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Cork Con Take Down Terenure To Advance To Third Straight League Final

Cork Con Take Down Terenure To Advance To Third Straight League Final

Defending champions Cork Constitution dug deep to defeat Terenure College 22-15 at Lakelands Park yesterday and book their place in the Ulster Bank League Division 1A decider against Lansdowne next Sunday.

With out-half Tomas Quinlan notching an impressive tally of 17 points, Brian Hickey's charges overcame the stubborn challenge of an ambitious Terenure side. Tries in each half by Robbie Carroll and Jake Swaine kept 'Nure in the reckoning, but thanks to key scores from Quinlan and replacement Evan Mintern either side of the interval, it was Cork Con who prevailed.

Despite losing 30-27 to Constitution at Temple Hill three weeks ago, a second place finish in the table ensured that James Blaney's men had home advantage for this much-anticipated last-four clash.

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Terenure's most recent league semi-final appearance was in 2015 when they hosted Clontarf who, like Cork Con, were seeking to defend their Ulster Bank League crown. However, thanks to a trio of Matt D'Arcy penalties, 'Tarf were 9-0 winners that day.

Con entered this weekend with their sights set on qualifying for a third Division 1A final in as many years. They carried with real purpose in the early stages of the game, before 'Nure were eventually awarded a penalty close to their own line.

Former Leinster winger Sam Coghlan Murray, in tandem with Swaine, Eoin Joyce and scrum half Tim Schmidt (son of Ireland head coach Joe), then created some space inside the Con 22 for the hosts. However, following a late tackle on their number 8 Luke Cahill, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock.

The left-footed Quinlan, who had Jason Higgins alongside him after Gerry Hurley's injury in the warm-up, has been a dependable source of scores for the Leesiders in recent seasons and his 30-metre place-kick comfortably cleared the posts. Nonetheless, 'Nure stung the title holders with an excellent try just past the first quarter.

After back rowers Cathal Deans and Robert Duke drove forward into the 22, 'Nure moved the ball towards the left flank. Outside centre Carroll was on hand to pick up possession and with a neat step, he dotted down with Mark O'Neill's touchline conversion missing the target.

Carroll had to go off temporarily with a blood injury and the well-drilled con pack got their side back on the front foot. Following a prolonged passage of play close to the 'Nure whitewash, Quinlan added his second penalty to make it 6-5.

A succession of close-in drives almost produced a try for Cork Con approaching half-time, only to be denied on each occasion by relentless 'Nure defensive work. Persistent pressure led to another kickable penalty, though, as Quinlan ensured that they took a 9-5 cushion into the second period.

While the semi-final remained finely balanced, Quinlan punished another Terenure indiscretion straight from the restart. His latest three-pointer was cancelled out by his opposite number O'Neill on 49 minutes, but it was the subsequent introduction of Mintern that truly turned the tide in Con's favour.

A scrum on the left presented the 22-year-old Munster prospect with the perfect opportunity to make an immediate impact. When play was switched towards the far wing, he was in the right place to drive over the 'Nure line.

Quinlan's crisp conversion increased the gap to all of 11 points, leaving the Dubliners with a mountain to climb in the final quarter. Indeed, when the Con number 10 converted his fifth penalty of the afternoon in the 71st minute, the Munstermen looked set to ease their way into the final.

Terenure were not prepared to go down without a fight, however, especially in front of a large home crowd. At the end of an extended spell inside the Con half, pacy winger Swaine was picked out for a simple finish in the right corner.

O'Neill added the extras to bring the 'Nure deficit down to seven points, with five minutes still remaining. The sin-binning of Con prop Ger Sweeney had the visitors under pressure, but the beaten Bateman Cup finalists held firm in the closing stages to set up a mouth-watering rematch with Lansdowne.

Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)