Corinthians celebrated their long-held ambition of promotion to the All Ireland League’s division two at the weekend with a gutsy display over rivals Queens University in the penultimate game of the season.
Corinthians’ 15 - 8 victory ensures their return to division two after 13 years in the third division, and they will be joined by Queens, Midleton, or current second-placed side Old Wesley next season.
However, if Corinthians want to finish their season on top of the division and also win the championship title, their celebrations will need to be curtailed. With one final round of matches this weekend Corinthians still need a victory to claim a first place finish before heading into the play-offs. Currently in pole position with 53 points and with 12 wins from 14 outings, Corinthians now face an away trip to Naas on Saturday. And with Old Wesley currently sitting on 49 points and due to play at home to 15th placed Sunday’s Well, the Galway side cannot afford to slip up if they want to retain the first place. That would ensure a play-off with the fourth place side in the semi-finals.
Naas have little to play for except pride, and Corinthians should have enough in the tank to complete the season as the league leaders. It is a huge achievement for the Cloonacauneen outfit who, as one of only three in the division to have won all their home games this season, have reached the play-offs on only one previous occasion, and that was in 2003.
Last weekend they faced up to fellow promotion hopefuls Queens, dictated the play, and put in a huge defensive effort to prevail.
Corinthians’ back row of Cunningham, Casanova, and Geraghty were superb in defence, but also played their part in attack. The opening score came in the 30th minute when both Casanova and Geraghty were involved in the build-up before Wayne Williams touched down in the corner.
Although Queens started to raise their game, the home side held firm with scrumhalf Roche dictating the game at the base of the scrum. Allied to some fine line-kicking from Clarke they kept the visitors at bay to finish the half 5 - 0 ahead.
Although Clarke was wide with a penalty attempt early in the second half, Corinthians pack stayed on top. A tactical kicking game kept the pressure on Queens and from a Corinthian scrum, Clarke succeeded with a 50th minute drop goal.
Led by influential prop Michael Ferguson, Queens did not give up, resulting in a try under the posts to close the gap to 8 - 7 after 57 minutes. However some hard graft by the Corinthians’ front row of Paul McCreanor, Joey Merrigan, and Dave Small kept Corinthians on the front foot, and when Geraghty went over for the try with Clarke converting, the home side stretched their lead to 15 - 8.
Corinthians closed down the game to guarantee division 2 promotion.