AIB All Ireland Cup heads North
6th April 2009 By Munster Rugby
After claiming the scalps of Shannon, Galwegians and Garryowen, Ballynahinch went one better at Dubarry Park as they ended Cork Constitution’s treble dreams with a richly-deserved AIB Cup final triumph.
The final scoreline may suggest that this was a tight game but Cork Con’, the reigning Division One champions and winners of the Munster Senior Cup this season, were very much second best on the day.
‘Hinch out-half Ryan Bambry, an undoubted hero in the previous rounds, left his kicking boots at home as he missed a total of five penalty kicks.
On another day, the County Down team might have been out of sight but on the hour mark, they were still only 7-6 ahead.
The tackling and competition for possession at the breakdown was ferocious and Derek Suffern’s charges were not giving an inch.
Manning curled a lovely penalty effort through the posts after 27 minutes to move Con’ into a 3-0 lead.
Inside the Con 22, ‘Hinch pressed for a try and their hard graft of their forwards was rewarded on 34 minutes when after a period of brilliant ball control and continuity, blinsider flanker Michael Graham piled over to the right of the posts for the score.
Bambry added the conversion but some of the gloss was taken off that try when Manning, just a metre or so inside the ‘Hinch half, fired an excellent penalty kick over in the last minute of the half.
With the game going against them, Con’ suffered a sizeable blow when they lost both Nolan and Manning to injuries.
Nolan had to come off after shipping a heavy knock and two thumping tackles left Manning in need for treatment. Richie Lane and Tim Kenneally came on in their place with Ryan and Lyons slotting into the half-back roles.
‘Hinch continued to dictate the play and their all-round efforts were typified in the 58th minute when props Gerry Cronin and Chris Stevenson sandwiched ball-carrying Gareth Murray with a huge hit which led to a kickable penalty.
Again Bambry failed to convert but he managed to raise the assistant referees’ flags, six minutes later, when he nailed his kick after great pressure at the breakdown from the Down side.
Now 10-6 in arrears, Con’ tried to dig deep and get back within scoring range. Holland, Cogan, Healy and Merle O’Connell never gave up the fight but as a unit, ‘Hinch were much more cohesive.
Roared on by a big and very vocal travelling support, Ballynahinch mustered the perfect finish to the final when their pack worked their way to within metres of the Con’ whitewash.
With just a minute remaining, AIB man-of-the-match Stuart Lamb pumped his legs and was stopped just short of the line before replacement John Gunson picked off the base and used his long limbs to stretch over for the match-winning try.
Bambry redeemed himself by adding the extras and Alain Rolland blew for full-time soon after, bringing about scenes of mass jubilation for the players, management team, club officials and supporters of Ballynahinch.
Scorers: Cork Constitution: Pens: Jeremy Manning 2
Ballynahinch: Tries: Michael Graham, John Gunson; Cons: Ryan Bambry 2; Pen: Ryan Bambry
CORK CONSTITUTION: Dara Lyons; Cronan Healy, Tom Gleeson, Evan Ryan, Simon Zebo; Jeremy Manning, Chris Nolan; Gareth Murray, Lloyd Gabriel, Timmy Ryan, Merle O’Connell, David Kelly, Billy Holland (capt), Peter O’Mahony, Frank Cogan.
Replacements used: Johnny Moloney for Kelly (48 mins), Richie Lane for Nolan (52), Tim Kenneally for Manning (55), Ed Leamy for O’Mahony (60).
BALLYNAHINCH: Jonny Cullen; Aaron Ferris, Stuart Morrow, David Harris, Kyle Corrigan; Ryan Bambry, Harry McAleese; Chris Stevenson, Neil Hanna, Gerry Cronin, Gareth Rourke, Chris Napier, Michael Graham, Willie Faloon, Stuart Lamb (capt).
Replacements used: Paddy McAllister for Stevenson, John Gunson for Rourke (both 70 mins), Robert Greer for Graham (71), David McGregor for Hanna (75), Lewis Johnston for Cronin (77).
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)