Quirke does enough to hold off brave Mary's
St Mary's 9
Pre-match favourites Clongowes made it through to the final of this year's Leinster Schools Senior Cup but they were made to work every inch of the way by a well-organized St Mary's College side at Donnybrook yesterday.
With six members of the all-conquering Junior-Cup winning side from two years ago, they are a team of many talents. Stephen McAuley is yet another following in the full-back footsteps of recent Clongowes greats Gordon D'Arcy and Rob Kearney. He got little change from the Mary's pressure defence this time out but the potential is clearly there to cut loose at any time.
Up front, in tight-head Ian Prendiville, locks Tadhg Beirne and skipper Robert Hynes and flanker Nick McCarthy, they possess quality in every line. Half-backs Dermot O'Meara and David Quirke are not afraid to switch the point of attack inside as well as out.
Mary's gave every bit as good as they got and though operating on much more meagre rations -- not least out of touch-- managed, much like Ireland at Twickenham, to threaten with whatever possession came their way. Shane Kearney and Mark Fallon impressed up front and speedy scrum-half David Fanagan and silky centre Maurice Walsh were the pick of the backs.
Conor Hogan also had his moments and it was the polished out-half who broke the deadlock by way of a successful penalty for Mary's in the 13th minute. But with the McCarthy influence at the breakdown growing by the minute it took a try-saving tackle by Fallon to prevent Conor Gilsenan from crossing.
Hooker Evan Lewis eventually did cross in the 27th minute and was followed almost immediately by the most incisive break of the match by Mary's scrum-half Fanagan. Hogan's second successful penalty gave a one-point lead to the Rathmines school at the break.
The opening minutes of the second half were dominated by wrecking ball Prediville. He triggered the initial counter before setting up the ruck close to the line for O'Meara to send partner Quirke diving in at the Bective corner.
Hogan tacked on his third penalty for Mary's leaving it all to play for in the final quarter. Clongowes were then reduced to 14 in the 65th minute when Gilsenan was sent to the line for an indiscretion spotted by the touch judge.
To their credit they closed the game out and played down the clock a la Munster. Not pretty but mighty effective and further proof that this Clongowes team can play it any way.
Clongowes -- S McAuley; O O'Suilleabhain, N Jones (J McMahon 40), G O'Suilleabhain, A Thompson; D Quirke, D O'Meara; E Byrne, E Lewis (T Collis 40), I Prendiville; T Beirne, R Hynes (Captain); S Burke (J Coghlin 60), N McCarthy, C Gilsenan.
St Mary's -- D O'Halloran; E Farrell, H Norton, M Walsh (Captain), E Moriarty; C Hogan, D Fanagan; G Gallivan (G Hennessy 46), D Drumm, S Kearney; J Sexton, L Curran; S O'Carroll (P Doran 40), K Barnwell (A Martin 60), M Fallon.
Ref -- Brian McNeice (ARLB).