After a fantastic renewal of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup, the reigning champions Belvedere College face all time record winners Blackrock in the 2018 Cup Final, rescheduled for Friday 23 March at 2pm in the RDS. With cold and wet day forecasted, this massive occasion is going to test the resilience and nerves of players, coaches and supporters. PSA Academies’ Johne Murphy looks at the match up and how he sees it panning out.
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A great Cup year has been left with a heavyweight Final as holders Belvo go for the 3 in a row against Rock.
The sides have reached the ultimate stage via semi finals that were two very different affairs. Unfortunately, Blackrock pushed past the St Marys College side that I coached with relative ease in their penultimate match. Before I go on, I’d like to say how very proud I am of the effort and talent that my lads showed throughout the whole season. They are a great bunch of young men and I have thoroughly enjoyed coaching them over the last 3 years. In the Semi Final itself, it wasn’t our day and Blackrock put in a very professional, clinical display, punishing every mistake that we made. They had done their scouting and analysis work very well, executed an aggressive and focussed gameplan to a very high level and were ruthless throughout the 70 mins.
For Blackrock, our very own Tignes Rugby Academy graduate Harry Donnelly did much of the damage against us from the left wing, crossing for an impressive double of tries. In addition, Turner’s display in the centre was top notch, both offensively and defensively. He pretty much controlled the game from the 13 channel, which showed rare maturity and quality, with deft touches on the ball, none more so then for Harry’s second try off first phase (see the try in the match highlights here).
Rock are dangerous because they are versatile, are improving and haven’t reached top gear yet in my opinion. Their performance against us was their best of the competition to date and there is reason to believe that they can further improve, if dealing with the occasion and conditions expected for the Final.
They face a Belvedere College side that quite simply have developed a hugely impressive winning mentality, built on incredible mental strength. To be 16 points down in a Semi Final with 15 mins left against probably the most technically gifted side in the competition and to get back to win in the last minute was an epic feat. Watching it live in co-commentary on eirSport, it seemed that they just had the absolute belief that if they could get back to within one score with five minutes to go, that they would win. They simply knew that if they could plant that seed of doubt in St Michael’s minds, they’d get and take that one last opportunity created. And that’s exactly what happened!
Number eight Byron was everywhere. He tackled, rucked, carried, organized but most importantly lead by example, in his body language and communication throughout. Having a captain like that among your ranks means that you are never beaten.
In terms of cutting edge, the attacking flair of David Lacey from 15 gives them an edge out wide. He covered a huge amount of ground in the backfield defensively against Michael’s but was still able to cut the line at telling times throughout the game (see his try in the match highlights here).
For two games in a row in the latter stages of their Cup run, Belvo’s bench has made the vital difference, coming on and either closing the game out or winning it for them. They are an impressive side and squad, with the sum of their parts very much greater than their whole.
It’s going to be an intriguing Final, with Belvo’s forward unit, game management, precision and big game experience against the full court game and developing potential of a Rock side representing the ultimate cup winning nursery.
For me I just have to go with the holders. I just think their mental fortitude will ultimately withstand the pressure that Blackrock can create over the 7o minutes. In Ruadhan Byron, they have an iconic cup leader who has proven cup know how and rugby smarts way ahead of his years. With this on their side, I back them to make history and bag the hat trick of Senior Cup wins that would represent an amazing feat in the modern era.
Johne’s Prediction – Belvedere College to win by 7 points
Wishing all the players, parents, coaches and fans involved the best of luck. For anyone going, wrap up warm and for anyone staying at home to watch it, enjoy the fantastic eirSport coverage!
Johne Murphy, Head Coach and Sales Manager, PSA Academies