Tuesday 26 September 2017

Smyth cagey over Mary’s final hopes

CLONTARF 24
ST MARY’S 39

ST MARY’S College coach Peter Smyth refuses to accept that his team will be firm favourites to reach the AIB League final following their comprehensive Division 1A success over Clontarf at Castle Avenue on Saturday.

The Templeville Road outfit scored five tries to make certain of second spot in the table in their last division game and guarantee themselves a home semi-final outing against Old Belvedere next Saturday. The second semi-final will see top-placed Cork Constitution facing Dolphin at Temple Hill.

With home advantage and Old Belvedere having qualified by virtue of finishing on top of Division 1B, the odds would definitely seem to favour St Mary’s. Not necessarily so, argues Smyth.

“Old Belvedere are a very good side. Their player-coach Andy Dunne is an exceptional player who marshalls them very well, and they could have Fergus McFadden.

“Quite honestly, I would see this as a 50/50 game. We might have home advantage but it’s not going to bother them travelling three miles across the city.

“We played them in the Leinster Senior Cup final and won a very hardfought game 9-3. This is going to be another incredibly difficult encounter.”

Significantly, the Clontarf coach Bernard Jackman backs up Smyth’s opinion. He said: “Listen, there’s every chance that Old Belvedere could win the competition from Division 1B, they are an excellent side.

“I think it’s unbelievably open. They will fancy a cut at St Mary’s, having come so close against them in the Leinster Cup final.”

Important

More important for Leinster hooker Jackman, however, is that Clontarf bounce back into the top division after their relegation from the top flight was confirmed on Saturday.

Unsurprisingly, he believes they have the resources to do so. “I definitely think we have the ability to bounce back. I’ll be around more next season which should hopefully help. We just have to make sure we do the hard work.”

Another thing last season’s beaten finalists will have to do is to play for 80 minutes. Too often they have allowed the opposition to go clear before making a brave late fightback.

That was exactly the situation on Saturday. They were well in the game, trailing 8-3 having played against the wind in the opening half.

But they conceded three quick tries in the opening stages of the second half to suddenly find themselves trailing 29-3. To their credit, they hit back with three tries of their own – and it was excellent entertainment after a dull enough first period – but they were never in with a realistic chance of overhauling their rivals.

Damien Hall, Stephen Grissing, Mark Sexton, Philip Brophy and Gavin Dunne scored St Mary’s tries with Dunne also contributing four conversions and two penalties.

Clontarf had tries from Simon Crawford, Henry Bryce and Martin Garvey, while out-half Mark Dufficy kicked three conversions, and Daragh O’Shea landed a drop goal.

CLONTARF – B Woods (H Bryce 60); M Keating, D O’Shea, K Lett, S Carey (P Howard 52); M Dufficy, H Nolan; C Kavanagh, A Dundon, N Treston (J Harris Wright 57), B Reilly, S Crawford (capt), E Cremen (P Synnott 60), N Carson, M Garvey.

ST MARY’S COLLEGE – G Dunne; S O’Flanagan, S Grissing, M Sexton (P Brophy 54), R Doherty; S McCarthy, C McPhillips (C Quinn 56); J McGrath, Richie Sweeney, Rob Sweeney (C McMahon 57), S Bradshaw, R Copeland (G Logan 45), D Hall, P Nash, H Hogan (capt).

REF – A Rogan.

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