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Clontarf and Cork Con set up repeat of last year's decider

Young Munster and Lansdowne fell at the semi-final stage today.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ulster Bank League division 1A semi-finals

Clontarf 37 Young Munster 29

AN UNDER-STRENGTH Young Munster team suffered their third Ulster Bank League semi-final defeat in as many years as defending champions Clontarf proved too strong at Castle Avenue, winning 37-29.

Clontarf ran in six tries, including a brace from former Leinster winger Mick McGrath, to claim an eight-point success and move within 80 minutes of their third Division 1A title in four years.

The north Dubliners will face Cork Constitution in a repeat of last year’s final at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, 7 May.

This afternoon on their 4G pitch, it was McGrath who led the way, breaking through a ruck to score under the posts in the third minute with David Joyce converting.

Munsters were understandably annoyed at the IRFU’s scheduling of the league semi-finals for the same weekend of the British & Irish Cup final and Champions Cup semi-finals – a clash the Union’s All-Ireland League committee have known about and done nothing to rectify since last July.

Dan Goggin, Cian Bohane, Robin Copeland and Gavin Coombes started for Munster ‘A’ in Friday’s B&I Cup final  triumph over Jersey Reds, so the Cookies had to do without that quartet, but did at least have Fineen Wycherley, Calvin Nash and Abrie Griesel at their disposal.

One of Young Munster’s leading performers this season, teenage out-half Alan Tynan, was in inspirational form early on, cutting through for a brace of first half tries. The Tipperary starlet danced through the ‘Tarf defence and converted his seventh minute try to bring the visitors level, before he sniped over for a second early in the second quarter.

Crucially, Andy Wood’s home side took advantage of a yellow card to score 10 points in the lead up to half-time, out-half Joyce landing a penalty and converting captain Ben Reilly’s late score after a terrific break from flanker Tony Ryan.

Young Munster's team huddle Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

A 17-12 interval deficit was suddenly 27-15 in the third quarter as Munsters, who had a 50th minute penalty from Tynan, dug deep to stay in contention. Either side of Tynan’s kick, McGrath burst through for his second try and centre Conor O’Brien also touched down in the corner.

Bristol-bound hooker Jason Harris-Wright and current Leinster squad members Mick Kearney and Bryan Byrne were part of a strong Clontarf pack, the latter coming in for the final half-an-hour along with Connacht’s Ivan Soroka.

That strength in depth proved too much for Munsters to handle, Clontarf replacement Rob McGrath duly joining his brother as a try scorer on the hour mark and scrum half Mark Sutton tagging on the sixth try late on.

The Cookies, in Gearoid Prendergast’s first year as head coach, can hold their heads high as this was a proud performance from a youthful squad that is clearly going places. A penalty try in the final play supplemented a 72nd-minute converted score from current Ireland Under-20 international Jack Lyons.

Scorers: Clontarf: Try: Mick McGrath 2, Ben Reilly, Conor O’Brien, Rob McGrath, Mark Sutton; Cons: David Joyce 2; Pen: David Joyce

Young Munster: Tries: Alan Tynan 2, Penalty try, Jack Lyons; Cons: Alan Tynan 3; Pen: Alan Tynan

CLONTARF: Rob Keogh; Michael Brown, Conor O’Brien, Matt D’Arcy, Mick McGrath; David Joyce, Mark Sutton; Vakhtang Abdaladze, Jason Harris-Wright, Royce Burke-Flynn, Ben Reilly (capt), Mick Kearney, Tony Ryan, Karl Moran, Michael Noone.

Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ivan Soroka, Eoghan Browne, Adrian D’Arcy, Andrew Feeney, Evan Ryan, Rob McGrath.

YOUNG MUNSTER: Shane Airey; David O’Mahony, Calvin Nash, Jack Harrington, James O’Connor; Alan Tynan, Rob Guerin; Gavin Ryan, Ger Slattery (capt), Colm Skehan, Alan Kennedy, Fineen Wycherley, Elie Mundu, Dan Walsh, Darren Ryan.

Replacements: Mark O’Mara, Sean Rennison, Evan Ryan, David Begley, Jack Lyons, Abrie Griesel, Tom Goggin.

Referee: Gary Conway (IRFU)

Lansdowne 16 Cork Constitution 19

Tomas Quinlan was Cork Constitution’s 14-point goal-kicking hero as they knocked table toppers Lansdowne out of the Ulster Bank League title race today.

Tomas Quinlan kicks the winning penalty Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

The ice-cool Quinlan converted an 82nd minute penalty to guide Constitution to a gripping 19-16 semi-final victory on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch.

So often a match winner for Con in recent seasons, the 22-year-old Quinlan’s time with the Munster Academy was short-lived – he had a year with the province in 2015/16 after impressing for the Ireland Under-20s – but he remains arguably the best young out-half on the domestic scene.

2015 league champions Lansdowne were quietly confident of avenging two regular seasons losses to Cork Con, with Ireland Sevens internationals John O’Donnell, Mark Roche and Matthew D’Arcy joining talismanic number 10 Scott Deasy in the back-line.

Up front, the hosts handed starts to current Ireland U-20 forwards Tadgh McElroy, Oisin Dowling and Paul Boyle, and young winger Mark O’Keefe’s 10th-minute try, inspired by a bullocking run from lock Stephen Gardiner, gave Mike Ruddock’s men the early impetus.

Lansdowne were still leading by the interval, but three Quinlan penalties had the Leesiders hot on their heels at just 10-9 down. Deasy had turned a 22nd-minute scrum penalty into three points.

It was end to end stuff in the second half, Constitution briefly seizing control thanks to winger Liam O’Connell’s well-taken 53rd-minute try before Deasy answered back from the tee just two minutes later.

Tighthead and captain Ian Prendiville and flanker Charlie Butterworth drove on Lansdowne’s youthful pack, while second rows Brian Hayes and Conor Kindregan – two real totems for the visitors – led the way for Con along with their Zimbabwe-capped flanker Graeme Lawler.

Extra-time was in the offing when Deasy found the target with a 75th minute penalty to square things up at 16-all. Nonetheless, the hard graft of his forwards ensured that Quinlan had a one last shot at the posts and he delivered in nerveless fashion, taking his season’s haul to 180 points.

Matthew D'Arcy tackles Conor Kindregan Lansdowne's Matthew D'Arcy tackles Conor Kindregan of Cork Constitution. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Brian Hickey’s Con squad, who retained the Munster Senior Cup in February, will make two return trips to the capital in the next fortnight in search of a potential All-Ireland double – they visit Old Belvedere for next Saturday’s Bateman Cup decider before battling it out with Clontarf again for league honours on May 7. The club’s last league title was won in 2010 when Peter O’Mahony, Simon Zebo, Duncan Williams and Stephen Archer were in the side.

Scorers: Lansdowne: Try: Mark O’Keefe; Con: Scott Deasy; Pens: Scott Deasy 3
Cork Constitution: Try: Liam O’Connell; Con: Tomas Quinlan; Pens: Tomas Quinlan 4
HT: Lansdowne 10 Cork Constitution 9

LANSDOWNE: Eamonn Mills; Daniel McEvoy, John O’Donnell, Mark Roche, Mark O’Keefe; Scott Deasy, Matthew D’Arcy; Jacob Walshe, Tadgh McElroy, Ian Prendiville (capt), Oisin Dowling, Stephen Gardiner, Joe McSwiney, Charlie Butterworth, Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Tyrone Moran, Ntinga Mpiko, Josh O’Rourke, Barry Fitzpatrick, Alan Bennie, Fergal Cleary, Foster Horan.

CORK CONSTITUTION: Shane Daly; Liam O’Connell, Ned Hodson, Niall Kenneally (capt), Rob Jermyn; Tomas Quinlan, Jason Higgins; Liam O’Connor, Vincent O’Brien, Rory Burke, Brian Hayes, Conor Kindregan, Graeme Lawler, James Murphy, Luke Cahill.

Replacements: Gavin Duffy, Ger Sweeney, Sean O’Leary, Ross O’Neill, John Poland, JJ O’Neill, Cian Brady.

Referee: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)

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