Holders Cork Constitution and Division 1A rivals UCD will meet in the Ulster Bank Bateman All-Ireland Cup in late April, following their semi-final victories at Temple Hill and Belfield.
ULSTER BANK BATEMAN ALL-IRELAND CUP SEMI-FINALS: Saturday, January 18
CORK CONSTITUTION 46 QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY 14, Temple Hill
Scorers: Cork Constitution: Tries: Darragh Lyons, Eoin O’Donnell, Gavin Duffy, Andrew O’Driscoll, Michael Keyes, Conor Desmond, Max Abbott; Cons: Darragh Lyons 4; Pen: Chris Quinn
Queen’s University: Tries: Andrew Butler, Eoin Devlin; Cons: Ritchie McMaster 2
HT: Cork Constitution 29 Queen’s University 0
UCD 21 GALWEGIANS 20, Belfield
Scorers: UCD: Tries: Jamie Glynn, Tom Fletcher; Con: James Thornton; Pens: James Thornton 3
Galwegians: Tries: Ronan Moore, Conor Muldoon; Cons: Ross Shaughnessy, Ciaran Gaffney; Pens: Ross Shaughnessy 2
HT: UCD 10 Galwegians 13
Out-half James Thornton’s 11-point haul guided UCD past Galwegians following a titanic semi-final clash with a determined Galwegians side at Belfield.
The adverse weather conditions made it extremely difficult for both teams from the off, but Galwegians started the better and forced the hosts onto the back foot.
UCD, who were playing in their new all-black away strip, struggled to settle into the usual rhythm, but with Jordan Coghlan and Tom Fletcher providing a strong presence in their backs division, they soon improved.
In a very physical encounter, the Division 2A leaders kept UCD at bay with some committed defensive work before they leaked an 18th minute penalty which Thornton converted from 30 metres out.
In a game of this nature, every score was going to be vital and Galwegians had a three-point opportunity of their own just four minutes after Thornton’s opener.
‘Wegians number 10 Ross Shaughnessy was narrowly off target with his strike from an awkward angle on this occasion, but he made no mistake with his second effort on goal 25 minutes in.
The students then seized the initiative with 12 minutes left before the break, their scrum half Jamie Glynn breaking free from an enterprising maul and driving over for the opening try to the left of the posts.
Thornton added a superb conversion, although Shaughnessy’s 32nd minute penalty ensured that the Galway club remained well in contention as half-time approached.
They applied considerable pressure in the UCD 22 late on and even though the hosts coped well with their probing attacks, Galwegians’ persistence eventually paid off when left winger Ronan Moore crossed the whitewash at the end of a fine team move in injury-time.
This was a strong show of intent from Cory Brown’s side and with Shaughnessy splitting the posts brilliantly from the left touchline, they brought a 13-10 cushion into the second half.
Galwegians’ confidence level were understandably high following their strong finish to the first half, and after 53 minutes they looked set to move even further into the ascendancy.
However, Shaughnessy’s fourth attempt on goal dropped well short and this latest let-off helped to spark UCD back into life.
Full-back Tom Fletcher and centre Alex Kelly built the foundations on the right flank and after also involving right winger Barry Daly in an incisive attack, Kelly’s neat lay-off saw Fletcher finish off the students’ second try.
Thornton was unfortunate to see his conversion attempt get caught up in the wind, but he brought his personal tally to eight points when a long range penalty sailed between the posts.
Another three-pointer from the ever-dependable out-half in the 78th minute offered UCD what looked like an insurmountable eight-point lead, but a gutsy Galwegians continued to battle until the bitter end.
In fact, after an extended period of play, they got the score that their efforts deserved when replacement Conor Muldoon crossed the whitewash past the 80-minute mark.
Winger Ciaran Gaffney tagged on the conversion for good measure, but it proved to be too little, too late as UCD booked their place in the decider which will take place over the weekend of April 26-27.
Meanwhile, at Temple Hill, a strong first half display set the tone for Cork Constitution’s 46-14 defeat of Division 2A challengers Queen’s University.
The recent Munster Senior Cup winners shot out of the traps with early tries from Darragh Lyons, who slotted in at out-half for the Munster ‘A’-tied Johnny Holland, and winger Eoin O’Donnell.
Lyons added the conversion to his first minute try which came from a charge-down in his own half and a fine breakout by O’Donnell.
Chris Quinn, who featured at full-back, kicked a penalty from just inside his own half in the 13th minute to move Cork Con 10-0 ahead.
Second row Joe McSwiney put O’Donnell try for his try and Queen’s fell further behind in the 26th minute when prop Gavin Duffy won a lineout five metres from the try-line and duly touched down for a 22-0 scoreline.
His front row colleague Andrew O’Driscoll added the fourth try in injury-time with Lyons’ third successful conversion making it 29-0 at the break.
The Ulster Senior Cup champions forced the issue on the resumption but were denied by some solid defending from Constitution.
On the hour mark, a break by influential lock Cathal O’Flaherty led to replacement Michael Keyes’ try.
Winger Conor Desmond and replacement Max Abbott also got in on the scoring act to complete Cork Con’s seven-try tally, the latter finishing off a fine 50-metre break by centre Luke Duffy in the 71st minute.
The Belfast students gained some consolation in the form of two late tries, replacement Andrew Butler striking first before left winger Eoin Devlin ran in a length-of-the-field effort. Both scores were converted by out-half Ritchie McMaster.