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Monday 25 September 2017

Mary's aim for upset

Cork Constitution v St Mary's College, Dubarry Park, Saturday 3.35 (LIVE rté2)

It is ten years since St Mary's lifted the All-Ireland League title by virtue of their 25-22 defeat of fellow Leinster club Lansdowne.

It might as well have been yesterday for St Mary's current head coach Peter Smyth, such are the constant reminders all around him of the passing years.

"I keep getting slagged by all the lads for the fact that I was 22 years old when it happened. Now, I am grey and 32, you know," he said.

"There is still a great bond between all those guys from 2000. I met Denis Hickie recently and he was wishing us the best of luck.

"I know Victor (Costelloe) and a few others from that era are going down to Dubarry on the bus. It is a great link back to the only time we have won the All Ireland League.

"Having said that, it has been too long. Ten years is a long time to wait for another final. Hopefully, we will be able to take our chance."

St Mary's remain the only Leinster winners of the championship. The next step would be to defeat a Munster powerhouse club. Cork Constitution certainly fit that bill.

However, there is plenty of evidence to support the case for a St Mary's upset of the strong favourites. They have met twice in the regular season.

First up, Cork Con held the whip hand in a 16-9 win at Temple Hill in December. More recently, St Mary's edged it 24-20 at Templeville Road in March. It all points towards a close encounter of the ferocious kind.

"We are confident because we have to be. Otherwise, we will be blown out of the water. We've played them twice this year. We have lost once and won once. We know we can beat them."

Smyth has been able to select an unchanged side from that which eventually got on top of Phil Werahiko's Old Belvedere by the slimmest of margins, 24-23, in the semi-final, Conor Donahue coming onto the bench for the injured Philip Brophy.

"It was always going to be tough in the semi-final. Old Belvedere were underrated because they came into it from Division 1B, as opposed to our campaign in 1A," added Smyth.

"Belvo will do well in 1A next year. I wouldn't be surprised if they challenge near the top. It was a bit misleading. I feel there was misinformation about them going into the semi-final."

There will be no bones made about the scale of the task for St Mary's against the three times winners of this competition, most recently in 2008.

In contrast, Constitution managed to put some distance between themselves and Cork city rivals Dolphin (31-18) in their semi-final.

It was a salutary warning for St Mary's.

"It is natural that we will have to step up on our performance from the semi-final to win the final. We will have to do it," said Smyth.

Verdict: Cork Con

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