The Division 1 trophy has had a familiar home in recent years, with Cork Constitution being crowned champions twice in the past three seasons. Can Old Belvedere break Munster’s stranglehold on the title and become the first Leinster winners since St. Mary’s College in 2000?
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1 FINAL: Sunday, May 1
CORK CONSTITUTION (1st, Division 1A) v OLD BELVEDERE (2nd, Division 1A), Donnybrook, 2.35pm (live RTÉ 2)
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Cork Constitution: WWWWLDWWLWWDWWW; Old Belvedere: WLWWWWWLWLWDLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Gerry Hurley 94; Tries: Brian Hayes 5; Old Belvedere: Points: Conal Keane 90; Tries: Daniel Riordan 8
Ulster Bank League Records – Cork Constitution: 2005/06: 3rd, Division 1, lost to Clontarf in semi-final; 2006/07: 1st, Division 1, lost to Garryowen in final; 2007/08: 1st, Division 1, champions, beat Garryowen in final; 2008/09: 1st, Division 1, lost to Clontarf in semi-final; 2009/10: 1st, Division 1A, champions, beat St. Mary’s College in final
Old Belvedere: 2005/06: 12th, Division 2; 2006/07: 1st, Division 2, lost to Greystones in final; 2007/08: 8th, Division 1; 2008/09: 10th, Division 1; 2009/10: 1st, Division 1B, lost to St. Mary’s College in semi-final
Preview: If Old Belvedere are looking for some encouragement going into Sunday’s Ulster Bank League final against the holders Cork Constitution at Donnybrook, they might reflect on their first meeting this season, back in October.
They lost 12-9, but the winning points for Cork Constitution, a 50-metre drop goal from full-back Sean Scanlon, only came in injury-time. Otherwise, there was nothing between the sides.
Not so in their second league meeting at the end of January when Cork Con recorded a comfortable 23-12 success, outscoring ‘Belvo by three tries to one. It was a victory which proved important as it moved Brian Walsh’s men to the top of the Division 1A table.
It is perhaps fitting that the two top sides in the table will contest the final, although Old Belvedere could count themselves very fortunate to have beaten Division 1B winners Clontarf 22-20 in the semi-final with a late Eddie Devitt try.
Quite clearly, they are going to have to play a lot better in this weekend’s decider. Much will depend on their ability to cope with the strong Cork Con pack, and provide their powerful number 8 Leo Auva’a with a platform.
Behind the scrum, Old Belvedere have some real scoring ability, mainly in the shape of Daniel Riordan at full-back. Scrum half Simon Keogh is further big influence, as is another former Leinster player Andy Dunne.
The difficulty for director of rugby Phil Werahiko, however, has been that Dunne is not always the most reliable of goalkickers. Consequently, Conal Keane started the semi-final at out-half, with Dunne eventually coming on to make a big impact.
Cork Constitution were more impressive in beating Young Munster 19-9 their semi-final, although it was hard work against a Young Munster outfit that defended in heroic fashion.
That said, Cork Constitution have consitently shown themselves to be the best equipped team in the league. Gerry Hurley has proved a big success, both as a place-kicker and a scrum-half general.
There are few, if any, weaknessess in this Cork Con team, many of whom have represented Munster this season.
From Denis Fogarty in the front row, Ian Nagle in the second-row and Billy Holland and skipper Frank Cogan in the back row, their pack is full of quality.
They also have plenty of ability in a backs division which will see Scott Deasy partner Hurley at half-back, and Simon Zebo returning on the left wing.
Zebo missed out on the semi-final because of Munster commitments but in the previous two league games he showed his value to Cork Con by scoring three tries. Full-back Scanlon is another strong runner, while the experienced Richie Lane is on the other wing.
Overall, Cork Constitution look to have the stronger set-up. And importantly, their coach Brian Walsh is fully aware that Old Belvedere will not play as poorly as they did in the semi-final.
If they are to win, Old Belvedere will, almost certainly, have to produce their best display of the season. Werahiko is checking on injuries to winger David Mongan (back) and Keogh (knee) before finalising his starting line-up.
The New Zealander anticipates a big improvement from the semi-final, stating: “We can’t wait for Cork Con to make mistakes, because they don’t make them.
“It’s up to us to be a lot more positive. If we go out with the right approach then I believe we are definitely in with a chance.”
CORK CONSTITUTION: tbc
OLD BELVEDERE: tbc
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)
Most Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 9, 2010: Old Belvedere 9 Cork Constitution 12, Anglesea Road; Saturday, January 29, 2011: Cork Constitution 23 Old Belvedere 12, Temple Hill
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cork Constitution: 4/9: Draw: 20/1; Old Belvedere: 7/4
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 1-5 points
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