Cork Constitution took their unbeaten AIB League run at Temple Hill to 20 games on Saturday afternoon as they brushed Clontarf aside to qualify for next Sunday’s Division One final.
AIB LEAGUE DIVISION ONE SEMI-FINAL: Saturday, May 3
CORK CONSTITUTION 17 CLONTARF 3, Temple Hill
Scorers: Cork Constitution: Tries: Cronan Healy, Tim Ryan, Richie Lane; Con: Daragh Lyons
Clontarf: Pen: Daragh O’Shea
Match Photo Gallery
Brian Walsh’s Cork Constitution side grabbed three tries in all, two from backs Cronan Healy and Richie Lane sandwiching a 57th-minute effort from prop Tim Ryan, as they won through to their second successive divisional decider.
Clontarf’s Daragh O’Shea missed an early penalty and winger Healy’s breakaway score in the 27th-minute had Con 5-0 ahead at the break.
O’Shea opened ‘Tarf’s account, seven minutes after the restart, but Ryan and full-back Lane (70 minutes) sent the table toppers through.
Two years ago, when these clubs met in a semi-final at Castle Avenue, Clontarf handed Con a 26-6 defeat.
With that in mind, the Leesiders came fully prepared today although they were without their Munster-contracted out-half Jeremy Manning who sustained a slight injury against Ulster on Wednesday.
However, Con were able to select a selected line-up which included flanker Billy Holland, son of Munster team manager Jerry Holland who was in attendance.
Clontarf also had a player in their side with a famous father – their scrum half Sean Treacy is a son of former Irish runner and Olympic medallist John Treacy, who also made the trip to Cork.
Both sides kept it tight in the opening quarter and it was no surprise that the game remained scoreless until Healy’s moment of magic.
‘Tarf centre O’Shea did have a chance to break the deadlock in the fifth-minute but his penalty kick, from just inside the hosts’ half, drifted wide of the posts.
It was left to Healy to open the scoring and the AIB Club international winger did it in style as he broke free over the halfway line and had the pace to make the corner.
Healy made history when he crossed the line as it was his 34th league try, moving him ahead of his coach Walsh (33 touchdowns) as Con’s record AIB League try scorer.
Out-half Daragh Lyons’ conversion attempt from the touchline tailed away to the left, leaving Con with a 5-0 advantage.
Clontarf, who had the advantage of the wind in the opening half, did pile on the pressure through their pack late on.
Back rower Martin Garvey was held up close to the whitewash though and Lyons was off target at the other end with a late penalty attempt.
O’Shea put a simple penalty over from in front of the posts to get ‘Tarf off the mark as they began the second half at a quick tempo.
But in a tightly-contested encounter, Con managed to break clear and somehow find the space for tries.
The home pack wore down their opponents coming up to the hour mark and front row Ryan spotted a gap to crash over closer to the posts, with Lyons tapping over the conversion.
‘Tarf coach Andy Wood brought on burly winger Derek Keane, the club’s top try scorer in this season’s league, for a final quarter push.
Yet Con continued to hold the aces and they eased home to their eighth straight league win thanks to Lane’s score.
The former Ireland Under-21 international kicked the ball on near the 22 and with a favourable bounce, he regained possession to cross for his 11th try of the league campaign.
Lyons missed the conversion but the kick did not matter as Con impressively stayed on track for their first league title since 1999.
CORK CONSTITUTION: Richie Lane; John Kelly, Tom Gleeson, Evan Ryan, Cronan Healy; Daragh Lyons, John Stringer; Daragh Hurley, Des Murray, Tim Ryan, Merle O’Connell (capt), Shane O’Connor, Frank Cogan, Brendan Cuttriss, Billy Holland.
Replacements used: David O’Leary for Stringer (62 mins), Ed Leamy for Cuttriss, Dermot O’Kane for Kelly (both 66), Colum Murphy for Hurley (72), John Maloney for O’Connell (74), Robert Quinn for Murray (76), Peter Brougham for Lyons (79).
CLONTARF: Ian Keatley; Phil Howard, Daragh O’Shea, Conor Keegan, Marc Hewitt; Peter O’Brien, Sean Treacy; Adrian Clarke, Niall Carson, Niall Treston, Alan Trenier, David O’Siochain, Simon Crawford (capt), Chris Elvin, Martin Garvey.
Replacements used: Derek Keane for Hewitt, Simon O’Donnell for Keatley (both 58 mins), Kenny Dorian for Treston (60), Breiffne O’Donnell for Keegan (61), Niall O’Brien for Howard (68), Phil Purdue for Trenier (75).
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)