Garryowen’s unbeaten start to the Energia All-Ireland League season was ended by Cork Constitution in an enthralling clash at Dooradoyle.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, November 6
GARRYOWEN 21 CORK CONSTITUTION 23, Dooradoyle
Scorers: Garryowen: Tries: Ben Healy, Colm Quilligan; Con: Ben Healy; Pens: Ben Healy 3
Cork Constitution: Tries: David Hyland, Cathal O’Flaherty; Cons: Jack Crowley 2; Pens: Jack Crowley 3
HT: Garryowen 15 Cork Constitution 10
With Cork Con captain Aidan Moynihan tweaking his hamstring, Munster’s Jack Crowley started at out-half for the visitors and had a fascinating individual duel with his provincial colleague Ben Healy.
Garryowen number 10 Healy looked to be coming out on top, his assured kicking and excellent individual try helping the Light Blues to lead 18-10.
However, even though Healy scored more than him, it was the 21-year-old Crowley who was smiling at the final whistle. He converted Cathal O’Flaherty’s 67th-minute try to edge Con to a hard-fought 23-21 victory.
Brian Hickey’s men, who broke their duck last week against Dublin University, took an early lead playing into a strong breeze.
Crowley slotted over the first of his 13 points with a fourth-minute penalty, dusting himself off quickly after being caught with a late shoulder-led challenge by Garryowen prop Darragh McCarthy.
Constitution increased their lead in the 26th minute, their forwards chipping away with carries in the 22 before the hosts were slow to roll away and gave up a penalty advantage.
Scrum half Duncan Williams offloaded out of a tackle, close to the Garryowen posts, for in-form number 8 David Hyland to barrel his way over for a try, aided by a timely shunt from the supporting Niall Kenneally.
The conversion from Crowley put Con into double figures, but the concession of that try seemed to wake Garryowen up and they were soon in scoring range.
A Healy penalty, following Max Abbott’s high tackle on Jamie Shanahan, got them on the scoreboard on the half hour mark.
Just moments later, the 22-year-old Tipperary native showed why there is so much talk about his talent with a try that lit up this Munster derby.
Ed Barry’s box kick was neatly collected by Shanahan and he quickly slipped the ball inside to Healy. Up against Crowley from 45 metres out, he showed pace and power to score in the corner and then nail the touchline conversion.
Despite losing Tim Ferguson to a yellow card, Garryowen took a 15-10 lead into the break after big carries from the pack created space out wide. Healy’s basketball-style pass released Colm Quilligan for the right corner.
Con looked in deep trouble when Healy’s second penalty, following the collapsing of an advancing Garryowen maul, stretched the lead to eight points.
Crucially, two Crowley penalties kept Con hot on the league leaders’ heels, with Munster prop Liam O’Connor carrying well in the build-up to both scores.
They went ahead during a fiercely-contested final quarter that produced yellows for JJ O’Neill and Jamie Heuston.
Healy’s clearance kick was held up in the wind and, a few phases later, second row O’Flaherty brilliantly bounced off a couple of would-be tacklers to run in from the Garryowen 22 metre-line.
Crowley’s conversion suddenly had Con five points clear, and despite Healy landing a penalty with 10 minutes remaining, it was the Corkmen who comfortably closed out the result.
GARRYOWEN: Jamie Heuston; Colm Quilligan, Bryan Fitzgerald, Jack Delaney, Jamie Shanahan; Ben Healy, Ed Barry; Mark Donnelly, Dylan Murphy, Darragh McCarthy, Paddy Kelly, Kevin Seymour (capt), Tim Ferguson, Jonny Keane, Sean Rennison.
Replacements: Larry Kelly, Niall Horan, Roy Whelan, Aaron Cosgrove, Alex Wood, Cian Hurley.
CORK CONSTITUTION: Sean French; JJ O’Neill, Greg Higgins, Niall Kenneally, Rob Jermyn; Jack Crowley, Duncan Williams; Liam O’Connor, Max Abbott, Paddy Casey, Cian Barry, Cathal O’Flaherty, John Forde, Michael Casey, David Hyland.
Replacements: Jack Dinneen, Dylan Murphy, Eoin Quilter, John Beamish, John Poland, Tomas Quinlan.