Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Schools Cup First Round Preview
January 26, 2018 11:30 am Site Editor
The Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Schools Cup kicks off with Belvedere college prowling for their first three in a row to overtake the three back-to-back accomplishments of 1923-24, 1971-72 and 2016-17.
Head coach Phil Werahiko has managed to involve recent winners Brian Egan, Hugh O’Sullivan and Max Kearney in the coaching set-up.
This is a smart move with captain David Hawkshaw looking for a third medal as one of seven returning from last year’s squad with Ruadhan Byron a key figure up front at number eight.
They will get the ball rolling against the Leinster League finalists Gonzaga college on Sunday in Donnybrook at 3pm.
‘Zaga will not be intimidated. They must have been sore about coming up five points short of St Gerard’s (18-13) in the League final.
They have two strong centres in Brian O’Donnell and Eoin Barr outside a mobile pack led by loose forwards Ian O’Grady and captain Robbie Kidney.
On Monday, the tie of the round is scheduled as St Michael’s do battle with Terenure at Donnybrook.
St Michael’s success as a feeder school to Leinster is unrivalled. This makes it all the more difficult to understand how they have not won more than two Senior Cups in 2007 and 2012.
Coach Emmet MacMahon will look to second row Ryan Baird and back rower Scott Penny to charge up the front eight.
As always, there is enough class in behind to get the job done with centre David Ryan a focal point for their three-quarters.
The ‘Nure have 16 back from the comprehensive exit to Blackrock in the quarter-final last year.
Sam Dardis, Adam La Grue and Dominic Henry-Hayes are standouts in behind a competitive pack with Jack Cooke integral at flank forward.
On Tuesday, Blackrock will be looking for their first title since 2014. The four-year period of failure is considered a drought out in Williamstown.
The ‘Rock Boys’ are loaded in what they will bring to the table, head coach Justin Vanstone looking to Ireland Schools centre Liam Turner to lead from the front.
Their two starters from last year’s final defeat to Belvedere; Turner and Tom Maher are backs, while props Cian Duffy and Thomas Clarkson, hooker Sean Molony, lock James Burke and flanker Michael McGagh will be keen to make amends.
They should not have it all their own way against Castleknock unless the Northsiders fail to show up like they did in the 33-9 League semi-final loss to St Gerard’s.
Their Director of Rugby Adrian Flavin will press the importance for his forward triangle of locks Max Mellet and Daniel Waldron and number eight Cian Clancy to lead by example.
On Wednesday, Newbridge College and Presentation College Bray will enter the first round as dark horses, having shown form in the Leinster League without carrying it through into the play-off stages.
The ‘Bridge actually knocked ‘Pres out in the quarter-finals, by just two points, before falling to Gonzaga in the semi-final.
Their most influential player will be Leinster Schools captain Cian Prendergast, a driving force at the heart of their pack.
Pres must have been thrilled with the draw, handing them the chance to make right what went wrong in the League.
Head coach Maurice Logue has half-back heaven to draw on as Ben Murphy, Elliot Ryan and Mick O’Gara are all up to interprovincial standard.
On Thursday, in Donnybrook, League winners St Gerard’s couldn’t be in a better place mentally coming into the first round.
They have in centre Cormac Foley a real standard-setter in defence allied to the speed of Max O’Reilly from full-back.
They will not need any reminding of the dangers posed by St Fintan’s High School, the Sutton nursery maintaining the strong impression made last year.
Out-half Frank O’Dea and centre Darragh Kelly are key to what they can do as long as the front five deliver good ball with Killian Hickey, Sam Donohoe and number eight Aidan O’Kane acting as driving forces.
This first round fixture between St Fintan’s High School and St Gerard’s School will be televised live on eir Sport 1, having been selected over three other fixtures in an @eirSport Twitter poll.
Clongowes Wood should be able to work their magic against The King’s Hospital at Clontarf FC on the same day.
Mind you, KH have had the benefit of moving through the Vinnie Murray Cup, sharpening up with wins over High School (38-15) in the quarter-final and Newpark Comprehensive (39-5) in the semi-final.
Captain Zak Bursey is the leader of their pack and wing Ian West will be one to watch from his four-try haul in the League semi-final.
However, Clongowes are quietly fancied to make a big impact under head coach Brett Igoe.
Afterall, they were only beaten 17-12 by Belvedere in last year’s semi-final with Leinster props Conor Duff and Ryan McMahon, hooker Bobby Sheehan, locks Daniel Beggs and Gavin Dowling and captain Anthony Ryan making for a no-nonsense forward eight.
On Friday, St Mary’s will continue their rejuvenation with what is a highly regarded squad against St Andrew’s at Donnybrook.
The Rathmines school will be captained by Harry McSweeney and has Leinster talent in Adam McEvoy and Niall Hurley to enhance a well-coached, well-balanced squad.
Ian Dumbleton’s St Andrew’s has had assistance from Jordan Larmour – the 20 year-old sensation could be with Ireland in Paris on Friday – this season with Andrew Sullivan the captain.
Cistercian College Roscrea, first time winners in 2015, did not quite produce the results their individuals would suggest they were capable of in the League.
Props Michael Milne, their captain, and Josh Wycherley could claim to be the best in the competition and they will need to be on point against qualifiers Wesley College in Clontarf FC.
Wesley’, coached by Patrick Collins, cannot be taken lightly on the evidence of how they improved with every round in the Vinnie Murray, coming through Kilkenny (24-16) in the quarter-final and CBC Monkstown (19-12) in the semi-final.
Bank of Ireland Senior Schools Cup -1st Round
(All games kick off 3pm)
Belvedere College V Gonzaga College Donnybrook
Terenure College V St Michaels College Donnybrook
Blackrock College V Castleknock College Donnybrook
Newbridge College V Presentation College Bray Donnybrook
Clongowes Wood College V The Kings Hospital Clontarf FC
St Fintans High School V St Gerards School Donnybrook (LIVE on eir sport 1)
St Marys College V St Andrews College Donnybrook
Wesley College V Cistercian College Roscrea Clontarf FC