CLUB SCENE: MY CLUB
By DAIRE WALSH
Cork Constitution FC
THE next few weeks will prove to be a season-defining period for Cork Constitution RFC, who are seeking to defend their Ulster Bank League and Bateman Cup titles in a hectic domestic schedule.
Before setting their sights of a Cup final showdown with Lansdowne at Temple Hill on Saturday, April 21, Constitution face crunch Division 1A encounters with play-off rivals Terenure College and Clontarf.
With Garryowen, Clontarf and Young Munster all within touching distance of Brian Hickey’s third-placed side, Cork Con club President Anthony O’Leary acknowledged they are ‘must-win’ games for the Leesiders.
“It’s great to be in the Bateman Cup final again. The Ulster Bank League is just a roller-coaster really. We’re in the hunt. We’ve two matches, both of which really we’ll have to win,” admitted O’Leary. “It’s sort of that type for everyone except Lansdowne, who are a bit launched. The next fortnight will tell a hell of a lot.”
Prior to assuming the role of club President, O’Leary was heavily involved with Con as a player and coach. He has seen a number of internationals pass through the hallways of the Cork club over the years, including present Munster, Ireland and Lions star Peter O’Mahony.
“Peter is our current pride and joy if you like, but we have loads of them. Billy Holland and John Ryan were capped last year. For Peter to lead the Lions in a Test was an extraordinary honour for him and his family, and definitely for our club. We’ve a good record regarding Munster players, Irish players, Lions over the years. We’ve got to keep it going.”
Indeed, O’Leary credits Cork Con’s underage structure for producing a plethora of future professional stars, noting: “We have an incredibly well-organised kids set-up, literally from Under-6s, Under-7s, every Saturday morning. It’s very well co-ordinated and it’s the backbone and future of the club really. That’s where the Peter O’Mahonys and Billy Hollands came from.
“And the Ronan O’Gara’s and Peter Stringer’s. They all started there. We’ve got to keep that going, otherwise the pipeline will dry up. Not just for Con!”
Established in 1892 by the staff of the Cork Constitution newspaper, the Leesiders have continued to evolve in the intervening years.
Although it was viewed as a significant financial risk, O’Leary feels the recent redevelopment of their Temple Hill clubhouse has been an unqualified success.
“We had a major undertaking about five years ago now. We rebuilt the clubhouse, which was a colossal undertaking and a great success. Our old clubhouse had served us very well, but it was definitely showing signs of age.
“It sounds great, but it costs money and it needs an awful lot of co-ordination. There was a very, very tight group managed it very, very well and within budget, etc. So we now, dare say, have one of the finest clubhouses in the country,” he added.