Lansdowne head coach Mike Ruddock hailed the influence of Scott Deasy and Peter Dooley on his side’s hard-fought 19-17 Ulster Bank League Division 1A final triumph over Cork Constitution at the Aviva Stadium.
Former Cork Constitution favourite Scott Deasy kicked 14 points to help the headquarters club secure their third Ulster Bank League title in the space of six seasons. Equally, the hard work and endeavour of those either side of the Crosshaven native provided Mike Ruddock with a great deal of satisfaction.
“He (Deasy) has been doing it for years, but in fairness he’ll be the first to tell you that you can only do it if you’re getting the forwards to give you the little bit of ball that you need to dictate matters, and to apply pressure,” said Ruddock after the game.
“The boys fronted up well. The boys behind (in the outside backs) didn’t get too many chances, but they just made the tackles and that’s important to us.”
With yesterday’s final victory adding to previous league successes in 2013 and 2015, Lansdowne are now the most-decorated Dublin club in the history of the All-Ireland competition. When he reflects on the position they were in at the beginning of the decade, Ruddock views this as a remarkable achievement.
“We’re the first Dublin club to win the AIL three times. When you consider we only got promoted back to this division in 2010/11, that’s a good effort in seven, eight years. I’m really pleased with that.”
With each league title, Lansdowne’s players attract significant interest from the professional game. Having nurtured a number of future provincial and international stars during his time with the Aviva Stadium-based outfit, Ruddock believes a number of the current squad are capable of a smooth transition to full-time rugby.
“We won the league a few years ago and we lost 13 players for the next season. We had to rebuild. Don’t forget, James Ryan was playing for us and Max Deegan in this league a couple of years ago,” he added.
“Tadhg Beirne played in the final the last time we were here. When you sort of reflect on that, you realise that there’s good players in this league and who knows? Some of those could kick on now and become pros on the back of it.”
Although there was initial uncertainty over their availability, Ruddock was able to call upon Leinster pair Peter Dooley and Charlie Rock. Dooley delivered a man-of-the-match performance from the Lansdowne front row, while the diminutive Rock deputised for Alan Bennie in the second half of what was a pulsating tie.
Despite Dooley already having 47 Leinster caps under his belt, including nine in the present campaign, Ruddock feels the league decider was the ideal platform for the 23-year-old Birr man. “I think today was a great showcase for him to show Leinster what he is capable of doing,” insisted the Welshman. “There was a lot of good players on show today, but I thought Peter was heads and shoulders above everyone really.
“He was a bit of a superman out there. He was making breaks, knocking guys off. Then making big tackles and turning the ball over. It was quite a phenomenal performance by him.”
It is common place at all levels of rugby for a starting front row to be given a breather by the back-up players in the latter stages of a game. However, in unison with impressive try-scoring hooker Tyrone Moran and industrious captain Ian Prendiville, Dooley was retained by Ruddock for the full 80 minutes.
With so much at stake against a Con side that refused to cave in, the loosehead prop was happy to repay the faith shown in him, saying afterwards: “I was a bit slow to start. I suppose the warm weather didn’t help, carrying around a big frame. It was a tough slog and I knew I had to dig in. When I got to 70 (minutes) I was like, ‘I’m here for the 80 now’.
“Mike has that faith in me a good few years now, so I knew he’d probably leave me on for the 80. He left the three of us in the front row to stick it out. I think the scrum penalties near the end paid dividends. They got us in good field position at crucial times in the match.”