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Energia All-Ireland League: Men’s Division 1A Final Preview

Energia All-Ireland League: Men’s Division 1A Final Preview

Captains Harrison Brewer and Matt D'Arcy are pictured with the Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A trophy at the Aviva Stadium, the venue for Sunday's final ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Clontarf and Terenure College meet in a second successive Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A final. Only three points separated them in last year’s decider, while this season’s two clashes produced a 29-24 away win apiece.


Sunday, May 7

CLONTARF (1st) v TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd), Aviva Stadium, 3pm (live on TG4/TG4 Player)

Click Here To Purchase #EnergiaAIL Tickets

There will be a Ticketmaster van at the Aviva Stadium from 1.30pm on Sunday. Adult tickets are €10 each and Under-18s go free – an Under-18 ticket must be purchased with an adult ticket. Any request for tickets for those with additional needs should be made to tickets@irishrugby.ie.

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Clontarf: WWWWWLLWWWLWWWWWWWW; Terenure College: WWWWWWWWLWWLLWWWLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers Clontarf: Points: Dylan Donnellan 110; Tries: Dylan Donnellan 22; Terenure College: Points: Caolan Dooley 149; Tries: Craig Adams 13

Recent Energia All-Ireland League Meetings – Saturday, November 26, 2022: Clontarf 24 Terenure College 29, Castle Avenue; Saturday, January 28, 2023: Terenure College 24 Clontarf 29, Lakelands Park

Previous Energia All-Ireland League League Titles – Clontarf: 3 (2013/14, 2015/16, 2021/22); Terenure College:

Preview: Leinster Academy graduate Alex Soroka will start for defending champions Clontarf against Terenure College in Sunday’s Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A final.

Soroka, who missed last year’s final as he was in South Africa with Leinster, comes in at blindside flanker in a Clontarf pack that also includes his older brother, 28-year-old prop Ivan.

This season’s decider at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 3pm – live on TG4) has a mix of everything – a team bidding for back-to-back titles, a side aiming for revenge from 2022 and their own piece of history, plenty of homegrown club talent, former professionals and current and newly-announced Academy players, along with Under-20 Grand Slam winners.

Clontarf head coach Andy Wood, gunning for his fourth league crown with the club, has made five personnel changes to the side that squeezed past Young Munster by a single point at the semi-final stage.

Most notably, former professional Steve Crosbie gets the nod at out-half, Mick Kearney moves to lock – to accommodate the younger Soroka’s return – in his final game before retiring, and U-20 Grand Slam-winning backs Aitzol Arenzana King and Hugh Cooney also start.

Key centre Peter Sylvester is unfortunately injured for Terenure, but their leading points scorer Caolan Dooley (149 points) switches to midfield.

Returning skipper Harrison Brewer and Stephen O’Neill are the two changes from their impressive 30-12 semi-final dismissal of Cork Constitution at Lakelands Park.

Sean Skehan’s Terenure team, who fell 26-23 to ‘Tarf at the final hurdle last May, are 80 minutes away from a maiden league crown, as they look to add to their first ever Energia Bateman Cup success from earlier in the season.

They began the current campaign with an eight-match winning streak and beat ‘Tarf 29-24 away before losing by the same scoreline at Lakelands in January. They have some excellent operators in Adam La Grue, Alan Bennie, Jordan Coghlan and 22-year-old Leinster Academy prop Marcus Hanan.

While table toppers ‘Tarf are able to call on Leinster duo Ben Murphy and Brian Deeny as replacements, the ‘Nure bench also has a strong look to it with Andy ‘Panda’ Keating, 2023 U-20 Grand Slam winner Henry McErlean and ex-pros Conor McKeon and Cathal Marsh all waiting in the wings.

McErlean’s Ireland U-20 team-mate Cooney joins ever-influential captain Matt D’Arcy in the centre for Clontarf, who are on an eight-match winning run. They are bidding to become the first team to retain the top flight trophy since Shannon in the mid-2000s.

With the division’s top try scorer Dylan Donnellan (22 tries) a crucial weapon from mauls, D’Arcy said: “We’ve had the same motto for the last two seasons. After the year before it’s been about, ‘how can we get better?’, ‘how do we challenge ourselves?’.

“I suppose it’s about focusing on ourselves, first and foremost, and how can we get the best out of each other. A couple of new recruits here and there to really drive us on, but it’s about the collective and how we can improve.

“That it’s Terenure (in the final) makes it an interesting one. It’s a rematch obviously, but the final’s always going to be tough no matter who you’re playing.

“They’re a great team, they had a really good league campaign. They were top of the table for quite a long time. They’ll be a really tough challenge. It was a really tight fight last year and we’re expecting the same again.”

A winning performance at IRFU HQ would see Brewer and his team-mates complete a much-coveted All-Ireland League and Cup double. Lansdowne were the last team to achieve the feat in 2018 when current ‘Nure scrum half Bennie was involved with them.

“To have another crack at it is huge,” insisted Brewer, recalling the disappointment felt after last May’s narrow defeat to ‘Tarf. “We spoke in the changing room after, there was a lot of emotion but we promised ourselves that we’d be back soon.

“We’re massively excited, we’ve worked hard to get here. We knew we weren’t the perfect team last year – we still aren’t – but it’s about layering on that performance and we’ve kind of done that in terms of our attack and our defence.

“We know there’s key moments in the game that we have to deal with, especially when we play against Clontarf. They have a very good set piece, they’re very strong up front.

“For us it was just building on that performance from last year. The support we got last year was pretty crazy – a record crowd (of 5,788) for a final at the Aviva – so hopefully we can get even more of that this weekend.”

CLONTARF: Tadhg Bird; Aitzol Arenzana King, Hugh Cooney, Matt D’Arcy (capt), Michael Brown; Steve Crosbie, Angus Lloyd; Ivan Soroka, Dylan Donnellan, Ben Griffin, Fionn Gilbert, Mick Kearney, Alex Soroka, JJ O’Dea, Tony Ryan.

Replacements: Cathal O’Flynn, Darragh Bolger, Ed Kelly, Ben Murphy, Conor Kelly, Cian O’Donoghue, JP Phelan, Brian Deeny.

Clontarf – Player Profiles

TERENURE COLLEGE: Adam La Grue; Stephen O’Neill, Colm de Buitléar, Caolan Dooley, Craig Adams; Callum Smith, Alan Bennie; Marcus Hanan, Levi Vaughan, Adam Tuite, Harrison Brewer (capt), Mick Melia, Adam Melia, Luke Clohessy, Jordan Coghlan.

Replacements: Robbie Smyth, Campbell Classon, Andy Keating, Matthew Caffrey, Conall Boomer, Conor McKeon, Cathal Marsh, Henry McErlean.

Terenure College – Player Profiles

Referee: Peter Martin (IRFU)

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win

Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A – Recent Finals/Winners:

2022 – Clontarf (final: 26-23 v Terenure College, Aviva Stadium)
2021 – Season cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic
2020 – Season cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic
2019 – Cork Constitution (final: 28-13 v Clontarf, Aviva Stadium)
2018 – Lansdowne (final: 19-17 v Cork Constitution, Aviva Stadium)
2017 – Cork Constitution (final: 25-21 v Clontarf, Aviva Stadium)
2016 – Clontarf (final: 28-25 v Cork Constitution, Aviva Stadium)
2015 – Lansdowne (final: 18-17 v Clontarf, Aviva Stadium)
2014 – Clontarf (first in league)
2013 – Lansdowne (first in league)
2012 – St. Mary’s College (first in league)
2011 – Old Belvedere (final: 20-17 v Cork Constitution, Donnybrook)
2010 – Cork Constitution (final: 17-10 v St. Mary’s College, Dubarry Park)
2009 – Shannon (final: 19-19 v Clontarf, Thomond Park (aet) (Shannon won via first try scored))
2008 – Cork Constitution (final: 18-8 v Garryowen, Musgrave Park)

Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A – Champions’ List:

Shannon 9 (1994/95, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2008/09)
Cork Constitution 6 (1990/91, 1998/99, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2016/17, 2018/19)
Clontarf 3 (2013/14, 2015/16, 2021/22)
Garryowen 3 (1991/92, 1993/94, 2006/07)
Lansdowne 3 (2012/13, 2014/15, 2017/18)
St. Mary’s College 2 (1999/00, 2011/12)
Ballymena 1 (2002/03)
Dungannon 1 (2000/01)
Old Belvedere 1 (2010/11)
Young Munster 1 (1992/93)