2023 was certainly the most famous period in the 83-year long history of Terenure College RFC. They excelled in two national finals to clinch their first ever Energia Bateman Cup last March, and then win their maiden Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A title in May.
It completed a clean sweep of senior trophies for Terenure in the 2022/23 season as they were also crowned the Leinster Senior League and Leinster Senior Cup champions.
They have the opportunity to kick 2024 off in style by retaining their Bateman Cup crown this Saturday when they welcome Young Munster to Lakelands Park for a much-anticipated final (kick-off 2.30pm – live on Irish Rugby TV).
Once you have won everything there is to win in one season, it can often be difficult to maintain the same motivation, but Terenure College head coach Sean Skehan confirmed that his charges have a burning desire to achieve more and create a lasting legacy.
“We don’t want to take our foot of the gas, that’s something I’ve always admired about Clontarf and (their head coach) Andy Wood,” he told IrishRugby.ie.
“They have great competitive stamina, they’ve been at this level for the last 10 years. They never seem to get tired or fatigued, or that it’s too much to go again.
“We want to be able to look back on this period in 10 years’ time and say it was a remarkable era for the club rather than a flash in the pan. I think the club has everything in their arsenal to continue to achieve.
“The lads are keen to make this a period of a dynasty. They’ve been envious of the success of Clontarf and Lansdowne over the years.
“We want to try and make sure Terenure is perennially associated with success by winning All-Ireland Leagues, Bateman Cups, or whatever it may be.”
Coached by Ger Slattery, Young Munster will be hoping to spoil the party on Saturday afternoon by taking the Bateman Cup back to Tom Clifford Park for the first time since 1928.
The Cookies claimed the bragging rights when the teams met earlier in the season in Greenfields. Before the Christmas break, they put together a four-match winning streak which included a big home victory over Cork Constitution last time out.
There has been plenty of change in Munsters’ camp. Slattery stepped up to take the reins from Gearoid Prendergast, while Simon Malone, ‘Nure’s AIL-winning forwards coach, joined their coaching ticket, with many players coming and going. Skehan expects the Cookies to be at their best this weekend.
“Last season, they lost 13-12 to Clontarf in that AIL semi-final in Castle Avenue, basically on the bounce of a ball, and if things worked out differently, they would have been our challengers in the final,” he acknowledged.
“They’re definitely trying to assert themselves as the biggest club in Limerick. They’re in a great bit of form. They’ve won four on the bounce, beating Con in the last round, Ballynahinch away, City of Armagh, and ourselves in Limerick.
“We know we need to bring the best version of ourselves physically, mentally, and tactically. If we fall short in any of those aspects of our game, we know it could be a very difficult afternoon.”
Both sides have talent all across the pitch. Skehan mentioned the talismanic Alan Kennedy, Young Munster’s captain, along with consistent performer Bailey Faloon whom he coached during his spell with Garryowen.
Of course, Conor Phillips is now wearing the colours of Terenure after making the move up from Young Munster. He suffered an injury at the start of the season but will be looking to hit top form in the coming match weeks.
Skehan said of the former Munster Academy winger: “Conor’s athletic profile isn’t something you always see in the AIL. He just screams professional athlete. He’s been involved in the Sevens circuit (with Ireland) before.
“He’s got incredible speed, he’s got that big frame, very good to have for contestable kicks, and if he gets the ball in any sort of space, he can be lethal. His run of form in the last block really helped improve our team performances.
“It’ll be a special day for him and his family (on Saturday). He only got 20 minutes when we played Young Munster at the end of November, but he’ll be central to our plans on Saturday. Hopefully he can play a big part in an attacking perspective.”
The Bateman Cup decider will a last hurrah for two of Terenure’s regular starters, Caolan Dooley and Conall Boomer (pictured above), who are both set to leave to play Stateside with Major League Rugby outfit, the Chicago Hounds.
Versatle back Dooley, the 2023 Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A Player of the Year, grabbed the headlines in last season’s Division 1A final when he kicked 30 points in a stellar individual performance.
Back rower Boomer’s lung-busting runs have contributed to Terenure’s success in the last couple of seasons. He represented Ireland at underage level, coming through the Ulster Rugby ranks. His AIL performances were rewarded in November 2022 when he played for Leinster against Chile at Energia Park.
“We want to send them off on the back of a win. They’ve both been brilliant for us,” said Skehan, praising the talented pair of players.
“Caolan came here straight out of school and, over the five seasons he’s been here, he has won lots of trophies. An AIL, Bateman Cup, a few Leinster titles, and some Metro silverware too, and of course that man-of-the-match award in the AIL final.
Caolan is probably the best import we’ve ever had. He’s an incredibly committed young man. The Chicago Hounds are very lucky to get a player of his calibre, on and off the pitch.
“In Boomer’s case, he came to us from Ballynahinch. He was involved in Ulster and Irish underage (sides). He’s probably the most charismatic guy you’ll ever come across. He’s universally adored by the Terenure community.
“We’re sad to see them go. They’re great ambassadors for the AIL and hopefully it’s not the last time we see them in Terenure colours.”
The unsung heroes of the 2023/24 All-Ireland League campaign so far have been the Terenure College RFC social media team. Their innovative team announcements have helped to capture the imagination, bringing new eyes to the league.
From teletext to Championship Manager, and most recently a purple Coca-Cola Christmas truck, the standard of their videos and graphics seem to go up another level each week. The duo of Conor Pender and Sean Heslin are really using their creativity to maximise interest.
Their efforts are valued by all at the club, with Skehan agreeing: “It’s been unbelievable. Sean and Conor took over the PRO responsibilities this season, administrating our social media. The teletext one was the first, I think it was the week RTÉ announced Aertel was closing.
“I thought it was a once-off, but they’ve got better each week. I wanted the Championship Manager one. They plan ahead, they’ve got more lined up.
“I don’t know what’s coming this week, all I know is that they want the teamsheet as soon as possible from me each week! I think it’s brilliant. It just brings another dynamic to the league.”