The much anticipated Bank of Ireland Vinnie Murray Schools Senior Cup final will pit the 2013 winners Wesley against last year’s losing finalists Castleknock.
In fact, Wesley have their name on the Cup twice, sharing the title with The King’s Hospital in its’ inaugural year of 2002.
They were back to take it outright when right wing Andrew Scanlan’s three penalties trumped two by St Gerard’s scrum-half David Baker back in 2013.
“We’ve been building. We’ve been growing,” said Wesley coach Patrick Collins.
“Although we didn’t get the results we wanted in the Leinster League, we actually were always within touching distance in the losses we had.
“We knew we had ability. It was just about making sure we could get it to click. At times, we have done that.”
The ultimate goal of advancing in the Senior Cup was torn away in the first round when they were close enough (19-10), but not good enough.
“Against Gonzaga, it was always going to be 60-40 that it was going to be them rather than us.”
In one way, it cleared the path for Wesley to concentrate fully on their most achievable purpose, to win the Vinnie Murray Cup.
“Obviously, we have a goal to meet. You don’t go into a final to lose or just take part,” said Collins.
Similarly to Ireland, Wesley’s game plan revolves around their astute out-half, the physically imposing Adam Curry.
“We have built the team around Adam to some degree,” added Collins.
“He is a bright boy and an excellent leader and tactician. He is the brain on the pitch, as it were.
“We do have a good pack. There is size there and our set-piece works well. It will need to in the final.”
The secret to this success is to keep the players ticking over without letting them go stale or overheating their preparation.
“That is our role as coaches to find that happy balance,” he added.
“I think at this stage of the season it is just about sharpening and maintaining rather than developing anything.”
Castleknock Director of Rugby Adrian Flavin has a serious job of work on his hands to drive the traditional northside powerhouse back into the highest echelons of the game.
Their gradual decline led them to accept their fate when regraded to the Vinnie Murray. It nearly paid dividends last year when they came up just short 20-15 of The King’s Hospital in their first appearance in the final.
They could have as many as six starters back from that day, led by Captain Cathal Birmingham.
They were given a sight of the summit when encountering a rampant Blackrock College in the first round of the Senior Cup
“Listen, when you play against Blackrock, you are going to be under pressure from the off,” said Flavin.
“That does replicate that atmosphere and the scenarios you will face in any final competition.
“Our boys have experienced that and it will stand to them. It was a very tough game against Blackrock and Wesley will be tough as well.
“It was good that the players were exposed to that environment.”
In hindsight, it could well be better for ‘Knock that they did not qualify from the Leinster Senior League for the Senor Cup directly, thereby bypassing what has been a beneficial and winning experience in the Vinnie Murray to this point.
“When it came to the last day of the League, we could have finished third, fourth or fifth in our section. While we didn’t qualify automatically for the Senior Cup, we were not far off it.”
It has allowed Castleknock to build their game and their confidence from wins over a fine St Conleth’s outfit, De La Salle Churchtown and Wilson’s Hospital.
This is a valuable competition honoured by the values pushed by the former Clongowes Wood and Ireland Schools coach Vinnie Murray.
“We give the Vinnie Murray the full respect it deserves,” stated Flavin.
“It is named after a man who did a lot for Leinster and Irish rugby. We will be giving it everything we have.”
The Bank of Ireland Vinnie Murray Schools Senior Cup final will take place Wednesday 2nd March in Donnybrook Stadium, KO 3pm.
Castleknock (Possible): Cathal Lacey; Robert Hobson, Nicholas Eastmond, Sean Gibbons, Marc Boucher; Patrick Murtagh, Liam Salmon; Jack Keleghan, Michael Corcoran, Gavin Murray, Jack Horgan, Conor Stinson, Cathal Bermingham (capt), Darragh McNally, Cian Clancy.
Wesley (Possible): Alex Barlow; Tim Spencer, Daniel Gilmer, William Hayden, Alistair Quirke; Adam Curry (capt), Bill Corrigan; Campbell Classon, Andrew Egan, Sam Kenny, Luke Corish, David Motyer, Ben Whitehead, Matthew Guest, Stephen May.
PATH TO THE FINAL:
CASTLEKNOCK: First round: bt St Conleth’s College 27-25; Quarter-final: bt De La Salle Churchtown 46-12; Semi-final: bt Wilson’s Hospital 32-5.
WESLEY: First round: drew a bye; Quarter-final: Wesley bt St Fintan’s High School 15-10; Semi-final: Wesley bt Skerries CC 24-10.