Con to erase last year's 'Hinch horror
Published 30/01/2010 | 05:00
They've each won the competition once, so today's final represents an opportunity for two of club rugby's blue blood clubs to gain some bragging rights and go top of the roll of honour.
Garryowen and Cork Constitution travel to Athlone's Dubarry Park this afternoon for an encounter between two sides who know each other well.
The trophy has resided in Munster for much of it's young life, but it's been locked up in Ballynahinch for the past 12 months after the Ulstermen stunned Cork Con in April's final. Con will make the journey looking to make up for a calamitous final where nothing went right, while Garryowen are intent on continuing a run of form that has seen them put a dreadful start behind them and begin to climb up the league table.
The Cup has provided an outlet for them to find their feet after their young side took time acclimatising to the new top-eight structure of Division 1A.
And captain Conan Doyle is hoping that claiming the season's first title will lift the gloom at Dooradoyle.
"We've had a tough season so far so hopefully a final can brighten our spirits a bit more," he said. "We know Con and they know us from playing over the years. They are always doing well and have probably been the top side in the league over the last few years. We're finding our feet a bit more and hopefully showing a bit of form.
"I suppose with the new set up of the league and the fact that there's eight teams now, we've found ourselves closer to the bottom. It's something we wouldn't be used to in Garryowen so it's been different to deal with.
"It was tough to say what was going wrong, it's hard to pinpoint or we would have fixed it. We've a different squad this year with a lot of younger guys coming in. It was hard to find our feet, I'm hoping we've done that now."
The sides have played twice in the league, with Con winning their home tie in October before last week's draw in Dooradoyle. There are plenty of battles worth looking out for and Munster fans will be particularly interested in the performance at scrum-half with Garryowen's Conor Murray and Con's Duncan Williams going head-to-head.
Both are being touted as the coming No 9s and bring different aspects to the party with Murray's pace, defensive zeal and eye for a break contrasting with Williams' Mike Phillips-esque auxiliary flanker role. Outside Williams are centre Tom Gleeson and full-back Scott Deasy who have featured for the province, while in the Con pack Billy Holland brings his experience and prop Stephen Archer will look to damage Garryowen at scrum time.
The experienced Paul Neville will lead from the back of the Limerick side's scrum, while in Doyle, Alan Gaughan and out-half Willie Staunton they possess backs who can move the ball.
History tells us this one will be tight as since they first met in 1901 they've played 88 times with Garryowen ahead on 35, Con on 34 and last week's draw the first result of it's kind.
Con won the Cup in 2006, Garryowen a year later in what was a repeat of the AIL's earliest seasons and it was the Shannonsiders who were to win the League a second time and may look at that omen with some hope.
But it's the Corkmen who look to have more in their locker. They sit top of Division 1A and haven't lost since October. They have pace in reserve with Ireland U-20 squad members Simon Zebo and Brian Hayes ready to come off the bench along with the experienced Brendan Cuttriss and Ed Leamy.
The bookies are tipping Con, but they did that last year too and Ballynahinch made them look foolish. That said, the Corkmen look stronger and should take the Cup back to Temple Hill.
Verdict: Cork Constitution
Garryowen (Probable) -- R O'Mahony; I Hanley, C Doyle (Capt), K Hartigan, A Gaughan; W Staunton, C Murray; J Halpin, M Sherry, D Lavery, F McKenna, E Mackey, P Neville, A Kavanagh, D Sherry.
Cork Constitution -- S Deasy; R Lane, E Ryan (capt), T Gleeson, C Healy; D Lyons, D Williams; M Gately; R Quinn, S Archer; I Nagle, M O'Connell; B Holland, P O'Mahony, F Hogan.
Ref -- A Rolland (IRFU)