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Coombes' hat-trick sends Garryowen to Aviva


Munster Academy winger Liam Coombes scored a hat-trick in Garryowen’s 48-21 win over St Mary’s College. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster Academy winger Liam Coombes scored a hat-trick in Garryowen’s 48-21 win over St Mary’s College. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile Sportsdesk

Garryowen's reward for reaching the Ulster Bank League Division 1A semi-finals for the first time since 2009 is a trip to the Aviva Stadium to play table-toppers Lansdowne.

Munster Academy winger Liam Coombes scored a hat-trick in Garryowen's 48-21 win over St Mary's College, which sealed their top-four finish. After seeing Young Munster regularly reach semi-finals in recent seasons, Garryowen ousted their Limerick rivals on this occasion by winning six of their last seven matches of the regular season.

Defending league and cup champions Cork Constitution will contest next Saturday's Ulster Bank Bateman Cup final with Lansdowne at Temple Hill (kick-off 1pm), before the Division 1A semis take place the following Saturday (April 28), with Con, who suffered a worrying 35-point reversal at Clontarf, travelling to second-placed finishers Terenure College.

Clontarf will be notable absentees from the semi-finals despite thrashing Con 43-12 on Castle Avenue's 4G pitch. Lying fifth entering the final round, Clontarf did as much as they could to try and keep up their record of regularly featuring in Division 1A's knockout stages, but it was not to be as Garryowen held onto fourth place.

Matt D'Arcy, whose clever angles and ability to pop up on the shoulders of his team-mates caused problems for the Con defence all day, bagged a brace to end the season with 10 tries.

Elsewhere, on a typically tense final day of the league's regular season, Shannon ended their five-year absence from the top flight with a 40-17 bonus-point victory over UCC which clinched the Division 1B title and promotion in Tom Hayes' first full season in charge.

Tight title races in Divisions 2A and 2C went Malone and Sligo's way respectively, as the Cregagh Red Sox gained automatic promotion with a 43-19 defeat of Nenagh Ormond, while Ross Mannion's Sligo side took the spoils 37-0 against Thomond in a winner-takes-all clash, adding league silverware to their first Connacht Senior Cup.

Old Crescent had a stunning year as runaway Division 2B champions, achieving an 18-match unbeaten run - the first across the league since Terenure's 18 straight wins in Division 1B in 2013/14. Crescent amassed 17 wins and a draw for an 83-point haul, which eclipses 'Nure's 82 from four years ago.

Brendan Guilfoyle's free-scoring Crescent also set a new league record for try-scoring bonus points. Yesterday's 28-8 success at home to Rainey Old Boys saw them pick up their 13th try bonus thanks to converted scores from Kevin Doyle, Val McDermott, player-coach Guilfoyle and Jeffrey Coyne.

It was also a day of sad farewells in terms of relegation and players hanging up their boots, most notably legendary Dolphin out-half Barry Keeshan.

He is retiring after 16 years with the Cork club and kicked a conversion and a penalty in his final game at Naas, bringing his All-Ireland League record points tally to 1,726. Naas full-back Peter Osborne's 33-point haul, including two tries, would have reminded the travelling support of 'Keesh' in his pomp.

Buccaneers, Dolphin, Corinthians and City of Derry are all dropping down a division after tough and unforgiving campaigns, while Bective Rangers went down fighting at the foot of Division 2C as they lost their senior status.

Old Wesley and Tullamore both avoided the bottom two by a whisker - staying up on scoring difference - and Galwegians also saved the best for last in their Division 2A survival mission, evergreen winger John 'Luigi' Cleary rolling back the years in their six-try 50-15 dismissal of play-off-chasing Cashel.

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