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Brewer: Going Back-To-Back Is A Huge Motivation For Us

Brewer: Going Back-To-Back Is A Huge Motivation For Us

Terenure College captain Harrison Brewer runs in an early second half try during last weekend's semi-final win over Lansdowne at Lakelands Park ©INPHO/Tom Maher

A feeling of déjà vu is what all Terenure College players and fans alike will hope to experience on Sunday when referee Andrew Cole’s final whistle sounds at the Aviva Stadium.

The sight of captain Harrison Brewer lifting the Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A trophy again would have the Terenure faithful in dreamland, almost twelve months since he did it after their historic 50-24 victory over Clontarf.

Terenure are aiming to become the first team to win back-to-back top flight titles since Shannon in 2006. It would be the next chapter in a legacy that young head coach Sean Skehan is trying to create.

It would also complete a hard-earned Energia All-Ireland League and Bateman Cup double for the second successive season. It seems Skehan is staking his claim to be the AIL’s very own Pep Guardiola.

Very much Terenure through and through having attended the nearby school on Templeogue Road, Brewer said his team-mates are fuelled by a desire to go back-to-back and prove it was not just a once-off achievement in 2023.

“A huge motivation. We were chatting about it the other night, and for us, I think it’s trying to not be that team, that one-hit wonder,” he said, speaking at the All-Ireland League finals media launch at Irish Rugby HQ.

“We want to be remembered like that Shannon back-to-back side, I think in the early 2000s. We want to be that kind of side. We’ve spoken about it all week to not be a one-hit wonder.

“Getting back to the final is nice, but you’ve got to do the business and bring the pot home to be remembered like that Shannon side.”

Terenure come into the final on the back of a 13-game winning streak in AIL action, with their last defeat back in November. They have dealt with the notion of having a target on their backs very well, going from the hunter to the hunted.

A last-gasp penalty from Aran Egan kept their winning run going when they beat Lansdowne 31-28 in last Saturday’s semi-final. The ex-Dublin University out-half has stepped up in the injury-enforced absence of Callum Smith.

Former Munster winger Conor Phillips was their other big summer signing. The Ireland Sevens international has boosted their attacking threat out wide, and Brewer agrees that the pair have been welcome additions to the Lakelands crew.

“I remember playing against them, they were an absolute nightmare to play against. Conor Phillips has just come in seamlessly. He’s that electric (player) we need out wide, and then in terms of our cohesion, I think he’s grown into that position.

“We had a bit of an injury with Callum Smith this year, a slight leg break, and then Aran’s come in and I just think every game he’s gotten better and better and better.

“Nothing more fitting than for him to slot that last-minute kick last Saturday. Hopefully he can bring that into Sunday. The two of them have been absolutely unbelievable.”

Making their third straight AIL final appearance, Skehan’s charges must overcome difficult opponents in Cork Constitution if they are going to retain their crown. It stands one-all from their previous meetings this season.

Cork Con kept ‘Nure scoreless at Lakelands Park, registering a statement 20-point victory over the title holders, whilst the Dubliners erased a 14-point deficit to win 26-23 when they met at Temple Hill last month.

Asked about Constitution’s strengths. Brewer replied: “Look, they’re big up front. They’ve good set-piece, scrum and lineout. Similar to last year with ‘Tarf, we’ll try and manage those areas of the game. It’s probably something we can improve on.

“They also have the ability to run out wide as well, some good players like Matthew Bowen. He’s one of the top try scorers in the league this year. So it’s just trying to nullify that area of the game and keep on the right side of them.”

Lakelands Park hosted a big crowd of over 4,000 spectators last weekend. The Dublin 6W venue has quickly become one of the best grounds in the country, with a cauldron of atmosphere, filled to the brim with passionate and lively fans eager to spur their team over the line.

It encapsulates what makes the club rugby scene so unique and marvellous, and that buzz has really gathered momentum over the last couple of seasons.

“You can certainly see that, even from the semi-final there last Saturday, I think 4,000-plus for an AIL semi is absolutely crazy stuff. It’s stuff you dream of playing at that level,” acknowledged the 29-year-old lock.

“The club, from on the pitch and off the pitch as well, some of the stuff they’re doing to attract the crowds. It’s nice when you’re winning, people come out of the woodwork and get down to your games, it’s been a special place all season, so hopefully we can get the numbers for Sunday.”

It was not too long ago that Terenure was playing a few divisions down in the All-Ireland League. They were Division 2A champions in 2012/13, and repeated the feat in unbeaten fashion in Division 1B a year later. It has been quite the journey.

They are now one of the powerhouses of Irish club rugby, something that might have seemed a far-fetched dream 10 years ago. Brewer, who captained the Skehan-coached Ireland Club XV to a 20-17 win over Portugal ‘A’ last month, explained how it is still something he is struggling to get used to.

The question was put to him, ‘When you were younger, did you ever think Terenure would have days like this?’, and the former Leinster Academy player admitted: “In all honesty, no, not at all.

“When I was coming out of school, I was chucked in when we were in (Division) 2A and 1B. And then my first years in the seniors were relegation battles, if I’m being honest.

“I think a big, big person that we need to kind of take in, is Sean Skehan, when he came in (in 2019). He’s instilled this winning culture and this standard that we have to meet every week on and off the field.

“He’s a pretty special coach, and I actually do think he’s going to kick on to bigger and better things. He wanted to break up the big three with Lansdowne, Con and ‘Tarf. That was big.

“He wanted to kind of instill that in us, and that we were going to be like a side like that. So yeah, that it was key for us to get back to a final like this for the third year in a row.”