We continue our build-up to Saturday’s Ulster Bank Bateman All-Ireland Cup final between St. Mary’s College and Cork Constitution with an interview with the Leesiders’ scrum half and captain Gerry Hurley. Cóilín Duffy posed the questions.
IrishRugby.ie: Gerry, looking back at the Ulster Bank League there wasn’t too much between yourselves and St. Mary’s in your two games this year with a victory for both sides. This is a chance to decide it for the year now, but games between these two clubs are never easy?
Gerry Hurley: These games are always battles. Two away wins in the league. We were delighted to win up at Templeville Road and Mary’s came down to Cork and really exacted revenge. They gave us a good beating (30-12) that day.
Saturday’s cup final will be tight, there is no doubt about that. The two clubs were in the league final three years ago and games between us are always hotly contested. It will be tough and it will be down to the wire we presume.
IR: You hold no fear of coming to Templeville Road and carving out a victory. You have already done it this season?
GH: We probably caught them earlier on in the year when we won 22-13, but it will be a big ask coming up to Dublin again to do it. Home advantage will be massive for them to have in a game like this. We’ll come up, we’ll do our best, we’ll get stuck into it and try and eek out a win.
IR: Reflecting back on your Bateman Cup campaign to date, a three-point away semi-final win over Ballymena in January. A hard earned win in the end?
GH: Yeah, it was hard earned. We went up there and we didn’t even know if the game was going to go ahead. The weather conditions were terrible.
It was a good performance, we were delighted with it. Ballymena weren’t going well at the time, but they really played well that day. We played some good rugby at times up there and we did enough to hold out, because they came very strong at us in the end.”
IR: The Ulster Bank League has seen Cork Constitution finish fourth in Division 1A. So near and yet so far in many respects?
GH: We’ve had a lot of narrow wins so we could have been a lot worse off than we are. We are quite happy where we are. In fairness we weren’t looking great for a while.
We had a bit of a slump and then to be honest the last couple of games we have been playing dead rubbers, with teams that haven’t much to play for.
Obviously we do, so maybe that was a reason for the wins. We are obviously happy with the bit of a surge late in the season, but it might flatter us a bit.
IR: Cork Con won four games back-to-back towards the tail end of the season, before losing to UL Bohemians last week. You have a decent bit of momentum coming into this final despite that defeat?
GH: Finals are a totally different kettle of fish. There is a trophy at stake, so form can mean something, but it goes out the window really. As I said our form, those games have been dead rubbers (largely), where the opposition hasn’t much to play for.
Whereas Mary’s have played teams that are fighting a bit down the other end of the table. They have come up against very stiff opposition who are willing to really fight for it a bit. As I said that might flatter us, with the bit of a run we have had late in the season.
IR: You are hoping for your third All-Ireland Cup success following previous wins in 2006 and 2010. How important is it in terms of player development to have competitions like this and to have big games coming up?
GH: It’s great. With the league going to non-knockout and just the league system proper, it is good to have a cup competition. It’s great to be playing at this stage of the season in a final which would be a big game.
Regarding development it is very good for young players to play in pressure games, which as their careers go on they are going to have to play in. Games like this are excellent.
As regards the weekend we are not looking to develop at all. We are just looking to win really, as I said it is going to be tough and if we are going to do it we are really going to have to get stuck in. It will really be a big test of character.
IR: If you were to lift silverware this weekend, it would cap what has been a great 2013 for yourself. You captained the Ireland Club side on your own home pitch to victory earlier this year over England Counties and also claimed the man-of-the-match award that night.
GH: That was nice. A win this weekend would be a very good way to end a season which was, all in all, disappointing. In the league at a critical stage, where we needed to play and win, we didn’t. To come home with silverware would be good and it would cap off the season quite well. We would be satisfied!
Saturday’s Bateman Cup decider kicks off at Templeville Road at 12.05pm. The match is being broadcast live on RTÉ Two Television/RTÉ website (worldwide), hosted by Joanne Cantwell.