It took two tries in three minutes from captain Fionn Gibbons and wing Shane Duggan to give Castleknock safe passage to the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior League Final at Donnybrook yesterday.
The Northsiders got straight down to business, maintaining possession as they probed narrow and wide to draw a penalty which was dispatched by out-half Oran Farrell in the third minute.
They came straight back for more, earning another penalty. The decision was taken to go for the corner rather than the posts.
Perhaps the adrenaline of the occasion muddied the thinking behind that one as ‘Knock’s attack floundered on a forward pass.
When Gonzaga did secure the ball, they went to the open spaces, even from the shadow of their posts.
Their approach was all about speed of ball and passing, second row Michael Hennessy looking surprisingly light on his feet.
‘Zaga scrum-half Eadbhard O’Callaghan was the hub of their attack, switching sides for wing Hugh Lynn to scamper down the left and chip over the top.
A collective counter-ruck regained the ball and they had the chance to apply pressure, rewarded by Lynn’s penalty in the 16th minute.
The ‘Knock were not exactly devoid of ideas either and a smooth shift of the ball along their three-quarter line put wing Shane Duggan close to glory, but for a foot-in-touch.
There was the consolation of a second penalty from Farrell to keep them upbeat.
Back came Gonzaga, that man Lynn coming close in the left corner before he levelled it up from the left just before the break.
For all the good intention to play the game positively, the hitting was hard, uncompromising.
The quick feet of Gonzaga number eight Canaan Dalton-Ryan and burst from right wing David Crowe almost cracked open Castleknock’s defence.
There ensued a period of stop-start play that was constructed on endeavour only to break down on lack of execution.
It was understandable given what was at stake, Lynn just missing to the right from a placed-ball.
It had all the hallmarks of a one-score game, neither school able to take control.
Then, ‘Knock scrum-half Conor Duggan broke through the middle and had the intelligence to wait on his support, centre Fionn Gibbons making ground to take the ball home for 11-6 in the 48th minute.
The double-whammy came from Farrell’s nice decision on foot of a half-break to feed Gibbons and his link to wing Shane Duggan for a second try in three minutes to make it a two-score game.
Try as they might, Gonzaga were not able to break down a resolute defence, Gibbons leading the way with his tackling to earn a place in the final.
At Donnybrook – Castleknock College 16 (F Gibbons, S Duggan try each; O Farrell 2 pens); Gonzaga College 6 (H Lynn 2 pens).
Castleknock: Eoin Leen; Oisin Tierney, Fionn Gibbons (capt), Sean Casey, Shane Duggan; Oran Farrell, Conor Duggan; Michael Levesley, Greg Spillane, Ben Bislin, James Duffy, Senan Forker, Donnchadh Lahert, Alec Bernie, Luke Callinan.
Replacements: Gavin Murphy-O’Kane for Forker 29 mins; Blaine Keogh for Tierney 40 mins; John Ozoani for Bislin 47 mins.
Gonzaga College: Luke Miller; David Crowe, Jack Browne (capt), Jamie McNulty, Hugh Lynn; Hugh O’Kennedy, Eadbhard O’Callaghan; Spencer O’Connell, George Kenny, Patrick Grimley, Michael Hennessy, Cian Crowe, Callum Murphy, Noah Maguire, Canaan Dalton-Ryan.
Replacements: Eoin Kelly for Murphy 11 mins; Tom Barry for Grimley 52 mins.