Ahead of Saturday’s Guinness PRO12 fixture with Dragons, Luke McGrath and Cathal Marsh spoke to TG4 about playing rugby together from St Michael’s right up to starting games in the RDS Arena with Leinster.

While the half-back duo look back fondly on their time playing schools rugby, their experience of reaching cup finals with St Michael’s were not always happy ones.

“We were beaten in the Junior Cup Final and Senior Cup Final,” McGrath tells TG4. “It was good getting to the final, but unfortunately didn’t get the medal.”

“It’s gutting at the time,” Marsh remembers, “you’re really down after. But after time you start to realise what good times they were.”

luke mcgrath

It was those days playing rugby together in school that forged the understanding on the pitch between the two young players.

“He loves playing the attacking game, and so do I,” says 22-year-old McGrath of Marsh. “I think that’s why we both complement each other’s game pretty well.”

Marsh describes McGrath as being “really powerful for sort of a small lad”. But he also has plenty of kind words to say about the scrum-half’s skill set: “Good kick, good pass, really explosive breaks, and just reads the game really well.”

The two were the half-back pairing of choice for the opening two Guinness PRO12 games, away to Edinburgh and at home to Cardiff Blues. This gave the St Michael’s boys the chance to start a game together for the first time at the RDS, and for Marsh, on a personal level, his first start ever in the home of Leinster Rugby.

“Starting my first game in the RDS was very special, especially with some of my best friends. It was something I’d worked towards for a long time,” says 23-year-old Marsh.

Luke McGrath Cathal Marsh

The boys also received plenty of support ahead of the game from old school friends. 

“The support was brilliant,” McGrath reveals, “and obviously getting a lot of support from the school, getting a few texts, was really nice.”

With seven games to be played during the Rugby World Cup period, the importance of picking up points while 17 players are away on international duty is not lost on the younger members of the Leinster squad.

Marsh explains that the younger players and rising stars in the Academy are focused on these key matches and taking their opportunity: “It’s just important to get as many points on the board as we can while the Irish boys are away. Newport will be very tough coming over. They’ve started this season pretty well. But we were happy with our performance against Cardiff. There were things to improve on, so we’re looking forward to getting them done now this weekend.”

Be there to support the lads against Dragons in the RDS Arena this Saturday (KO 2.30pm).

Leinster v Dragons