Brian O’Meara’s St Michael’s just about made it through to the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup quarter-final against a fired-up St Mary’s at Donnybrook yesterday.

The Aylesbury Road school entered the arena with the tag of outright favourites and a reputation for a gargantuan pack of forwards.
St Mary’s decided to play keep ball, an intelligent move, as they hit it up with willing runners like captain Niall Curran, props Ruadhan Fanning and Michael McCormack and number eight Ronan Foley.
They even passed over the chance at an attacking lineout presumably due to St Michael’s tall timber there.
The game clock registered three and a half minutes before St Michael’s finally got hold of the ball due to a scrum. They looked smooth until St Mary’s centre Mark Fogarty met wing James Hickey with a thunderous tackle.
This ramped up St Mary’s intensity even further and their reward came from centre David Matthews picking off a risky pass out of the backfield for a gifted try. Scrum-half Derry O’Connor converted for 7-0 in the seventh minute.

leinster schools senior cup
Their tails were up. Fanning broke away from a lineout and Foley flew over the gain line, losing momentum when the support ruckers went to ground.
This was all the encouragement St Michael’s needed. They went to the lineout where James Ryan took the ball with ease, to set up a maul and peeled around to crash over for flanker Barry Fitzpatrick’s extras to level it in the twelfth minute. 
The St Michael’s lineout was a thing of beauty with the towering Ryan supplying automatic ball of the top. Prop Rory Mulvihill improvised an overhead pass to keep the wheels moving and hooker Gavin Barrett showed up on the right to make a beeline to glory for 12-7 in the 20th minute.   
There were signs of St Michael’s hitting their stride. But, full-back Michael Heaney was stopped dead in his tracks by wing Sean McCahill’s timing of the tackle.
It was then the turn of Matthews to test the fortitude of Hickey in contact. The ball was fed back for Curran to bounce a defender and scrum-half O’Connor darted to the line and added the conversion to recover the lead in the 27th minute.  
Matthews was playing like a man possessed as he reeled in a Garryowen from O’Connor for another sign of St Mary’s intent to vary their attack and his centre partner Fogarty ripped the ball away in a tackle to demonstrate their physicality.
O’Connor had a shot at moving Mary’s further clear. His penalty was directed left of the posts. They had to settle for a two-point lead at the interval.

Surely, there would be a reaction from St Michael’s. There had to be. Just not the one they intended.

leinster schools senior cup
They coughed up a penalty in St Mary’s half and another for pulling down at a lineout to concede territory. The choke tackle became their friend as Matthews threatened again. 
They chose a more methodical way forward to test St Mary’s discipline. A penalty came their way. Fitzpatrick pulled it left.
In the next attack, St Michael’s found release down the left flank where wing Tom Molony was met with a stone wall by the name of Niall Hughes.
The set moves were not going to hand and St Mary’s were finding inspiration from this, along with a derring-do to keep trying things like Fogarty’s risky long pass and Matthews effective running.
The secret was to keep doing what got them into the lead. And they did.
In contrast, St Michael’s were beginning to show anxiety in their play, pushing the game where there were too many bodies to exploit minimal space. 
Even so, they looked to be on the brink of a breakthrough until McCahill stepped up to intercept. He was away. But, centre Jack Kelly caught him. 
St Mary’s came in waves to get within five metres where a vital turnover triggered a counter by replacement fly-half Harry Byrne and number eight Max Deegan.
Mulvihill carried the ball on and St Michael’s showed patience for scrum-half David Duggan to sneak the final metre to the line. Byrne converted for 19-14 in the 67th minute.
St Mary’s were not done. They turned over a scrum and clattered onwards. There was a penalty for not releasing. Captain Curran opted for the scrum deep into injury-time. 
They just couldn’t find the composure to complete the mission.


At Donnybrook – St Michael’s College 19 (J Ryan, G Barrett, D Duggan try each; B Fitzpatrick, H Byrne con each); St Mary’s College 14 (D Matthews try; D O’Connor try, 2 cons).
St Michael’s: M Heaney; J Hickey, J Kelly, O O’Meara, T Molony; R Cosgrave, D Duggan; R Mulvihill, G Barrett, S Griffin, O Dowling, J Ryan (capt), B Fitzpatrick, G Croke, M Deegan.
Replacements: R Duffy for Griffin 44 mins; H Byrne for Cosgrave 53 mins; M O’Shea for Heaney 57 mins.
St Mary’s: N Hughes; S McCahill, D Matthews, M Fogarty, J Ryan; D Boyle, D O’Connor; R Fanning, M Hoey, M McCormack, H Fitzpatrick, C Harte-Bourke, N Curran (capt), F Crowe, R Foley.
Replacements: A Schuster for Fogarty 69 mins.
Referee: N Correll, Leinster Branch.