Tuesday 24 April 2018

Con wait on Munster players for final clash

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Having topped the table for the past five seasons in a row, Cork Constitution might be forgiven for welcoming the disbanding of the Ulster Bank AIL play-offs next season.

But before Division 1A reverts to a traditional league format, the champions must back up their consistency once more on the big day and retain the title for the first time in their history against Old Belvedere at Donnybrook on Sunday.

Con are expected to name a strong team for the clash, with a number of their Munster contracted players available as Tony McGahan names a strong team for the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final against Harlequins.

Depending on selection, the likes of Tom Gleeson, Simon Zebo, Denis Fogarty, Stephen Archer, Peter O'Mahony and Ian Nagle could be among the players available to coach Brian Walsh, but as of yet -- they're in the dark.

"We're not entirely sure yet, who we'll have available," captain Frank Cogan explained.

"Usually when all the internationals are playing with Munster we'd get a strong set, they'd filter down to us.

"We won't know until Thursday, there was one day this year we didn't know until the morning of a game, which was very disruptive.

"It's something we've had to adapt to.

"Those (contracted) lads are performing at a high level already, they buy into what we're about and they are very much a part of it. They put their bodies on the line as much for Cork Con as they would for Munster or anyone else.

"It's not like they're strangers. Everyone falls in together, there's a great spirit down there."

Cogan says, "it's a pity" he and his team-mates won't get a chance to show their wares on the biggest stage, at the Aviva Stadium.

Previous league finals took place at Lansdowne Road, but this weekend's game will be held at Donnybrook -- a stone's throw from Old Belvedere's home ground on Anglesea Road.

"It'd be a great honour to play at the national stadium, it's an amazing stadium. Maybe one day the AIL final could take place there," he said.

"Maybe it being in Donnybrook will give them an extra edge, but we're well used to coming up to Dublin. They'll have a big crowd I assume, but we're well used to that, sure Young Munster had more fans at our place than us in the semi-final."

Irish Independent

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