With promotion already safely secured, Lansdowne and Bruff can afford to throw off the shackles at Anglesea Road this afternoon as they battle it out for the AIB League Division 2 title.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 2 FINAL: Saturday, May 8
BRUFF v LANSDOWNE, Anglesea Road, 2pm
Consistency wise, it would be hard to argue that Lansdowne do not deserve to add to their trophy cabinet.
Director of rugby Stephen Rooney and head coach Willie Clancy have guided their talent-laden squad through the pitfalls of the second tier, and their only slip-up was a 14-12 loss away to Old Crescent last month.
That equates to 15 wins in 16 league games, with nine try-scoring bonus points helping them finish 14 points clear of today’s opponents in the final table. It is quite an achievement a clear sign that Lansdowne are on their way back after a couple of disappointing seasons.
Getting promoted to AIB League Division 1 for the first time in their history was a massive fillip for Bruff, who just six short years ago were competing in the top flight of the Munster Junior League.
Coached by Eoin Cahill and Peter Malone, the Bruff squad is one of the fittest and best drilled in the division and their rugby nous and ability to come out on top in tight games is a testament to the players’ will to succeed.
Their sense of togetherness and common bond could come down to the fact that of the current panel of players, only two do not hail from the Bruff area – Andrew Cashman and David Horan, who is a brother of Munster and Ireland prop Marcus Horan.
Malone, a former AIB Club international player, still lines out in the back row and warned that his side will be ‘going all out’ to avenge a heavy defeat to Lansdowne earlier in the season.
Their semi-final victory over Terenure College – 35-13 – included a sublime individual try from lock Alan ‘Crusher’ Bourke. More of the same would set up a final to remember here at the home of Old Belvedere.
Both Bruff and Lansdowne feel they are good enough to compete in Division 1B next term and winning silverware in the May sunshine will be a further confidence booster for either side as they prepare to make the step-up in the autumn.
Lansdowne scored a comprehensive 40-8 semi-final win over De La Salle Palmerston in their final game at the RDS, with first half tries from back row duo Dominic Ryan and Ron Boucher setting the tone.
The headquarters club have been formidable opponents this season and Bruff found this to their cost when they lost 54-13 to them at Kilballyowen Park back in October.
Lansdowne, who trailed 6-0 after 25 minutes, put a completely different complexion on the game coming up to half-time, and they eventually outscored the hosts by eight tries to one.
Ross McCarron, Eoin Sheriff, Matt Healy and Boucher have been amongst the top performers for Clancy’s charges, who have been bolstered by an enviable sprinkling of ex professional, provincially-contracted and Academy players.
Bruff’s best moments have included some excellent individual displays from out-half and captain Brian Cahill, a brother of coach Eoin, hooker Cathal O’Regan and flanker David Gardiner. Lansdowne have their only brotherly link as Leinster back rower Stephen Keogh and his younger brother Neilus have both featured for the Dublin 4 club this season.
Skippered by former Connacht Leinster prop John Lyne, Lansdowne are unlikely to repeat their hammering of Bruff from October, especially considering Cahill and company have stepped it up a notch or two since then.
But with Gordon D’Arcy coaching their backs and former Ireland international Kieran Lewis and Greg Stafford starring in midfield, the table toppers will have too much in their armoury if they maintain their high standards from the league phase.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 1-5 points
BRUFF: Pat Thompson; Andrew Cashman, John Malone, John Carroll, John Moore; Brian Cahill (capt), Tony Cahill; David Horan, Cathal O’Regan, Stephen Foster, Alan Bourke, Maurice O’Connell, David Gardiner, John Shine, Michael Carroll.
Referee: Simon McDowell (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Michael Black, Paul Haycock (both IRFU)
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