Cork Con secure AIL title with victory over Clontarf at the Aviva
Clontarf 13 Cork Con 28
Cork Con are the All-Ireland League (AIL) champions once again as they won back the title they relinquished last year by seeing off Clontarf.
This is Con's sixth AIL as they closed the gap to Shannon, who remain out in front on nine.
They were made to work for it too and their cause was significantly helped by Tarf having to play the majority of the second half with 14 men due to injuries to two of their props.
Ultimately, Con had more of a cutting edge and they outscored their opponents by three tries to one at the Aviva Stadium.
Con were the best team in the league this season having finished top of the table and they assumed their dominance over a Tarf side, who they had already beaten twice this year.
Tarf will have plenty of regrets, particularly because they were going well up front until the unfortunate pair of injuries.
Man-of-the-match Robert Jermyn was lively every time he got on the ball, while Shane Daly and Alex McHenry showed well in midfield.
Con hit the front against the run of play when their talented young Munster connection linked brilliantly to score a really well-worked try.
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Sean French made the initial break down the right wing before finding McHenry on his inside, who in turn fed Daly to score.
Aidan Moynihan added the extras for a 7-0 lead after 11 minutes, but Con were dealt a setback shortly after when McHenry was sent to the sin bin for cynically killing the ball deep in his own 22.
Clontarf out-half David Joyce punished the indiscipline as he put his side on the board to reduce the deficit.
Just as it seemed like Tarf would kick on with their man advantage, Con struck again midway through the half.
This time it was all about Jermyn's pace and footwork. The winger ran a searing line back inside and was found by a lovely Luke Cahill pass.
Jermyn still had plenty left to do and he did it in style as he turned on the afterburners to round Jack Power and score a stunning try, which Moynihan again converted.
Tarf cranked up the pressure, particularly when Leinster prop Vakh Abdaladze was introduced off the bench.
Power thought he had gotten over for a try, only for the TMO to rule that Jermyn had got back to deny him getting downward pressure on the ball.
They stayed patient however, and with Con's penalty count rising, Tarf eventually got over for a try that their barrage of pressure deserved.
With four minutes of the first half remaining, Matt D'Arcy took the responsibility on himself close to the line as his quick-tap penalty resulted in a seven-pointer with Joyce tacking on the extra two.
That left Con with a 14-10 lead at the break and Clontarf's cause was not helped shortly after the restart when Angus Lloyd was shown a yellow card for a similar offence as McHenry's.
Despite having a man less however, the Dubliners added a 53rd minute penalty through Joyce, which made it a one-point game.
As an absorbing contest ticked towards the hour mark, Con went the full length of the field to score their third try through Munster scrum-half Duncan Williams, who had only just come on.
Moynihan was off target with the conversion, but he was quickly given a chance to make amends with a penalty. This time he made no mistake to push the Cork outfit into a 22-13 lead.
Tarf's hopes of mounting what was increasingly looking like an unlikely comeback were dented when they were forced to play the remaining 20-odd minutes with 14 men as injuries to two props seriously hampered them.
There was no let up from Con, who extended their lead through a 69th minute Moynihan penalty before Sean French was binned for a deliberate knock on.
It mattered little however, as Moynihan put the final nail in the coffin with another late penalty to ensure Cork Con were crowned champions once again.
Clontarf – J Power; M Courtney, S O'Brien, M D'Arcy, C O'Donoghue (A Feeney 45) (C O'Brien 53); D Joyce (C Kelly 72), A Lloyd; I Soroka (V Abdaladze 13), P Finlay, R Burke-Flynn (D Adamson 51); C Daly (B Deeny 62), B Reilly; A Ryan, A Darcy (T Ryan 69), M Noone (capt).
Cork Con – L O'Connell; S French, S Daly (Jermyn 79), A McHenry, R Jermyn (J Wren 65); A Moynihan, J Higgins (D Williams 55); G Duffy (B Quinlan 69), V O'Brien (M Abbott 76), D Murphy (P Casey 78); B Hayes (capt), E Mintern; J McSwiney (J Murphy 50), K Sheehan (R O'Neill 68), L Cahill.
REF: J Erskine