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Dublin: 6°C Monday 1 March 2021

Barnstorming Brian Hayes helps Cork Con take UBL title from Clontarf

The reigning champions scored three tries, two with a man in the sin-bin, but the penalty count smothered their hopes.

Clontarf 21

Cork Constitution 25

Sean Farrell reports from Aviva Stadium

A POWERFUL FORWARD effort combined with a flawless kicking display from Tomás Quinlan bridged a seven-year wait for an Ulster Bank League title  for Cork Con.

The Corkmen were narrowly beaten when they met a Joey Carbery-inspired Clontarf in the showpiece finale last year, but some moments of supreme athleticism with and without the ball from lock Brian Hayes ensured they would not be denied this time around.

Robert Jermyn scores his side's first try Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Though they finished fourth in the division 1A table, Con went into the knock-out stage of the competition with the most wins. So while they might have felt more minutes in their legs due to Bateman and Munster Senior Cup runs, the winning habit helped them keep cool in the hot sun on Lansdowne Road.

After two flawless penalties from Quinlan to open proceedings, the north Dubliners announced their arrival in the contest with a roar as Mick McGrath combined a cutting line with a powerful shunt to sit Jason Higgins down before flinging an offload to D’Arcy.

The one-point lead would not last long, Quinlan kept the scoreboard ticking as his pack kept piling the pressure on the Bulls. Yet just when it looked as though that pressure was about to break ‘Tarf with Royce Burke-Flynn issued a yellow card by the busy Sean Gallagher, they fought their way out of the tightest of corners.

Mick McGrath with Jason Higgins Sit down: Mick Grath barges over Jason Higgins. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Having been pinned on their line, the 14 men scrapped their way to a penalty. David Joyce hoisted a high ball onto Quinlan and he spilled, inviting ‘Tarf to flood forward with a width that belied their lack of a 15th man. Con were forced to retreat all the way to their own line and the white wall was breached a second time when Sam Cronin opted to steer away from pick and drives and instead asked McGrath to get his leg drive going from a standing start five metres out.

It took a twist, a reach and a TMO call, but the score came gave ‘Tarf a 14 – 12 half-time lead that was very much against the run of play.

The third quarter belonged to Cork Con and their powerful second row. Soon after Quinlan nudged them back into the lead early in the half, Hayes ended Clontarf attack in dramatic fashion, smashing McGrath backwards in the 22. He then popped up in midfield, collected Luke Cahill’s kick and storming into the opposition third.

The two teams take to the pitch Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The legs wouldn’t take him all the way to the try-line, so the second row resolved early to wind up a long offload towards the support runners on his left and the try duly came for Rob Jermyn.

The reigning champions looked ready to pass on their crown at that moment as errors littered their game and Sam Cronin went to the sin-bin as Quinlan made the deficit 14 – 25. But they would not let the trophy travel south without one last fight. Mick Kearney barged over under the posts to give ‘Tarf a second 14-man try and set up a grandstand finish.

Against a robust and well-drilled Con defence though, there was to be no dramatic turnaround.



Tries: M D’Arcy, M McGrath, M Kearney

Conversions: D Joyce (2/2) Rob Keogh (1/1)

Penalties: D Joyce (0/1)

Cork Constitution

Tries: R Jermyn

Conversions: T Quinlan (1/1)

Penalties: T Quinlan (6/6)

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

Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Adrian D’Arcy, Ivan Soroka, Mark Sutton, Rob McGrath, Jack Power, Eoghan Browne.

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

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Rory Burke, Gavin Duffy, Ross O’Neill, JJ O’Neill, John Poland, Sean O’Leary

Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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