We’re down to the last four in the 2018 Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup and after the weather-induced cabin fever of the last week, there are going to be a lot of rugby fans looking forward to catching some top class schools cup action live in Donnybrook Stadium and on eirSport in the coming days. With rescheduling changes, St Marys and their coaching team including PSA Academies’ Johne Murphy are first up, looking to make their first Final since 2008.
Read Johne’s thoughts and predictions below on what should be a mighty two days of action .
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There’s no other way to start my preview of this match than to say that I was so proud of the whole St Mary’s College squad and how they played against a very well drilled and physical side in Cistercian College Roscrea in our recent Quarter Final victory. To a man, they showed fantastic resilience and no little skill to go ahead early on, get pegged back and then go ahead again. It really was a thrilling encounter and one that was extremely nerve wracking to be directly involved in!
After such a victory, it is hard and probably a little unfair to single out individuals but I’m sure the lads won’t mind me mentioning Tim McMahon’s excellent performance in midfield and Joe Nolan’s fantastic cameo off the bench, which had a really significant huge impact. It really was a great day for our lads and the school, one that we had worked hard for over a number of years through the structures and processes put in place by a very dedicated staff and a hugely committed extended group of players and their ever supportive parents. Hopefully, we can keep this Cup run rolling with another win on Tuesday but there is a lot of rugby to be played first.
Suffice to say, as with our opposition and the other two sides involved at this stage, our preparation this week has been hugely disrupted by Storm Emma/The Beast From The East but we just have to play the cards we are dealt on that front. What actual impact that has on our performance remains to be seen but we’ll just have to trust in all the work that we have done to get to this point, ensuring the squad to focus on the controllables around the occasion.
In terms of the match up this time, we are playing a Blackrock College side that simply knows how to get the job done. They have been tested by both a gutsy Castleknock outfit and an excellent St Gerards side that many underestimated but have come out the right side of both. Add the fact that they were narrowly beaten in last year’s Final and it is clear that Blackrock have earned the favourite’s tag for Tuesday’s encounter.They have quality right across the pitch, most notably Tom Clarkson at tight head, Ed Brennan at 8, Alan Turner at 13, Quarter Final hero full back Stephen Madigan and our very own Tignes Rugby Academy graduate Harry Donnelly on the wing!
You’ll forgive me for keeping the cards close to my chest in terms of our tactics for the game but you won’t be surprised to hear that we’ll be looking to replicate the handling accuracy, set piece return and red zone success that we achieved in the win over Roscrea. It’s going to be a hugely tough test for our guys but one they are really looking forward to.For the neutral, I hope it is a real cracker but I know for sure, whatever happens, it’s going to be 70mins that neither I nor my heart will fully enjoy!
Johne’s Prediction – A great game and a close result!
What a match this promises to be, the Cup Holders and 3-in-a-row hunters versus the School driving the famed Leinster Academy production line. After all the anticipated stress and nerves of Tuesday’s Semi Final involving my own St Marys side, I’m really looking forward to co-commentating on this one, live on eirSport.
Belvedere College got past my alma mater Newbridge College with a confident and professional display in the last round, showing the type of form that has earned them a proper shot at being the first team to win three Senior Cups in a row since Blackrock College from 1962 to 1964. Going into that game without their influential outhalf David Hawkshaw should have been both a worry and a problem but to be fair, there were no signs of this in their display. The Champions had their back row of Gerard Hill, Aaron Coleman and my man of the match captain Ruadhan Byron set the tone and tempo of the game up front, allowing prop James Glesson and centre Grogan to add the second half tries that saw off a very brave Newbridge effort.
But the Northside team are now up against arguably the best team left in the competition in St Micheal’s College. In the last round, the Ailesbury Road side had periods where they simply blew a fancied Clongowes side away and if they play like that for extended periods on Wednesday, I don’t think anyone could go close to containing them. To be fair, in that QF tie, Clongowes hung in and created doubt in St Michael’s minds and I felt that if they had scored with 10mins left, then they might well have had ‘Michael’s in a bit of trouble.
Looking at their strengths, St Michael’s have a second row axis in Ryan Baird and Matthew Healy is possibly as good as any AIL pairing and one that has all the raw talent to go all the way to pro rugby level. Add in goal kicking captain David Smith plus Leinster Schools U18 players winger Andrew Smith and backrower Jody Booth to name but three, and it is clear that St Michael’s have all the firepower to go the distance this year.T
his is going to be a titanic battle, a real battle of styles, medal winning pedigree versus pretenders with undoubted quality. The experience and game smarts of Belvedere College vs the all round multi faceted game of St Michael’s College. History often gives us clues in sport and life, so if Belvo can plant that seed of doubt by starting fast and strong, it will be very close indeed. However, if Micheal’s can throw off the six years of relative failure since they last tasted Cup glory and really grab a hold of this match early, it could be a long afternoon for Belvo. For me, it’s going to come down to the wire, with a ding dong battle getting decided by a late penalty or drop goal just to prove history a fool!
Johne’s Prediction – St Michael’s to nick it by 3 points at the death
Wishing all the players, parents, coaches and fans involved the best of luck. May the best sides win through but let’s hope for some excellent games and support delivered in the best possible spirit to really showcase all that is good in the game at this level
Johne Murphy, Head Coach and Sales Manager, PSA Academies