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Cracker In Prospect Between Cork Con And St. Mary’s

Cracker In Prospect Between Cork Con And St. Mary’s

Cork Constitution and St. Mary’s College will go head-to-head in Saturday’s AIB League Division 1 final at Dubarry Park in Athlone (kick-off 3.35pm). The clash of the top two sides in the final Division 1A table will be broadcast live on RTE Two.

Cork Constitution finished top of the table for the fourth consecutive season and are looking to claim their second league title in that period at the Athlone venue this weekend.

It would be their fourth in total, while opponents St. Mary’s College are looking to double their tally ten years after claiming their solitary league win under Brent Pope in 2000.

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It is set up for a cracker, just over a month after the sides produced a thrilling match at Templeville Road with the hosts running out 24-20 winners and taking a huge step towards the play-offs.

Cork Con recovered to book their place in the decider after back-to-back wins over local rivals Dolphin and their skipper Evan Ryan is expecting it to be just as tight at the home of Buccaneers on Saturday, the ground where they claimed the AIB Cup back in January.

“It’ll be tough, but we’re looking forward to it,” admitted the centre. 

“We have had two good games against Dolphin, two very tough games. It’s going to be difficult against St. Mary’s, we played them twice – beat them in Cork and lost heavily to them up here (jn Dublin).

“We started quite slow into the season and lost our first two games. We kind of got into a run at things towards Christmas. All of those games were two and three pointers, we weren’t hammering teams or anything like that.

“That’s the way the league has gone recently. If you looked at the AIB Cup run, that was a confidence booster, but you can’t really look at that because the league is a different dynamic.”

While St. Mary’s College captain Hugh Hogan agrees that his club are delighted to be back at the final stage, he knows just how fleeting these moments can be.

Ten years ago, St. Mary’s would never have considered that they would not contest a final for another decade and he and his generation are keen to take their chance.

“It’s ten years since St. Mary’s last appeared in the final and that was the day we won the title,” explained the number 8.

“Our current coach, Peter Smyth, played on that team, people were saying you won the cup, brilliant. He was 22 at the time, thinking he’d be back next year and the year after.

“But it’s such a tough thing to do to get there, you have to take your chances when you do. We’re charged that we got there, but we’re by no means satisfied yet because we’ve no silverware to take home.”

Whoever takes Shannon’s crown will have earned it in what promises to be an entertaining encounter in the midlands.

“Whatever happens on Saturday, Hogan, who led St. Mary’s to the Leinster Senior Cup title in February, says that there is a healthy relationship between both sets of players.

“Cork Con have five or six AIB Club international players in their side,” he said.

“I played with Evan and I’ve played with a number of other guys. I’d know them well and they’re a great bunch of guys. They’re good guys and people who you’d really respect as rugby players.”

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