Jackman ready for survival test
Cork Con 20
AIB Division 1a
BERNARD JACKMAN is adamant that Clontarf can avoid relegation, despite Saturday's defeat to league leaders Cork Constitution at Castle Avenue.
The defeat means that last season's defeated finalists remain second-last with just three games left. Worryingly, there is now a six-point gap between them and Garryowen, who are third from bottom and have a game in hand.
Yet Clontarf coach Jackman saw enough in the closing stages of the encounter to provide him with encouragement.
"We have a chance we will be okay. Our late fightback means that we got a losing bonus point, and at least we know we have a team now that wants to fight for it," he said.
"We never gave up. We made some silly errors that cost us dearly against a class outfit like Cork Con. But there were some very good individual performances and, with the same attitude, I believe we can stay up."
It will be difficult, but Clontarf's next outing at home to Garryowen on March 6 should go a long way towards answering that question, and out-half Martin Dufficy will almost certainly be a key figure.
Dufficy was left out of the starting line-up on Saturday, with former Cork Con man Peter O'Brien wearing the No 10 jersey. O'Brien, who emigrates to the USA this week, helped Clontarf to remain very much in contention until 16 minutes into the second half.
However, with the sides level at 8-8, Cork Con secured a well-worked try from left-wing Cronan Healy. This was soon followed by another try, by scrum-half Duncan Williams, converted by full-back Richard Lane, after some slack defensive work by the hosts.
Now 20-8 adrift, Clontarf looked down and out, but Dufficy came off the bench to inspire a comeback. He kicked a penalty, went over from a fine individual try and landed the conversion.
Unfortunately, the try did not arrive until the final minute, but at least it secured the losing bonus point.
Earlier, Lane and Clontarf centre Killian Lett had exchanged first-half tries, with Lane and Daragh O'Shea trading penalties.
Visiting coach Brian Walsh was reasonably happy.
"We are delighted to win, although there is a lot to work on. We are in a good position, back at the top of the table, with a game in hand against UL Bohemians. So it's in our hands," he said."
And what of Clontarf? "I certainly think they are one of the better sides we have played and they showed the sort of determination they will need if they are to get out of relegation trouble," added Walsh.
"I thought Dufficy did a good job when he came on. He got the pace of the game up for them, scored a good try, and gave them a cutting edge."
Clontarf -- P Howard; S Carey, D O'Shea, K Lett, M Keating; P O'Brien (M Dufficy 57), H Nolan; C Kavanagh (B Barclay 64), A Dundon (J Harris-Wright 42), N Treston (A Clarke 64), S Crawford (Capt), R Bolger, E Cremen, P Synnott (B Reilly 13), M Garvey.
Cork Constitution -- R Lane; A Ryan, T Gleeson, E Ryan (Capt) (C Desmond 81), C Healy; D Lyons, D Williams; M Gatley (G Murray 75), R Quinn, S Archer, B Hayes, I Nagle (M O'Connell 25), B Cutriss (T Dukelow 68), E Leamy, F Cogan.
Ref -- D Wallace.