Having enjoyed and endured the highs and lows of Ulster Bank League final day in the past two years, Cork Constitution’s Shane Daly is hoping to experience the former against Lansdowne at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).
Following a 28-25 reversal to a Joey Carbery-inspired Clontarf in 2016, versatile back Shane Daly played a key role for Cork Constitution at full-back in their 25-21 Division 1A final victory over the same opponents twelve months later.
After sampling the ‘unbelievable feeling’ of being an Ulster Bank League champion last year, Daly is eager for his side to secure back-to-back titles at the home of Irish Rugby this weekend.
“I have good memories of the Aviva, great to win here last year and obviously I hope to replicate that again. It’s an unbelievable feeling winning a league because it’s so hard to win,” admitted the 21-year-old at the Ulster Bank League final media day. “It goes on all season and the best team normally does come out on top, so hopefully that’s us this weekend.”
Cork Con will face familiar foes in the shape of Lansdowne, who comprehensively defeated them in last month’s Bateman Cup decider – denying Con a sixth consecutive crown in the process. Heading into their fourth meeting of the season with Mike Ruddock’s men, Daly is well aware of the Dubliners’ strength-in-depth.
“They are always up there. We have played Lansdowne three times each of the last few seasons. We know their threats and they do have a lot, but we would like to think we have a lot too. It’s a big stage, but one of the best things about playing with Con is that we have been in league and cup finals. There’s nobody in the team new to that set-up.”
Despite having a preference for the outside centre position, Daly has spent much of his time in the Cork Con set-up at full-back. While current Ireland star Jacob Stockdale wore the number 15 jersey during his spell with the Ireland Under-20s two years ago, the likes of captain Niall Kenneally, Ned Hodson and now Alex McHenry have ensured that the Leesiders are well stocked in midfield.
Thanks to the guidance of head coach Brian Hickey at Temple Hill, Daly has adapted to his role at the rear of the back-line with much aplomb.
“I played a lot at 13 for the Under-20 World Cup (in 2016) and then when I went playing with Con, they had very strong centres. I was a young player. Brian Hickey saw that I would be willing to play full-back, so rather than mixing the team around and dropping players, he slotted me at full-back and let me learn.
“I have learned quite quickly. Obviously now, I am playing in my third AIL final and I have only been out of school three years. It’s a great club to be involved with. Brian Hickey has been a good coach to me over the years.”
It remains to be seen where Daly will feature on Sunday, as he was absent for last Saturday’s semi-final success against Terenure College. The Academy talent was otherwise occupied having been named in a Munster senior matchday squad for the first time.
Although Daly was called upon off the bench against Ulster, he still found it be ‘a great experience’ at Thomond Park, saying: “Obviously I was a disappointed not to get off the bench in the end and make my debut. But to be only training for a week and then to get called into the squad was a bit of a surprise to me, because it was all a bit new.
“I hadn’t been there since the start of the year. It was a great challenge. I really enjoyed it, but I was obviously disappointed not to get on.”
In addition to his commitments with Munster and Cork Con, Daly also works three days a week in corporate tax in Ernst & Young’s Dublin office. When you also take into account his continued presence in the Ireland Sevens squad, he certainly has a lot on his plate at such a young age.
“It takes a lot of organisation to be honest. Every week for me is different. At the start of every week, I have to tell work what days I’m in and tell training what days I can make it,” he explained.
“It’s tough to manage, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. But I have very good people around me. Even the Sevens manager and my boss inside in work, they have been so good to me. If I had people on my case, I would be an absolute disaster.”
Ulster Bank League final tickets are available from ticketmaster.ie and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide, priced at €;10 for adults. Under-18 tickets are free with an adult ticket. We encourage you to purchase tickets in advance of the match to avoid problems or queues on the day of the game.
Purchasers can avail of the TicketFast facility, allowing them to print their own tickets at home or work. TicketFast must be pre-printed – they cannot be scanned directly from a phone.
A Ticketmaster kiosk will be on located on Lansdowne Road outside the stadium for on-the-day sales. All entry to the stadium is through the gates on Lansdowne Road opposite the Elverys store. Any request for disabled access tickets should be made to email@example.com.