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‘It’s A Lovely Mixture Of A Team’ – De Buitléar On Terenure’s Title Challenge

‘It’s A Lovely Mixture Of A Team’ – De Buitléar On Terenure’s Title Challenge

Terenure College's Colm de Buitléar celebrates with his centre partner Peter Sylvester following last week's semi-final victory over Lansdowne ©INPHO/Tom Maher

It has already been a dream introduction to the Energia All-Ireland League’s top flight and now Terenure College’s Colm de Buitléar is hoping to close out the season in style.

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During his time as a professional player with his native Connacht, de Buitléar also represented Galway Corinthians in Divisions 2A and 2B of the All-Ireland League on a number of occasions.

He joined Terenure last September after moving to the capital for work – he currently teaches at Mount Anville secondary school in Goatstown – and made his Division 1A bow against UCC in October.

Sean Skehan’s men won that game in Cork on a 37-13 scoreline and despite some frustrating defeats in the weeks that followed, they managed to finish the regular season in second place thanks to a run of 14 victories in 15 matches.

That gave them home advantage for last week’s semi-final against Lansdowne, which saw ‘Nure digging deep to win 20-18 and set up an all-Dublin Division 1A final against Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).

“From the first week I landed in, the first training session, I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I really have, it has been amazing,” admitted de Buitléar, who has stuck up a classy centre partnership with Peter Sylvester.

“Welcomed in with open arms and I’m just the biggest fan ever of the culture of the club. Everyone is looking after you, no matter what kind of level they’ve played or it doesn’t matter who you are.

“When I got to play the few times with Galway Corinthians at home, you would have been thrown in and you would have been playing rugby at 2A and 2B.

“I had no clue what this kind of level (Division 1A) was like because I never played it before. I didn’t know how quick it was, how physical it was and it really is. I’m blown away by the level of it.

“There has been a buzz around the place over the past while. It was a great day at Lakelands last Saturday, a great occasion. We really enjoyed it and we’re just really looking forward to this Sunday.”

Terenure’s semi-final losses in 2015 and 2018 – at the hands of Clontarf and Cork Constitution respectively – also occurred at Lakelands Park and the possibility of a third play-off reversal raised its head when Lansdowne edged into a 13-12 lead.

However, the hosts rallied with a fifth penalty from the reliable right boot of Caolan Dooley before Conall Boomer’s superb break created the platform for Adam La Grue to touch down for their lone try.

Sean Galvin’s unconverted score kept Lansdowne in contention late on, but ‘Nure held their nerve and finally advanced to their first ever All-Ireland League final.

I had heard that it would have been typical from a Terenure team that they played really well, but never got the result. We did kind of cross that out last Saturday. The wind was a massive factor.

“We played with the breeze and we took our points in the first half and then in the second half Lansdowne did get that lead.

“We felt we were under the pump at a few stages, but we really dug in deep and kept to the way we had been playing the whole time during the season. That try (from Adam La Grue) encapsulates that.”

While playing at the Aviva Stadium will be something new for the vast majority of the Terenure squad, de Buitléar is one of a select few who has played there in the past.

In fact, one of his six professional appearances for Connacht came against Munster at Irish Rugby HQ in one of the first games to take place during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet – just like his previous time to line out at the Lansdowne Road venue – that fixture took place behind closed doors. With the passionate supporters of Terenure and Clontarf set to make their voices heard on Sunday, de Buitléar can see his third visit to the Aviva being unique in its own way.

“I played in an Ireland Under-20 camp against the Irish team, when there was a bit of a training session going on. That was an amazing experience and I also got to play during Covid in one of the interpro games against Munster. I’d like to forget about that one because it wasn’t the finest hour!

“This is going to be a completely different experience. You get to play in front of fans and in front of family and friends. In front of the community of Terenure, who have been so welcoming and warm to me ever since I joined in September.

“We won’t be in Lakelands, but at the same time I’m sure there’ll be a purple army there as well, that have been so brilliant the whole season.

“As well as that, I’m sure ‘Tarf will have their fan base there, because they’re such a strong club and community also. It’s really making for a big game and a big occasion for all of us.”

If Terenure are looking for the inside scoop on what makes this Clontarf team so consistent – they have lost just one of their 19 games in the 2021/22 campaign – then they should look no further than head coach Skehan and their dynamic number 8 Jordan Coghlan.

Both men have played for the club in the past with Coghlan having come through the ranks of ‘Tarf before embarking on a professional career that brought him to Leinster, Munster, Nottingham and Leicester Tigers.

Nonetheless, it is their two previous clashes with the Castle Avenue outfit in this year’s league – both of which were won by ‘Tarf – that will be their main reference point for Sunday’s showdown.

“We are preparing for this game like literally every other game. We have footage of ‘Tarf, of their games and I’d imagine they have footage of ours,” acknowledged de Buitléar.

“We’re looking back at us playing them and we obviously had a look at them playing (Cork) Con. We’ve picked out the bits where we can exploit them.

“At the same time, we have to look out for areas where they’re strong. Jordo (Coghlan) and ‘Skehaner’, I’m sure they have insights to the culture, but at the same time we’re just looking at what they’ve done on the pitch.

“We know their strengths. We might have picked out a few weaknesses and hopefully we can exploit that on Sunday afternoon.”

Aside from himself and Coghlan, there are several others within the Terenure set-up who are back on the domestic club scene after spending time in the professional ranks – most notably former Leinster and Rugby United New York out-half Cathal Marsh.

With a number of bright local prospects thrown into the mix, Skehan appears to have developed the right blend to go and challenge two-time champions ‘Tarf for the All-Ireland League crown.

“There is that experience around. It’s so nice having that. There’s so much youth in the squad that you just love having around you. It’s just that buzz and it’s like it’s a game of tag at training.

“Some of the games where you have Luke Clohessy there in the background. You have Craig Adams on the wing and Caolan Dooley, and Peter Sylvester inside you.

“It’s just such young lads who literally just throw the ball around, but then you also have that experience around you. Like Harrison Brewer, who is such a great leader and Jordan Coghlan leads by example the whole time. Then Cathal Marsh is so tactical at 10. It’s really a lovely mixture of a team.”

Before donning the colours of Corinthians and Terenure, de Buitléar began his rugby journey at An Ghaeltacht Rugbaí in his home village of Carraroe in Connemara.

Co-founded by his father Cian, it has been a good breeding ground for a number of players – including his brother Eoin, who represented Ireland in the 2021 Under-20 Six Nations Championship.

He is unaware of anyone from the area who has won an All-Ireland League in the past, although he hopes it is something he can proudly declare come Sunday evening.

What he does know is that, for all the differences between the two on paper, there are common elements that unite An Ghaeltacht with Terenure.

“I would have started off with An Ghaeltacht Rugby and compared to Terenure, it’s like comparing David and Goliath really. An Ghaeltacht Rugby, it was my father really who started it out when I was about seven or eight,” explained the versatile 24-year-old back.

“We’re completely proud of the club. We’ve had players play for Connacht and play for Ireland, play underage for Connacht. It is amazing to think that a tiny club at the back of the school in Carraroe has produced players and talent like that.

We are really proud of An Ghaeltacht Rugby, but at the same time that’s the great thing about club rugby all over Ireland. It doesn’t matter where you are, people always buy into it and it’s the same up here in Terenure.

“You can’t really compare the two clubs, but there is that feeling that I’ve been welcomed into Terenure and it has been great.

“There isn’t that much separation between the lads who have played for Terenure since they were seven or eight and myself who just joined in September.

“That’s why I’m so fond of the club and the team is where it is this season because it is run so well.”