Breaking New Ground
Double qualifying round adds extra dimension to competition
An exciting new chapter in Munster rugby was written in 2008 when Castletroy College lifted the Schools Senior Cup at the newly established school's third attempt.
In doing so they completed a remarkable double, having taken the junior title just a few days before. Now 12 months on and history of a different kind is set to be made when the Munster Schools Branch extend the Junior Cup double qualifying round to the senior grade competition.
The thrust of the revamp is to provide every qualifying school with at least two competitive cup matches before the final four is decided. While the motive behind it is good, only time will tell if there is a meaningful future to its experimentation.
Glenstal and Mungret Cup holders Newtown meet in a once-off (preliminary) qualifier match to determine which school faces Crescent in the first qualifying match of Round 1.
Should Glenstal get there it will be a repeat of last year's clash at Clanwilliam, but this time there is the safety net of another match to follow for the loser -- albeit against winning opposition from elsewhere in the draw.
It is in a sense a watered-down version of the backdoor system borrowed from Gaelic games. It's far from foolproof, with Ard Scoil Ris's "fallback consolation" -- should they lose to PBC at the first attempt -- a likely follow-on against CBC (should Christians account for Munchins) in Qualifying Round 2.
Either way it looks like Rockwell, Pres, Christians and the winner of the B school qualifier or Crescent to make it through to the semis. For Rockwell and holders Castletroy it represents a repeat of the opening round a year ago, when Castletroy prevailed 14-6.
The Tipperary school might just carry too much power this time as they set out in search of revenge and a place against most likely Munchins in Qualifying Round 2.
To sum it up, it looks like a wide-open competition with six teams pretty much even -- PBC, CBC, Rockwell, Munchins, Crescent and Glenstal. However, in the end, irrespective of the route, the cream will still rise to the top, but with the winner between Rockwell and Pres likely to enter the final against Christians as pre-match favourite, given the degree of difficulty in getting there.
Even if it falls flat on its face, the Munster Schools Committee deserve much credit for this ground-breaking initiative.