A first All Ireland title in the professional era beckons for Corinthians RFC this weekend.
The Galway city side faces Old Wesley in the All Ireland division three final on Saturday in Thomond Park (12 noon ), preceding both the division two and one deciders.
Having already achieved promotion to division two, and finished the league on top, this decider is a real opportunity to crown their season in glory.
Corinthians director of coaching Bernie Kelly describes the final as a significant day in the history of the club.
“Winning promotion to division two was the No 1 target. This is nice and it is great that we are there and we are certainly going out to win, but we are now playing rugby in division two and that for us is a huge achievement.”
Given that Corinthians have been in training since July 1 last year, it has been an extraordinarily long season to keep players focused.
“We have been together just a few weeks short of a year and that is hard, but this side just keeps giving and with a trophy up for grabs, it keeps everyone going. There has been great joy this year in riding that wave.”
On Saturday, however, Corinthians will face the side that finished runners-up in the league series, and a Dublin outfit that was one of only two that defeated Corinthians during the season. Big up front, solid in the set piece, they will be difficult to beat in Thomond Park, particularly if their player/coach Dan van Zyl takes to the field.
“When we played them in the league we felt the game just got away from us. With 20 minutes to go, we were confident we would go on to win but at a critical period they scored a try when we made a mistake. The other significant factor was their player/coach came on and he dictated play for them.”
Corinthians will also be without influential winger Darren Claasens and Dave Murphy, but Kelly says they have been well served all season by their strength in depth. If Corinthians can continue to play 15-man rugby and keep their defensive lines intact, they are well capable of being crowned champions.
“We play a 15 man game, and our defence has won us games all season. We also have an ability to attack out wide and through a number of channels, and while our pack may not be the biggest, it is mobile and technically sound.
“It would certainly be a nice finish to what has been an incredible season in the club.”
Last Friday Corinthians added the Connacht Senior Cup to their list of honours, overcoming Connemara in the final by 31 - 9. Corinthians’ superiority up front, particularly in the scrums, proved crucial in this cup victory despite a traditional gallant effort from the All Blacks. Connemara, aided by the wind, were the first to score with an early drop goal, but thereafter they struggled to make an impression against Corinthians’ well organised defence.
And in attack Corinthians were the slicker, posting an opening try on 16 minutes, and a second just before the break to help them into an 18 -9 half time lead. The city side controlled the second half, and although Connemara kept them out for long periods, they finally conceded a third try just before full time.
Corinthians v Old Wesley : P McCreanor, J Merrigan, D Small, G Ward, S Murphy, P Cunningham, T Linnane, B McCann, B Roche, D Clarke, J Buckley, C Begley, W Williams, R Forbes, R Ferguson. Replacements, D Bardon, D Lillis, L Carpenter, A Casanova, H Griffin, F Gormley, C Dolan.