Hurley inspires Con to halt Clontarf run
CLONTARF discovered at Temple Hill on Saturday just how difficult it's going to be to win the league title.
Having arrived at the venue as the only team to have won their opening four games, they left narrowly failing to get even a losing bonus point. So, for the first time this season, they have lost out on the top spot in the table to Young Munster.
It was a desperately frustrating afternoon for the visitors. All the more so because Clontarf were reduced to 13 men at one stage in the second half following the somewhat harsh sending-off of substitute Adrian Darcy for what was seen as a dangerous spear tackle and the subsequent sin-binning of Ken Dorrian.
Strangely, Clontarf then managed to play their best rugby of the afternoon in the final 10 minutes, scoring two tries through full-back Noel Reid and skipper Barry O'Mahony. That was some consolation for coach Andy Wood.
If Wood was very upset by the red card to Darcy, he wasn't admitting to it. He said: "The referee (John Carvill) made the call and we just had to deal with it.
"Credit to Cork Con, they are a very good side. It is a tough place to come and we fell short today.
"At least we showed that we are a good side in those final 10 minutes. I felt that we were a bit unlucky not to get that losing bonus point."
Nobody, however, could doubt the merit of Cork Con's victory. Having lost their two previous home games, they were determined to prove a point against a Clontarf outfit that included three of their former players in Frank Cogan, Richie Lane and Evan Ryan.
Con were in control from an early stage. They led 13-3 at the interval, with full-back Darragh Lyons setting up flanker Brian O'Hara for a fine try.
Scrum-half Gerry Hurley landed the conversion and also kicked two penalties, while Lane was on the mark with one penalty for Clontarf.
Although Con had two players, Joe McSwiney and Scott Deasy, sent to the bin at different stages, Clontarf just couldn't get back into contention.
They were 16-6 adrift, Hurley having kicked another penalty with Lane replying with one for Clontarf, when Darcy got his marching orders midway through the half.
After Dorrian was shown a yellow card soon afterwards, Cork Con took the opportunity to move 26-6 in front with further tries from Hurley and centre Niall O'Driscoll, one of which was converted by the scrum-half.
Everything suggested that Cork Con would now go on and secure the bonus point for a fourth try.
Instead, it was Clontarf who claimed the last two tries of the game from Reid and O'Mahony, with Lane converting the first of them.
Not surprisingly, Con coach Brian Walsh was disappointed that his side hadn't secured the bonus point, but he was pleased with the victory, which sends them up to fourth in the table.
"Maybe we relaxed a bit in the closing minutes but I can't really complain too much," he said. "I'd have taken a win by a point going into the game."
Cork Constitution -- D Lyons; R Clune, N O'Driscoll, S Deasy, S Zebo; J Holland, G Hurley; John Ryan, A Cudmore, S Archer, B Hayes (capt), C O'Flaherty, B Cutriss, B O'Hara, J McSwiney.
Rep: James Ryan.
Clontarf -- N Reid; R Lane, K Lett, C O'Shea, C Keegan; E Ryan, S Cronin; D Merrey, A Dundon, B Barclay, B Reilly, J Chipman, S Crawford, B O'Mahony (capt), F Cogan. Reps: D O'Shea, K Dorrian, D O'Mahony, A Darcy, C O'Flynn.
Ref -- J Carvill.