It’s a massive weekend of rugby at all levels but the holding of the St. Patrick’s Day provincial Schools Cup Finals in Ireland is a particularly notable and great tradition in the game.
PSA Academies’ Johne Murphy is back for us to preview the 2019 Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Final between hot favourites St. Michael’s College and first time finalists Gonzaga College.
Read his preview of what should be a memorable decider below.
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Final Preview:
Gonzaga College v St.Michael’s College (Sunday 17th March 2019, 3pm, RDS)
After a competition full of drama, quality, twists & turns, we’ve been left with a fascinating 2019 Bank Of Ireland Leinster Schools Cup Final match up between two schools that are less than a mile away from each other in South Dublin City’s rugby heartland.
I suppose the fact that the two schools aren’t a traditional rivalry makes it even more interesting for the enthusiastic neutrals like me! My former Lansdowne coach Declan Fassbender & his coaching team have ensured their Gonzaga legacy by bringing the school to their first ever Senior Cup Final. That might make them seem like flukes, outliers in a year of upsets but nothing could be further from the truth. They are a quality outfit, with winning trophy winning credentials (claiming the underrated Leinster Schools League title back in December) and they’ve earned their place at the top table by playing a great brand of rugby in downing top opposition along the way.
Their nail biting semi final win against a fancied Clongowes Wood College peppered with Leinster Schools representative players was a massive step, built on a huge shift at the breakdown and in defence. As a squad, they have all the elements of a balanced, competitive and dangerous side, led magnificently by their Leinster Schools captain & backrow Jack Barry. In scrum half Jack Connolly they have a playmaker very much in the traditional French mould, dictating play & slotting his place kicks with regularity. Meanwhile, their try scoring potential isn’t just limited to their backs, with loosehead Henry Godson taking the MOTM & scoring plaudits with hat trick in the Semi Final victory. He’s scored in every round of the Cup so far so he’s got a real eye for the try line. They can mix it no matter the style, as we saw when they outmuscled a very dangerous Terenure College in the Quarter Finals. That for me was a real statement of intent.
Meanwhile, St. Michael’s College have silenced many doubters this year by taking out some of their biggest bogey teams en route to the St Patrick’s Day showpiece. At the start of the competition, it would have been a big ask for any team to get past Blackrock in the Quarter Finals and Belvo in the Semis but this Michaels squad succeeded where so many of their illustrious predecessors have failed before so that’s got to be a big plus if heads remain focused on the big prize.
Their gutsy win against a typically competitive Belvedere College in the last round was a real belief reinforcer, especially as it avenged their Semi Final defeat in 2018 against the same opposition. They were really tested, with Belvo shooting into a 10-0 lead when Michaels were down a man following lock John Fish’s sin binning. With Belvo dangerous in possession & strong in the set piece, Michaels needed to show all their quality in the second half, picking up the tempo with some damaging close contact carrying earning them gainline dominance. They turned that into points on the board through impressive centre Chris Cosgrave, who also slotted important kicks to eat into the Belvedere lead. And despite a third Belvo try, Michaels delivered the final blow with a great pressure try by hooker Lee Barron with 10 minutes left on the clock. The Ailsbury Road side showed great maturity and fortitude, especially in half backs Carroll and Gilsenan, to close out such a tense end game.
In terms of the Final, so much of what goes into these big occasions is in the top six inches. For many of these young players, this is the biggest stage they’ll ever play on, performing on live TV in front of a crowd of more than 5,000 friends, family & school supporters. Handling the occasion and all that surrounds it is a massive step. Both teams have highly experienced coaching teams, some really talented leaders in key positions and try scoring potential across the park. Getting a good start is going to be crucial and we can expect space to be at an absolute premium as the defences and breakdown battles attempt to establish dominance. After a very wet week, the weather and ground conditions could really test the skills and resilience of two sides anxious to play attacking rugby, something that could really influence the final result here.
The two sides are really evenly matched and it’s a tough one to call with absolute confidence but with their large contingent of Leinster players and the galvanising impact of their big wins in the last two rounds, I’m going to just give St Michaels the nod against a brave Gonzaga team.
Prediction: St. Michael’s to just edge a really competitive Final
Road to the Final:
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Semi Final Results:
Gonzaga College 22-19 Clongowes Wood College (Johne’s Prediction – Gonzaga Win)
Belvedere College 15-16 St Michael’s College (Johne’s Prediction – St Michael’s Win)
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Quarter Final Results:
Blackrock College 10-16 St Michael’s College (Johne’s Prediction – St Michael’s Win)
Gonzaga College 19-11 Terenure College (Johne’s Prediction – Terenure Win)
Belvedere College 31-7 Newbridge College (Johne’s Prediction – Belvo Win)
Clongowes Wood College 38-10 C.B.C. Monkstown (Johne’s Prediction – Clongowes Win)
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup Round 1 Results:
St Mary’s College 5-13 Terenure College (Johne’s Prediction – N/A)
Presentation College Bray 19-25 Blackrock College (Johne’s Prediction – Blackrock Win)
Kilkenny College 10-52 St Michael’s College (Johne’s Prediction – St Michael’s Win)
Gonzaga College 26-24 Castleknock College (Johne’s Prediction – Castleknock Win)
Newbridge College 17-11 St Gerards School (Johne’s Prediction – Newbridge Win)
Wesley College 7-20 Clongowes Wood College (Johne’s Prediction – Clongowes Win)
Belvedere College 34-19 Cistercian College, Roscrea (Johne’s Prediction – Roscrea Win)
Catholic University School 0-55 C.B.C. Monkstown (Johne’s Prediction – CBC Win)
2018 Blackrock College
2017 Belvedere College
2016 Belvedere College
2015 Cistercian College, Roscrea
2014 Blackrock College
2013 Blackrock College
2012 St. Michael’s College
2011 Clongowes Wood College
2010 Clongowes Wood College
2009 Blackrock College
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