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AIB Cup: Final Preview

AIB Cup: Final Preview

Beaten finalists last year, can Cork Constitution go one better this Saturday and lift the AIB Cup trophy for the second time in their history? Garryowen, the 2007 champions, stand in their way as Dubarry Park once again hosts the deciding match in this coveted All-Ireland competition.

AIB CUP FINAL: Saturday, January 30

CORK CONSTITUTION v GARRYOWEN, Dubarry Park, 3.05pm (live RTE Two)

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Irish Rugby TV talks to Evan Ryan and Conan Doyle

Preview/Team News: Two heavyweights of Munster rugby will battle it out for the first piece of All-Ireland senior silverware this season when they meet in Athlone on Saturday afternoon.

Just seven days after they drew 6-6 in the AIB League, Cork Constitution and Garryowen, both former cup champions, will take on each other again and this one is set to be another nail biter.

Place-kickers Scott Deasy and Conor Murray, the only scorers in last weekend’s league game at Dooradoyle, could have extra focus on them as a tight tussle is certainly in the offing.

Current Division 1A leaders Cork Con triumphed in this competition in 2006 but came a cropper in last year’s final when surprise packets Ballynahinch capped a fairytale season by deservedly overcoming the hot favourites.

Constitution, coached by Brian Walsh and backboned by many players with Munster experience, will again start as favourites in the cup final – given their recent league form which saw them chalk up five wins before that draw with the Light Blues. 

The Cork side will look to exciting talents like Deasy, Richie Lane, Billy Holland, Tom Gleeson and Stephen Archer to give them an edge.

However, Garryowen, after a poor start to the league, are hitting form at just the right time, helped by their great run to the AIB Cup final.

Guided by coach Paul Cunningham, they too have plenty of burgeoning talent in goal-kicking scrum half Murray, team captain Conan Doyle and Athlone’s own Alan Gaughan in their back-line, while former Connacht back rower Paul Neville, David Sherry and Ed Mackey are sure to give it their all in the forwards contest.

This is a cup final full of rich club traditions and pedigree, with Cork Con and Garryowen’s rivalry stretching back to their first Munster Senior Cup clash at Turner’s Cross in Cork on March 23, 1901. That game ended 0-0 and Garryowen won the replay 6-3 at the Market’s Field in Limerick.

Since then the clubs have contested Munster Senior Leagues and Cups, annually though obviously not always meeting in the Cup. In the Munster Senior Cup the sides have met on 50 occasions – the record stands at 20 wins to Constitution (including one walkover), 24 to Garryowen, with six games going to replays.

In the days before the AIB League, between 1960 and 1990, the clubs met in five Munster Senior League finals with one drawn and Con winning each other time.

Since the advent of the AIB League the sides have met 20 times with Garryowen holding sway in the league series games with 10 wins to Cork Con’s seven and three matches drawn, including last Saturday’s tie.

In addition, there have been four meetings in the play-off stages, with three finals and a semi-final. Cork Con have the upper hand here, winning a semi-final and two finals to Garryowen’s one success in the 2006/07 final at Musgrave Park.

This will be the first meeting of the clubs in this, the fifth year of the AIB Cup, and appropriately it is in the final.

Last week’s drawn game only served to confirm that there is very little between the teams and the above potted history suggests that the rivalry between the clubs is as keen as ever.

Speaking to Cork Constitution captain Evan Ryan and Garryowen skipper Conan Doyle in the build-up, ‘tough’ is a word they repeatedly used in previewing Saturday’s decider.

The stats speak for themselves, since 1901 in 88 games between the clubs, Constitution have won 34, Garryowen 35 with nine games drawn.

Walsh’s men probably underestimated Ballynahinch last season and, still smarting from that setback, they will be more focused on this occasion. They should have just enough to get over the finish line, but Garryowen, who were proud cup champions three years ago, will not be too far behind them.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 1-5 points

* IrishRugby.ie will have a full match report and post-match reaction from the Senior final on the site on Saturday evening. RTE Two’s live coverage, presented by Joanne Cantwell, will begin at 3pm with former Cork Con, Munster and Ireland hooker Frankie Sheahan joining Hugh Cahill for commentary.



Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)