2023 Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup Final Preview
March 27, 2023 10:00 am Des Berry
You can read the Digital Match Programme HERE
Blackrock College v St. Michael’s College, Energia Park, Monday KO: 3pm.
Since the turn of the century, Blackrock and St Michael’s have dominated Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cups between them, ‘Rock winning ten to Michael’s five.
In head-to-heads, they have met at the pinnacle point of the competition seven times in 1986, 2000, 2007, 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2019 where ‘Rock hold the superior record of five wins against two losses.
It could be interpreted that the tide is on the turn in light of St Michael’s winning the two most recent match-ups in a replay in 2017 (31-17) and in 2019 (26-19) to break what was becoming something of a hoodoo.
There have been holes in both schools’ passages to the final, St Michael’s troubled by Castleknock in the last eight and surviving the physicality of Belvedere in the semi-final replay on Monday.
They aren’t short of intent or aggression with flanker Owen Twomey vying for player of the competition and loose-head Conor Canniffe bringing flair and footwork to the front row.
The disparity in sheer bulk did cause half-backs Andrew Norse (pictured below) and Harrison McMahon no end of pressure in how they cleared their lines.
No one will know what would have happened had Belvedere’s number eight Harry Goslin not been red-carded when they held a 14-10 advantage.
If St Michael’s can secure enough of the right kind of ball, the organisation and ability to expose weakness are there in the play of centre Matthew Haugh and full-back Sean King.
However, Blackrock has improved steadily as the rounds have rolled by, saving their best for the replay on Monday when they looked marginally better than a powerful Terenure.
They will have noticed how Belvedere stressed their neighbours at close quarters and ‘Rock have the power of captain Matthew Wyse, a hooker with the passing skills of a centre, prop Louis Magee and number eight Geoffrey Wall to dominate.
The silky skills of Luke Coffey are another reason for optimism. The out-half radiates calm and composure in guiding his team away from trouble and into the right areas in attack.
The tall young man with no number, Bernard White (pictured above), is able to break tackles and avoid them more often than not in midfield.
Blackrock might just have an edge in the back three, at least in attack, where Cael McCloskey, James Browne and Rhys Keogh have threatened without completely cutting loose.
Paths To The Final
First Round – Blackrock 22 Kilkenny 5; St Michael’s 46 CUS 5.
Quarter-Final – Blackrock 38 St Gerard’s 7; St Michael’s 24 Castleknock 19.
Semi-Final – Blackrock 21 Terenure 21; St Michael’s 12 Belvedere 12.
Semi-Final Replay – Blackrock 11 Terenure 7; St Michael’s 22 Belvedere 14.