Belvedere College and Clongowes Wood College will get the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup quarter-finals underway on Monday in what should set the tone for four exciting matchups, all kicking off at 3pm and to be played at Donnybrook Stadium.
On the face of it, Belvo’s 31-7 defeat of CUS doesn’t look eye-catching. But, this was one of the better CUS collections.
Belvo’s full-back Dylan O’Grady completed a hat-trick of tries from being in the right place at the right time for two and showing a late change of angle for the other.
Number eight Jonathan Ross leads a competitive pack of forwards with prop Jonathan Sargent often turning up as a source of go-forward.
Clongowes were pushed right to the limit by new force Temple Carrig before two late penalties from scrum-half Oisin Devitt allowed them to come away as 18-12 winners in the first round.
Centre Rory Morrin, hooker Leo Dowling, flanker John Carroll and able out-half Charlie Reilly are well capable of showing the leadership to make this a close call.
On Tuesday, Blackrock College and St Gerard’s School will re-engage after a titanic Senior Cup battle that just about went the way of the former.
‘Rock have already taken revenge on St Michael’s (36-12) for last year’s loss to their neighbours in the final which went to a replay.
It was an impressive display of power and width as they delivered on their pre-competition rating as the favourites for outright success.
St Gerard’s will be eager to build on their 25-15 defeat of Wesley in the opening round.
The Bray school had to show enough gumption to come from six points behind at Dr Hickey Park. The longer the game went, the stronger they got with hooker Luke Long and centre Cormac Long turning up the physicality of their work.
Even so, it would be almost unthinkable to back against ‘Rock, who have shown an ability to play it through the middle or out the back all season long.
On Wednesday, St Mary’s College should be battle-hardened from a nip-and-tuck win over Newbridge College (20-12) as they prepare to face Terenure in a local derby.
It is difficult to assess Terenure’s strength from a 44-5 first round dismissal of Cistercian Roscrea. What was plain to see was the cutting edge of hat-trick sniper Conor McElwaine, the captain showing a nose for the line from the openside.
Out-half Mattie Lynch let it be known that any indiscretions made within his range will be punished with the boot, smacking eight placed balls and sneaking a try for 24 points.
St Mary’s have fine performers in number eight Adam Sloan, hooker Matthew Black and centre Rob Nolan and this is not an easy one to predict, between what looks like two well-matched teams.
On Thursday, Castleknock have form on their side from clinching the Junior League for the second time in three seasons against Roscrea (26-15) in a reflection of their consistency. They took this into the Cup to keep Gonzaga scoreless (20-0) with captain Fionn Gibbons and Sean Casey standouts in the centre.
CBC Monkstown made it this far by the skin of their teeth in the shape of a last-minute kick from out-half Eoin Quinn to elbow Kilkenny out of the Cup (20-19) by the slimmest margin. In one way, they are in bonus territory and this might just give them the mental headspace to play with the freedom of underdogs.
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Junior Cup quarter-finals
All games Donnybrook Stadium, KO 3pm
Belvedere College v Clongowes Wood College (Monday, 26th February)
St Gerard’s School v Blackrock College (Tuesday, 27th February)
St Mary’s College v Terenure College (Wednesday, 28th February)
Castleknock College v CBC Monkstown (Thursday, 1st March)