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Dublin: 19 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019
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No Carbery, but Cork Con and Clontarf can show UBL has lots more talent

This Sunday sees a repeat of last season’s Division 1A final at the Aviva Stadium.

JOEY CARBERY WAS understandably the focus of last season’s Ulster Bank League final at the Aviva Stadium after a brilliant campaign at out-half and fullback for Clontarf.

The Athy youngster lived up to the billing with an excellent display in the Division 1A decider against Cork Con, showing off his dancing footwork, vision and passing range for Andy Wood’s side.

UBL Cork Con's Shane Daly and Clontarf man Conor O'Brien. Source: INPHO

The 21-year-old has since moved onto a grander stage with Leinster and Ireland, but his rise has been a reminder of the enduring value of the club game to professional Irish rugby.

Carbery won’t be involved in this Sunday’s Division 1A final, which will see Clontarf defending their title against the hungry Cork Con, who warmed-up for the task by claiming their fifth consecutive Bateman Cup last weekend.

However, there is no doubt that there will be more high-quality talent on show at the Aviva this time around, even without Carbery adding his brand of excitement.

Joey was outstanding last year but then if you look at the numbers, Mike Brown made an exceptional number of yards, Conor O’Brien was excellent, Matt D’Arcy was excellent; we had some good strike players across the park,” said Clontarf head coach Andy Wood yesterday.

“Joey stood a little bit above that, but there were some excellent performances from lads in our squad who are here again this year. Con were the same – Darren Sweetnam had a fantastic match and then they had contributors across the park, very physical, particularly in the back row area and around the breakdown.

“Joey’s not there but there are others guys who put their hands up last year. Hopefully the conditions are good and a number of players will put their hands up again.”

The current forecast is for fine weather, which contributed to an excellent final last season, and Wood’s hope that a handful of players will put their hands up this time around is likely to come to pass.

Vakh Abdaladze Vakh Abdaladze in action for the Ireland U20s last summer. Source: Camerasport/Dave Howarth/INPHO

Former Ireland U20 and current Leinster academy centre Conor O’Brien is one to watch for Clontarf, alongside the brilliant Matt D’Arcy, who has somehow remained outside professional rugby after his stint with Munster.

Prop Vakh Abdaladze is another ex-Ireland U20 player, while fellow front row Ivan Soroka is coming off a stint with Connacht.

‘Tarf hope to have Leinster’s Mick Kearney and Bryan Byrne available, while the likes of hooker Jason Harris-Wright, wing Mick McGrath, tighthead Royce Burke-Flynn and number eight Mick Noone all provide professional experience.

Cork Con have that kind of gritty edge in the likes of former Munster and Aurillac lock Brian Hayes, as well as captain Niall Kenneally and second row Conor Kindregan, who were once on the books at Munster and Connacht respectively.

And there is exciting youth to look out for in the Con ranks too.

Fullback Shane Daly, tighthead Rory Burke, centre Ned Hodson and loosehead Liam O’Connor are all part of the Munster academy at present, eager to push into the professional game as soon as possible.

Rory Burke celebrates scoring a try with Kevin O'Byrne Rory Burke [left] after scoring a try for Munster 'A'. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Top points-scorer Tomás Quinlan is likely to be influential at out-half on Sunday and remains a fine prospect at the age of 22, even after Munster let him go.

For all of these young men, and those with a few more years on the clock, Sunday is an opportunity to impress.

Joe Schmidt was here last year looking at Joey,” says Wood. “It’s been good for the guys from the professional game to come and have a look and see how we perform, get a benchmark and see where it is situated in terms of the professional game.

“It’s days like Sunday that count. If we hadn’t got here last year, would people be talking about Joey Carbery? If we hadn’t got here this year, would they be talking about the next standout performer from Sunday’s match?”

Time to put those hands up.

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Murray Kinsella

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