The Leinster Schools Senior Cup is back!
January 29, 2017 9:00 am Site Editor
Holders Belvedere College, Blackrock College and St Michael’s College are grouped together as the three most likely to take the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup back home.
However, the story of the competition, even before it begins, is the reach of St Fintan’s High School from Sutton all the way up the ladder from winning the Development Cup in 2006 and 2009 to their place at the high table for the first time.
They haven’t got there by accident.
This year, props Jack Aungier and Aziz Naser are serious operators, while half-backs Sean Cribben and David McCourt and 12 Frankie O’Dea have all played for the Leinster Clubs.
Centre Darragh Kelly has made the Ireland U18s squad, announced at Christmas, and Danny Achimugu provides plenty of quality out on the wing.
St Fintan’s could have received a kinder draw than the always-on Clongowes Wood in Donnybrook on Tuesday.
The Clane school’s path will be plotted by coach Brett Igoe, who will have number eight Sean McCrohan back to captain with hooker Dan Sheehan and scrum-half Joe Murphy important pieces of the puzzle they will pose.
Belvedere should be able to ease their way through gears as they look for their first back-to-back titles since 1971-72 when opening up the competition against St Andrew’s in Donnybrook on Sunday.
Coach Phil Werahiko will have his primary leader from last season Max Kearney back on board as well as the two brains of the operation David Hawkshaw and Hugh O’Sullivan.
St Andrew’s will have to be at their best to keep pace and they have solid form from finishing on top of their section in the Senior League before falling foul of eventual winners Gonzaga in the semi-final.
Blackrock have marched through their friendly season in Leinster unbeaten.
Second row Charlie Ryan is a major factor for them in a typically powerful unit captained by Cian Reilly.
They will start out against The King’s Hospital at Donnybrook on Monday.
Coach Matt Jarvis’s forwards are their strength, prop Sean Goodburn and number eight David Boles their leading lights up front.
There is a nice balance between power and athleticism for St Michael’s ahead of their clash with St Gerard’s on the artificial surface on Thursday.
The Aylesbury school boasts the best lock partnership between Jack Dunne and Ryan Baird with David Ryan, younger brother to James, considered a fine prospect at inside centre.
St Gerard’s have provincial quality in hooker Daniel Power, their captain, and out-half Cormac Foley.
On the same afternoon, Terenure’s game plan should centre on how to bring Sam Dardis into the game as much as possible against Kilkenny.
Kilkenny have a fine game-manager in Josh Miller at fly-half and two quicksilver wings in Lukeman Onilenla and Tamalori Awonusi.
They just struggled at times to use them properly, despite the solid set-up play of forwards David Young, Stuart Dudley and Reuben Pim in the Bank of Ireland Vinnie Murray Cup wins over Wilson’s Hospital (54-3) and CUS (29-5).
There will be keen interest in how St Mary’s, making significant strides in the last few years, cope with a lively Newbridge at Donnybrook on Wednesday.
St Mary’s will relish mixing it in the trenches given prop Niall McEniff, hooker Richie Bergin and second row Ronan Watters have played for their province.
Newbridge will look to talismanic number eight Patrick Ryan to lead by example with giant prop Rob Wynne wearing the armband in front of a typically free-wheeling backline.
Last year’s beaten finalists Cistercian College Roscrea will be powered-up by their two Ireland U18 props Josh Wycherley and Michael Milne.
They will make ready for CBC Monkstown out in unfamiliar Castle Avenue on Friday.
CBC have looked smooth in their wipeout wins over Pres Bray (28-12), Tullow Community School (61-7) and Wesley (39-12) in the Vinnie Murray Cup.
Gonzaga College could well be the dark horses based on how they overcame Roscrea (20-13) in the League final.
They have a raft of boys back from last year, captain Conor Gleeson, Eoin Barr and Brian O’Donnell making the representative grade.
They will have to be on guard against Castleknock in Donnybrook on Friday.
Director of Rugby Adrian Flavin is working hard to re-establish ‘Knock’s credentials as they bid to overturn the three-point loss to ‘Zaga in the Senior League.
Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup 1st Round
(54) Fixture List - Schools Senior Cup