A James McKeown hat-trick ensured Belvedere made it back to the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup final at Donnybrook on Thursday in what was a cracking contest.

The first thing St Michael’s did was to move the ball left to let Belvedere know they would be tested all away along the line.
The Black & Whites kept the ball closer from an inside ball from Paraic Cagney to Tom de Jongh and, when all options had been closed down, centre Conor Jennings probed the corner.
That was alright by St Michael’s as Oisin Dowling claimed a lineout and out-half Harry Byrne found a lengthy touch. 
When referee John Carvill didn’t spot a first knock-on, St Michael’s hit in to shake another ball loose.
The scrum was rock solid and Byrne was shaping the attack well with Jack Kelly making good decisions on the ball by not taking too much on himself.
The first sign of a crack came when the lively Belvo’s quicksilver Cagney took a hole through the middle requiring the swarm of defence.
Then, right wing James McKeown ghosted through on the left to exchange passes with Conor Jennings for a super try.

Leinster Schools Senior Cup
Centre Jennings converted from the left for 7-0 in the 10th minute.  
This didn’t seem to bother St Michael’s too much, rebounding well for the three-quarters to make ground and flanker Scott Penny to come close.
It all concluded with an infringement in the shadow of the sticks for Byrne to make it 7-3 in the 14th minute.  
Centre James Hickey picked off a penalty on the floor. Belvo’s captain Brian Egan stole a lineout. The ball was whisked left where Michael Heaney took care of Peter Maher. 
Then, St Michael’s Jack Dunne won a ball against the throw only for their breakout to breakdown when Oisin Dowling spilled the pill.
The scrum produced a penalty when Ronan Kelleher caved in and Jennings struck from 30 metres for 10-3 in the 20th minute.  
St Michael’s Barry Fitzpatrick was rocked by Egan to set up a tremendous attack which needed Penny’s shoulder to drive out-half David Hawkshaw into touch.
The pressure at the lineout was turned into something more by flanker Max Kearney’s charge and Cagney was on hand to punch in the try for Jennings to convert for 17-3 in the 24th minute.

Leinster Schools Senior Cup
There looked to be nothing on when St Michael’s came late and left. They were outnumbered. But, Kelly showed evasion and strength to get within touching distance.
A penalty was their unsatisfactory reward and their maul was driven back ten metres from St Michael’s starting point until Byrne’s pass was too hot for wing Heaney.    
It must have been disheartening for the boys in blue to play such expansive rugby without making the vital breakthrough.
When Kelly came fast and hard, the recycle ended with Kearney hammering into Jack Dunne.
Byrne tickled a chip over the top and Belvo were penalised when pulling down a jumper for Byrne to slide his penalty a shade right of the posts to leave it 17-3 at the interval. 
It all restarted with the same trend, St Michael’s taking and keeping the ball until the scavengers arrived to execute a turnover for Cagney to find touch with a fine kick.  
Soon, Kearney was moving across the gain line, the pass not finding Egan. It wasn’t long before Hawkshaw tore through the middle, but could not hold the ball under pressure from Jeff O’Loughlin. 
Byrne took a gap from deep. The reverse ball went to ground and Belvedere were on the front-foot again.

Leinster Schools Senior Cup
From a set play, Jennings cut a fine line through the centre. Hugh Sexton was there in support and the final pass put McKeown galloping to the right corner for 22-3 in the 44th minute.
There was no way back from there, not on the evidence of Belvedere’s steel curtain of a defence. It took a typically resilient drive from Kelly through bodies to put St Michael’s in position to force a penalty.
Byrne went for the corner.  The maul came cleverly for hooker Stephen Judge to peel away and the leg drive of Dowling was key to Kelly going over on the left.
Fly-half Byrne converted from wide on the left for 22-10 in the 51st minute.
It took the agility of Dunne at the ruck to prevent Belvedere getting into their stride. The inside ball made Belvedere check their advancing defence as centre Ian O’Kelly almost got through.
Leinster Schools Senior Cup

The physicality of Kelly on the ball was good for 15 hard yards down the right. Byrne moved it left where the forwards took over and Fitzpatrick crashed to the line to make it 22-15 in the 58th minute.    
It was game back on. But, not for long as the valiant Kelly was intercepted by hat-trick hero McKeown for Jennings to put the game to bed unless there was a miracle in the offing.
Jack Dunne still believed as the lock burst over for Byrne to convert in the 66th minute to make it a one-score game.
They had to push it now and full-back Hugh O’Sullivan seized on a second interception for Jennings to make it a 14-point game.
St Michael’s never stopped coming, replacement David Ryan hitting the line and Luke Duffy stopped short to set up a repeat of last year’s final between Belvedere and Cistercian Roscrea.

Leinster Schools Senior Cup
At Donnybrook – BELVEDERE COLLEGE 36 (J McKeown 3 tries; P Cagney, H O’Sullivan try each; C Jennings pen, 4 cons); ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE 22 (J Kelly, J Dunne, B Fitzpatrick try each; H Byrne pen, 2 cons).

Belvedere: Hugh O’Sullivan; James McKeown, Conor Jennings, Hugh Sexton, Peter Maher; David Hawkshaw, Paraic Cagney; Daniel McCaffrey, Cian Galvin, Conor Wynne-Walsh, Hugh Fenlon, Brian Egan (capt), Senan McNulty, Max Kearney, Tom de Jongh.
Replacements: Jesse Iredale for Kearney 51 mins; Jake Robinson for Wynne-Walsh, Cillian Molloy for McCaffrey, James Kenny for McNulty all 61 mins; Sam Osbourne for Galvin, Fergus Flood for Maher, Ruadhan Byron for Fenlon all 63 mins; Fiachra Smith for Cagney 68 mins.
St Michael’s: Jack Kelly (capt); Michael Heaney, James Hickey, Ian O’Kelly, Jeff O’Loughlin; Harry Byrne, Tomas Killeen; Ronan Kelleher, Stephen Judge, Samuel Griffin, Ryan Baird, Jack Dunne, Oisin Dowling, Scott Penny, Barry Fitzpatrick.
Replacements: Milo O’Donahoe for Griffin, Luke Duffy for McCaffrey, Andrew Courtney for Baird all 55 mins; Peter O’Beirne for Killeen, David Ryan for O’Kelly both 58 mins; Max Kennedy for Judge 61 mins; Dan O’Donovan for O’Loughlin 62 mins; Michael Roche for Penny both 68 mins.
Referee: John Carvill, Leinster Branch.