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Champions UCC Ready For Another Promotion Push

Champions UCC Ready For Another Promotion Push

Head coach Conor Twomey and scrum half Sam Cronin were obviously delighted that UCC claimed their first ever AIB League Division Two play-off title on Saturday, but the pair are already turning their attention to next season and the goal of top flight promotion.

UCC were top of the Division Two table for five weeks of the season but defeats to their Munster rivals, Clonakilty, Highfield and Young Munster, left them in fourth position by the final day.

‘College began the season with a run of eight league wins in-a-row so to miss out on promotion to Division One was a real disappointment for Conor Twomey’s young charges.

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But, showing great resolve, the Cork students have made up in some part, over the last two weekends, for failing to gain promotion.

In the club’s first ever league semi-final, they managed to beat table toppers Buccaneers at Dubarry Park and win through to their maiden final.

Saturday’s decider at Donnybrook looked like it would not go their way as Young Munster took a 5-0 interval lead and UCC out-half Gavin Dunne missed his first two penalty kicks.

However, AIB man-of-the-match-winning scrum half Sam Cronin and a tireless UCC pack turned the game on its head after the break. Dunne found his kicking boots to land six penalty successes and see his side to a memorable 18-8 success.

Twomey, who is in his first year in charge at the Mardyke, said: “We’ve had a tough season but this caps it off. The disappointment of not winning promotion, we’ll get over that, but it’s great to lift a trophy.

“There was great rivalry with Young Munster this year. They beat us 3-0 in the league so it was good to turn them over today.”

Despite his man-of-the-match display, scrum half Cronin was modest enough to pass on the plaudits to his hard-working team-mates and particularly front rowers Ronan O’Neill, Wayne Falvey and Stephen Archer.

“Our front row were enormous again, they’re outweighed in every game we play but they still put in the hard hits, the big scrums, and I’m so thrilled for them.

“For young lads we front up a lot, this kind of experience will stand to us. A lot of the boys will be men next year because of the season we’ve just had,” added the recently capped AIB Club international, who agreed that the ‘big prize’ was promotion.

“We’ll all be together again next year. It’s the first year in a long time that we haven’t lost a lot of players to other clubs. Hopefully next year we can really push for promotion.”

UCC were close to gaining access to Division One back in 2005 but they lost a promotion/relegation play-off to a Lansdowne side that included Felipe Contepomi and Niall Ronan.

Young Munster, who finished second in this season’s Division Two table, are where ‘College want to be. The Limerick outfit will be back challenging their neighours Garryowen, Shannon and UL Bohemians next term and their coach Mike Lynch will again be at the helm.

After Saturday’s defeat, Lynch admitted that tired legs cost Munsters at the end of a long and gruelling season. However, he was admittedly very impressed with the efforts of an ‘outstanding’ UCC side.

“I suppose if I had the option of promotion or winning the Division Two title I would opt for Division One. But ‘College played well and deserved to win,” he said.

“We’re very disappointed. They worked extremely hard for this but at times today I thought they looked really tired. I would certainly attribute that to the ferocity and the controlled aggression of the UCC lads – I was very impressed with them.

“We watched a number of videos of their games, they were probably the form team all season and they proved today they are an outstanding side.

“I don’t think anyone can take from what they’ve achieved, they were unlucky not to score a couple of tries. We created a few chances ourselves but took too many wrong options at critical times.”