Saturday 19 August 2017

Kennedy fires Belvo to All-Ireland glory

OLD BELVEDERE 20
CORK CON 17
Ulster Bank AIL division 1 final

Daire Walsh

OLD Belvedere claimed a piece of history yesterday, stunning Cork Constitution to claim the title for the very first time.

In doing so, the Anglesea Road side became just the eighth club to lift the trophy in the league's 21st season, and only the second team from Leinster, with Clontarf and St Mary's having come up painfully short in recent years.

Outside centre John Kennedy was the man of the hour in sunny Donnybrook, as his two tries helped his side dethrone the Corkmen. The pacy Kennedy was given the official man of the match award on the day, and it was fully deserved following a terrific display.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "We know the capabilities in our team. So, to go out there on the big day, and play like that is unbelievable. You can't ask for any more than that."

Going into the game as underdogs, Belvo were acutely aware of the benefits of a good start to the tie and they certainly came out of the blocks very quickly, with David Mongan touching down in the left corner on eight minutes after a sweeping team move across the Cork Con backline. Returning captain Andy Dunne added the extras.

Brian Walsh's men were finding the going tough early on, but they settled and opened their account on 11 minutes with a 30-metre penalty from scrum-half Gerry Hurley.

Hurley was also on target nine minutes later to bring the margin down to the bare minimum and, as the half wore on, Con looked more and more dangerous and it took some courageous defending from Belvedere to deny Scott Deasy and Billy Holland from getting the Temple Hill outfit's first try.

They were helpless to prevent Hurley from slotting over his third penalty on 39 minutes, however, as the Division 1A table-toppers took a narrow 9-7 lead with them into the second period.

Once again, though, it was Old Belvedere who reacted quickest upon the resumption, as Kennedy got his first try two minutes into the half, touching down on the right after good work from Danny Riordan and Eddie Devitt.

This ability to make such a positive start to both halves was quite impressive and, as Kennedy himself pointed out, it was something that they were looking to set right. "That's been our problem all year, we've given teams leads and we're having to come back into it. We knew a team of the quality of Con, if we gave them a lead, there would be no coming back into it," he said.

"So, we knew we had to start well -- and in both halves, we started very well. I think that set us up for the game, and when you know that you can do that to a side with the quality of Con, it gives you a lot of confidence."

Yet, such is the quality that Cork Con possess -- they featured 10 contracted Munster players yesterday -- they were not going to relinquish their title without a fight and they were back in front by the 58th minute after a try from full-back Sean Scanlon.

But Belvedere's response was emphatic as a penalty on 64 minutes from replacement Conal Keane was added to six minutes later by Kennedy's second try.

With 10 minutes left, time was now running out for Cork Con, though they did reduce the gap to three with seven minutes on the clock when Hurley secured his fourth penalty of the day. The normally accurate No 9 then had a chance to level the game with a 77th-minute penalty, but he was well off target with his kick.

This proved to be the last chance for Con as Belvedere closed out the game with admirable efficiency, and in the process became only the second Leinster team to be crowned champions since the league's inception, joining the 2000 St Mary's College team in the history books.

As regards the late miss by Hurley, Kennedy expressed his surprise that he was wide of the mark, though he has no doubt that both he and his side will bounce back from this defeat.

"Gerry Hurley is one of the best kickers in the league. Nine times out of 10 that's straight over the bar. I feel for Cork Con, they're a fine side and they'll be back," he said.

OLD BELVEDERE -- D Riordan; E Devitt, J Kennedy, B Woods (Chris Keane 27-37), D Mongan; A Dunne (Conal Keane 60), S Keogh (Chris Keane 60); V Soden, D Gilchrist, S Maguire (K Buckley 60); R Leyden, B Marshall (D Moore 64); J Slattery (B Byrne-Dyaper 36-43), J Risden, L Auva'a.

CORK CONSTITUTION -- S Scanlon; R Lane, C Jouve (D Williams 44), I Dineen, S Zebo; S Deasy, G Hurley; M Gately, D Fogarty (R Quinn 33), S Archer; B Hayes, I Nagle; B Holland, B Cutriss (P O'Mahony 46), F Cogan.

REF -- D Phillips (ARLB).

Irish Independent

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