ALMOST A DECADE after Shannon won their third consecutive All-Ireland League, Clontarf are looking to make history this Saturday by becoming the first Leinster club ever to win back-to-back titles.
Sam Cronin [left] with Lansdowne captain Ron Boucher at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Limerick outfit Shannon were one of the lords of the early days of the AIL, winning four titles in a row from 1995 to 1998 and also securing those three consecutive league wins from 2004 to 2006.
Genuine dominance, but Shannon are currently a Division 1B club and haven’t had any say in this season’s top flight.
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The Aviva Stadium instead hosts Clontarf and Lansdowne on Saturday for the Ulster Bank League final [KO 13.00], a continuation of the Dublin clubs’ growing dominance of Division 1A, all four of the most recent winners having come from the capital.
Lansdowne lifted the trophy in 2013, before Clontarf dramatically claimed last season’s crown on the final day, meaning this exciting clash offers more bragging rights than usual.
With the play-offs reintroduced this season, Andy Wood’s Clontarf side came through a gruelling semi-final away to Terenure two weekends ago on a 9-0 scoreline in tough conditions to ensure ambitions of retaining their title remain intact.
“It would be nice to go back-to-back and be the first Leinster team to do it, but to be honest Lansdowne will have their own agenda in doing it twice in three years,” says Clontarf head coach Wood.
“It would be a nice thing to do, but we’ll be focused on getting our best team out there and getting our best performance as well. Then we can look at all of that [the records] after the game.”
Wood led ‘Tarf to their title success last season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Still, there is real excitement within the Dublin 3 club at the prospect of creating that history. Clontarf captain Sam Cronin – a former Munster U21, Ireland Clubs and Irish Universities representative – admits as much.
“It would be a massive feat and it kind of shows how club rugby has changed,” says Cronin.