘College 9-8 in front on 59 minutes from another placed ball.
It was all UCC now and a further penalty from Dunne put them 12-8 to the good. Connolly missed a chance to to get his side within a single point of ‘College with 20 minutes remaining but from there to the finish the Cookies were on the defensive.
Two more penalties from the boot of Dunne gave UCC a deserved victory in what was their first ever play-off final.
Typified the sheer heart and effort shown by UCC was their front row unit of Stephen Archer, Wayne Falvey and Ronan O’Neill, while Archer’s Ireland Under-20 colleague Nagle and Neilus Keogh, brother of Leinster and Ireland ‘A’ forward Stephen Keogh, were excellent in the lineout.
‘College’s forwards showed the type of controlled aggression needed in tight finals such as this one, with number 8 Rob Barry another player to catch the eye.
Munsters had a number of stand-out players themselves, with all-action flanker Liam Og Murphy the pick of the bunch. But his side were under too much pressure up front, hence the number of penalties that went Dunne’s way.
It was another enthralling final, showing that both UCC and Young Munster would not look out of place in Division One. Perhaps they will meet again in the top flight in the 2009/10 season?
UCC: Scott Deasy; Peter Shallow, Ivan Dineen, Alex Kelleher (capt), Colin Crowley; Gavin Dunne, Sam Cronin; Ronan O’Neill, Wayne Falvey, Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Neilus Keogh, David Nathan, Don Keogh, Rob Barry.
Replacements used: Brian Dennehy for Kelleher (54 mins), Jason Carton for O’Neill (73), Sean Scanlon for Crowley (80).
YOUNG MUNSTER: Mark Connolly; Stephen Carey, Derek Corcoran (capt), Cian Clohessy, Eamonn Broderick; Tom Wells, Conor Murray; Ger Flaherty, Ger Slattery, Hugh McGrath, Darragh Payne, Shane O’Neill, Liam Og Murphy, Eoin Ryan, Mark Shorley.
Replacements used: Michael South for Clohessy (48 mins), Danny Grace for Wells (62), Alan Cotter for McGrath (65), Paudie McMahon for Slattery (74), Jon Ryan for E Ryan (76).
Referee: David Keane (IRFU)