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#EnergiaAIL Men’s Division 1A Final Preview: Terenure College v Cork Constitution

#EnergiaAIL Men’s Division 1A Final Preview: Terenure College v Cork Constitution

Cork Constitution vice-captain Jack Kelleher and Terenure College captain Harrison Brewer are pictured with the Energia All-Ireland League Men's Division 1A trophy at the Aviva Stadium ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Following last week’s epic semi-final encounters, Terenure College and Cork Constitution are the two teams left standing in the race to be crowned Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A champions.


Sunday, April 28 –

TERENURE COLLEGE (1st) v CORK CONSTITUTION (2nd), Aviva Stadium, 4pm (live TG4/TG4 Player)

Tickets for the #EnergiaAIL finals double header at the Aviva Stadium today are on sale from Ticketmaster.ie – buy now.

#EnergiaAIL Finals – Match Day Information

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Terenure College: WLLWWLWWWWWWWWWWWWW; Cork Constitution: WLWWWWLWLWWWWWWLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Aran Egan 120, Callum Smith 62; Tries: Alan Bennie, Luke Clohessy 7 each; Cork Constitution: Points: James Taylor 158, Matthew Bowen 70, Daniel Hurley 45; Tries: Matthew Bowen 14, Daniel Hurley 9

Previous Energia All-Ireland League Titles – Terenure College: 1 (2022/23); Cork Constitution: 6 (1990/91, 1998/99, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2016/17, 2018/19)

Preview: It is a measure of the players’ fitness levels and durability, combined with both clubs’ strength & conditioning work, that Terenure College and Cork Constitution have announced unchanged teams for this afternoon’s Division 1A final.

Only Shannon have ever retained the top flight title, doing it most recently in 2006, so table toppers Terenure know they have a huge task on their hands.

They managed to dethrone Clontarf twelve months ago, with a fantastic 50-24 win, and know Cork Constitution, the second place finishers in the table, will be desperate to do the same to them.

Terenure’s defence of their league crown started on shaky ground, losing three of their first five games. That included a 20-0 home defeat at the hands of Cork Con, a very rare occasion on which ‘Nure were ‘nilled’ at Lakelands Park.

Billy Scannell and Daniel Hurley scored first half tries that day, as Constitution lay down a significant marker in the capital. They won five of their opening six matches, and last Saturday’s thrilling 30-24 play-off victory over ‘Tarf was their ninth in ten outings.

A seventh AIL crown has remained frustratingly out of reach for Con since their 2019 success. They fell at the semi-final hurdle in the last two seasons, away to both ‘Tarf and ‘Nure, but their return to the Aviva Stadium has been mastermined by their 32-year-old head coach, Jonny Holland.

Together with director of rugby Brian Hickey and a coaching team full of ex-Munster players, Holland has knitted together a title-challenging squad. Today’s starting XV shows eight changes to the one that ended last season with semi-final disappointment at Lakelands.

James Taylor’s switch across from Highfield has seen him take the reins at out-half with aplomb, kicking 17 points against Clontarf to take his season’s haul to 158. Only UCD’s Michael Moloney (178) has scored more this season.

The Con back-line has also been bolstered by the presence of Rob Hedderman, the former UCC captain, and lightning-quick winger Matthew Bowen, who has run in 10 tries in his last six games, and 14 in all. Interestingly, the trio will come up against their ex-UCC team-mate, Terenure centre Peter Sylvester.

Highly-rated captain David Hyland heads up a Con pack that certainly packs a punch, and they are battle-hardened after going toe-to-toe with Ballynahinch, City of Armagh, and Clontarf in recent weeks. They have a good combination of brute strength and athletic ability.

22-year-old flanker Jack Kelleher, another player who gained experience playing for UCC, cuts an imposing figure. Indeed, he was the only Con player to feature in a Terenure-dominated Ireland Club XV this year, scoring a try on his debut at that level against Portugal ‘A’.

Holland’s ‘Nure counterpart, Sean Skehan, coached the Ireland Club international side to a winning return in Lisbon. He has most definitely instilled a winning mentality at the Dublin 6W club as they seek their second successive Energia All-Ireland League and Bateman Cup double.

While Con have had some canny additions in playing personnel, so too have Terenure. Former Munster winger Conor Phillips and ex-Dublin University sharpshooter Aran Egan, who landed a decisive last-gasp penalty against Lansdowne last week, feature in the back-line.

They are two of the six changes to the side that won last year’s final, with Sylvester and Ireland U-20 international Sam Berman, who is back from a recent hamstring injury, teaming up in midfield.

Caolan Dooley, the player-of-the-match and goalkicking hero from the 2023 decider, Conall Boomer, and Sean McNulty have all since moved to play Stateside for MLR clubs. There have been some untimely injuries, including a leg break for out-half Callum Smith.

Like Con, Terenure operate with a mostly settled pack of forwards. With Egan (120 points) growing in influence, and key men Alan Bennie and Luke Clohessy chipping in with seven tries each, ‘Nure have put together a formidable 14 wins in a row, including January’s Bateman Cup final triumph over Young Munster.

Hoping to steer them to AIL glory again is club stalwart and captain Harrison Brewer, who continues to weigh in with some important tries and utilise his experience from the professional ranks, as does lynchpin number 8 Jordan Coghlan.

As Terenure gear up for their third AIL final appearance in as many years, Brewer said: “It’s always a tight fixture between us and Con. Often enough Con are littered with some Munster players as well, and there is that kind of rivalry between us with that Leinster-Munster aspect of it.

“We’ve met twice this year, both beat each other (away). It’s pretty special after last year, winning it for the first time ourselves. We said straight after last year’s final that it was a big thing for us to get back here as soon as possible.

“It’s our third final in three years. We know how special last year was. You get a taste for that and you want to be back pretty quick.”

A Bennie brace of tries helped Terenure overturn a 14-point deficit to beat Con 26-23 at Temple Hill last month. Taylor missed that fixture, while former skipper Niall Kenneally, who is back to full fitness, has come back into the starting line-up since then.

Kenneally, one of the most influential centres in Division 1A over the years, missed Con’s 2019 final win over Clontarf due to a late injury, so he is doubly determined to play a significant role this time around.

Con vice-captain Kelleher commented: “I think there’s always a bit of a bite when we play Terenure. A bit of a rivalry between the two of us over the last couple of seasons. It should be a great game, a great clash.

“It’s our first final for a couple of our lads, I think there’s only a few that have played before. For the majority of the squad, it’s going to be a huge day out.

“We’re relishing getting out there (on the Aviva Stadium pitch). It’s an unbelievable surface and (we) can’t wait to get stuck in, in front of a good crowd.”

TERENURE COLLEGE: Adam La Grue; Conor Phillips, Sam Berman, Peter Sylvester, Craig Adams; Aran Egan, Alan Bennie; Campbell Classon, Levi Vaughan, Adam Tuite, Harrison Brewer (capt), Matthew Caffrey, Adam Melia, Luke Clohessy, Jordan Coghlan.

Replacements: Max Russell, Ben Howard, Conan O’Donnell, Mikey O’Reilly, Jim White, Conor McKeon, Yago Fernandez Vilar, Barry Galvin.

CORK CONSTITUTION: Rob Hedderman; Daniel Hurley, Harry O’Riordan, Niall Kenneally, Matthew Bowen; James Taylor, Adam Maher; Alessandro Heaney, Billy Scannell, Luke Masters, Sean Duffy, John Forde, Jack Kelleher, Ronan O’Sullivan, David Hyland (capt).

Replacements: Danny Sheahan, Brendan Quinlan, Charlie Connolly, Eoin Quilter, Matisse Lamarque d’Arrouzat, Louis Kahn, Rob Jermyn, Billy Crowley.

Referee: Andrew Cole (IRFU)

Pre-Match Links –

#EnergiaAIL Finals – Match Day Information

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

Kelleher Determined For Con’s Class Of 2024 To Take ‘Next Step’

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 21, 2023: Terenure College 0 Cork Constitution 20, Lakelands Park; Saturday, March 23, 2024: Cork Constitution 23 Terenure College 26, Temple Hill

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win