Dillon confident Clontarf can land the double
As another exciting domestic club rugby season draws ever closer to its conclusion, last weekend's Metropolitan Cup final typified everything that is positive about the game in this country at the moment.
Two great rivals and two great clubs in Clontarf and Old Belvedere faced off in front of a large support at Donnybrook.
It was Clontarf who emerged victorious on a 32-8 scoreline and for club president Derry Kealy, the sense of pride was clear to see as he presented the trophy to captain Conor Keegan.
"I'm delighted for these lads. They really deserved it. They were beaten in the league final, so it's great that they have some silverware to show for the efforts that they've put in this season," Kealy said.
"It's great for players that are on the panel for the first XV. They can play in a separate competition and go on and win a medal."
Kealy was keen to highlight the efforts of J1 players – something he maintains often gets overlooked by people from the outside.
"They do as much training and put in as much work as the first XV do and often they don't get a run. It's nice for these lads to have a cup after what's been a long and tough year."
Those emotions were echoed by joint manager Ronan Dillon, who praised the hard work and dedication that went in to win Clontarf's sixth Metro Cup title.
Their last success came in 2012 and, for a club who are continuing to knock on the door at senior level, Dillon was quick to point to what winning this trophy meant to his players.
"A lot of people hold this competition in high esteem because it is so tough to win. You could see the support that both teams got out here and that proves how highly it's regarded. This would be one of the premier competitions for the J1 level.
"We spoke amongst ourselves at the start of the season and said that the Metro Cup was something we really wanted to win. It's not something we've done all that often so it's a great feeling to be honest."
Among those spectators in Donnybrook last Sunday were members of both clubs' senior teams.
As the AIL season reaches its final weekend, the title race has gone right down to wire and, sure enough, it's Clontarf and Old Belvedere who are vying for the honours.
After Clontarf beat Belvo two weeks ago at Castle Avenue, the title race was within their grasp, but subsequent defeats to UCD and Lansdowne have meant that the momentum has swung right back in Belvo's favour – much to the frustration of Clontarf's president.
"Winning the Metro Cup is great for the club especially after the first team's loses in the last couple of weeks. Hopefully, we can use the momentum from this victory next weekend and put a bit of pressure on Belvedere and they might lose in the AIL," said Kealy, more in hope than expectation.
When asked what the mood had been like in the club over the last two weeks, he replied: "Dismay.
"We're all very disappointed. We've suffered a lot of injuries recently and that's been a problem. We were getting fellas on the pitch and they weren't fully fit. Playing so many matches in a row as well, it's taken its toll on them.
"We have to soldier on and hope that Belvedere lose, but I suspect they won't. It was there for us to take it and we didn't do the business and that's our own fault.
"All we can do now is hope and pray," Kealy conceded.
Dillon remains more hopeful that the Metro Cup success can spur the senior side on to what would be the club's first ever AIL title.
Having come so close on several occasions in the past this was by all accounts Clontarf's best opportunity to win the title or as the club's Twitter campaign suggests – it was 'The year of the Bull'.
"This kind of a win really gives the club a boost. No matter what's gone on in the last couple of weeks, the senior leads will hopefully feed off the J1's success.
"It means that the lads in the first team have to work even harder because the players behind them are doing so well. We're hoping the lads can finish out the league the way we feel that it's meant to be finished," Dillon beamed defiantly.
For his side though, their attentions will quickly turn to the Leinster League Cup final where they will face another Dublin rival in Lansdowne.
Having led the league for the majority of the season, they were beaten in the final by St Mary's College and Dillon is hoping that both the J1 and the senior team will finish their respective seasons on a high.
"We're on course for a double and after the performance in the final, we'd have to be confident going into the decider against Lansdowne.
"You could see at the final whistle how much this competition means to the players. It's why they play rugby – to win trophies.
"We will get to that elusive first AIL title as well. Whether it's this year or next year, we will get there in the end."
This weekend will reveal whether or not 'The Year of the Bull' will have to be put on hold for another season.
Irish Independent Supplement