O'Mahony drives defiant Con home
Cork Constitution 15
AIB Senior Cup final
FOURTEEN-MAN Cork Constitution mounted an impressive second-half comeback to claim their second Cup title in Athlone on Saturday.
The match seemed to have turned in Garryowen's direction on the stroke of half-time when second-row Ian Nagle started flailing at a ruck; Mike Sherry peeled off and crashed over the line.
Referee Alain Rolland awarded the try and then, after consultation with touch judge David Keane, showed Nagle the red card.
As a result Con went in behind at the break and down a man despite starting the better side and scoring first through Richie Lane. But Garryowen had battled their way into the game, two penalties from scrum-half Conor Murray edging them in front, and they had spent the last 10 minutes of the half camped in Con's '22.
So, when the sides retired to the dressing-room in the immediate aftermath of the try and sending-off, the feeling around Dubarry Park was that Con were about to lose a second final in a row as favourites.
But Evan Ryan's side emerged like men possessed after the break. They stuck to their principles and kept playing and their Munster contingent all gave manful displays.
Billy Holland was exceptional alongside Frank Cogan and man-of-the-match Peter O'Mahony in the back-row, while Duncan Williams made a number of searing breaks. Their wingers, Cronan Healy and Lane, made a number of crucial interventions as Garryowen struggled to impose their game on the 14 men.
The breakthrough finally came after 28 minutes of the second half when Scott Deasy released Lane up the right wing. Running out of space, he threw a loose pass inside that Cogan managed to dive on to keep possession.
Con moved left, but Healy was stopped short of the line and after a quick recycle, Williams fed Daragh Lyons who stepped inside the cover to score and Deasy converted.
Having edged in front Con kept attacking and gave Deasy an opportunity to send over a penalty to take the winning of the game beyond a drop-goal or penalty. The Limerickmen pushed for the win, but they couldn't get through and Ryan lifted the trophy amongst some emotional celebrations.
"It makes it more special after last year," the captain Ryan said with a smile on his face and the trophy in his hand. "Going into the break they were definitely on top. They put it up to us, but with 14 men the boys pulled through superbly.
"There were great individual performances and although you hate naming people, Duncan Williams and Peter O'Mahony were superb."
For Garryowen there was the solace of taking a side as strong as Con to the wire thanks to top-class performances from Mike Sherry, Paul Neville and captain Conan Doyle.
But they failed to make their numbers count and with the quality of players at Con's disposal, they took their second AIB Cup title back to Temple Hill.
Cork Constitution -- S Deasy; R Lane, T Gleeson, E Ryan (A Ryan, 70) C Healy; D Lyons, D Williams (D O'Driscoll 77); M Gately (G Murray 80), R Quinn, S Archer; M O'Connell (B Hayes, 70) I Nagle; B Holland, F Cogan, P O'Mahony.
Garryowen -- R O'Mahony; I Hanley, C Doyle, K Hartigan, A Gaughan (C Hartigan, 70); W Staunton, C Murray; J Harney, 75), M Sherry, D Lavery; F McKenna (A McCloskey 70), E Mackey (M Melbourne 75); P Neville, D Sherry, A Kavanagh (L Burke, 70).
Ref -- A Rolland (IRFU).