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Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Divisions: Play-Off Semi-Finals Review

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Divisions: Play-Off Semi-Finals Review

Jordan Coghlan, one of Terenure College's try scorers, comes up against Cork Constitution winger Michael Hand ©INPHO/Nick Elliott

Clontarf and Terenure College will meet in a repeat of last year’s Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A final when this season’s title race is decided at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, May 7.

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Divisions: Play-Off Semi-Finals Results Round-Up

The Dublin rivals, the top two finishers in the table, won through to the decider in contrasting style, with reigning champions Clontarf edging out Young Munster 13-12 in a tense tussle at Castle Avenue.

The Lakelands Park faithful roared Terenure on to their second successive final appearance which was sealed by a 30-12 victory over Cork Constitution. Caolan Dooley kicked 20 points and Adam La Grue and Jordan Coghlan claimed a try each.

Cork Con gave themselves a mountain to climb when falling 18 points behind in wet conditions. Two early Dooley penalties gave Terenure the upper hand, both of them crisply struck from outside the 10-metre line.

‘Nure’s backs gave a glimpse of their attacking class in the 22nd minute when nice hands from Callum Smith and Colm de Buitléar, following an initial Dooley break, released full-back La Grue for the left corner.

Number 8 Coghlan crossed six minutes later, the hosts again finding space with first phase ball off a scrum. Con’s defence was missing sin-binned centre Niall Kenneally as Craig Adams went close before Coghlan crashed over for a full seven points.

Jonny Holland’s men were unable to convert some late pressure into points before half-time, but replacement James Murphy barged over in the 49th minute – followed by an Aidan Moynihan conversion – to reduce the arrears to 18-7.

Kenneally and the Con forwards had started to chip away with some strong carries to generate quicker ruck ball. Pushing ‘Nure right back onto their own line, Murphy seized his chance to burrow over from a ruck, supported by Brendan Quinlan.

‘Nure, who are gunning for a League and Cup double, turned to Dooley to settle things down again. The winger’s reliable right boot banged over two more penalties – the second place-kick rewarding a big lineout drive – to leave 17 points in it with 13 minutes remaining.

Con did rally again with a Cathal O’Flaherty try in the left corner, their phase-building bringing them into try-scoring range and passes from Louis Kahn and David Hyland did the trick to set up the replacement lock.

Nonetheless, a late brace of Dooley kicks from 40-plus metres, with the final one coming on the back of a dominant scrum, ensured Sean Skehan’s side got the job done in clinical fashion.

Meanwhile, fourth place finishers Young Munster fell agonisingly short of dethroning Clontarf who relied on hooker Dylan Donnellan’s 22nd try of the season to reach their third straight league final.

The teams were locked level on six points apiece at the break, as full-backs Tadhg Bird and Conor Hayes landed two kicks each. The slippery ball made for a tight forwards-dominated contest and there was little in it.

A second Bird kick reward the home scrum on the half hour mark, and Munsters did leave points behind them despite levelling. A costly knock-on robbed them of a try-scoring position, while Hayes had two misses from the kicking tee.

The Cookies led 9-6 entering the final quarter, as Hayes was able to fire over brilliantly from 40 metres out to reward Ronan O’Sullivan’s breakdown work.

Both teams had to cope with yellow cards, the hosts losing Steve Crosbie and Munster Academy centre Fionn Gibbons was also binned. ‘Tarf seemed to react the better, winning a couple of scrum penalties to put themselves back on the front foot.

It was their ball-carrying power that propelled Donnellan over in the 63rd minute, his quick tap and surge to the line continuing his incredible try-scoring run.

The Galway-born front rower, who previously played for Biarritz Olympique and Yorkshire Carnegie, was also Division 1A’s top try scorer last year with 19 tries.

Bird tagged on a crucial conversion, and despite Hayes taking his tally to a dozen points with just over 10 minutes remaining, Munsters ran out of time as ‘Tarf booked a return trip to the Aviva.

Shannon moved within 80 minutes of retaining their top flight status after beating Old Wesley 24-6 in the promotion/relegation play-off semi-final.

Trailing to two Ian Cassidy penalties, Shannon replied with two tries, including a Jordan Prenderville maul effort. A final play score from Josh Costello made it a four-try success.

Former captain Chris Banon used an 8-9 scrum move with Miah Cronin to score a decisive 50th-minute try for Highfield, who ended Old Belvedere’s hopes by winning 19-17 at Ollie Campbell Park. They will travel to Thomond Park for the final.

Banbridge will be playing Division 2A rugby next season after losing 20-18 to MU Barnhall in their play-off clash. 15 unanswered first half points set the tone for the Blue Bulls whose promotion hopes hinge on a May 6 final against Blackrock College at Stradbrook.

A converted try from Peter Quirke, with five minutes remaining, saw Blackrock squeeze past Nenagh Ormond on a 10-8 scoreline. James Blaney’s men are striving for back-to-back promotions after coming up from Division 2B last season via the play-offs.

There were two more closely-fought games in the Division 2A promotion/relegation play-off semi-finals, from which UL Bohemians and Dungannon emerged victorious.

Calum Goddard and Kuba Wojtkowicz both crossed for Sligo in response to Ignacio Garcia’s early try, but a late penalty from Harry Byrne, who finished with 11 points, saw UL Bohemians prevail 16-14.

Dungannon will be away to UL Bohs in the deciding game, having won 16-12 at Galway Corinthians. ‘Gannon struck for two tries, sandwiching a Matthew Devine score, in a performance that paid tribute to the club’s late coach and manager Billy Brown.

Galwegians suffered relegation at the hands of Bruff who won their Division 2B promotion/relegation play-off semi-final 24-12. With Bruff’s maul a big weapon, tries either side of the hour mark from Tom Quigley and Pa Maher did the damage for the Limerick men at Crowley Park.

Skerries, the second place finishers in Division 2C, will have home advantage in the promotion decider. They advanced to face Bruff after a quartet of penalties from full-back Ronan Mulcahy saw them overcome Tullamore 12-3 at Holmpatrick.