Hat-trick hero McKeown gives Belvo another shot at glory
Belvedere 36 St Michael's 22
Published 04/03/2016 | 02:30
For the second year running it will be a black and white final as Belvedere vindicated their status as favourites when deservedly getting the better of St Michael's at Donnybrook yesterday.
The Great Denmark Street school will now meet Roscrea in a repeat of the 2015 decider.
While in the end it took a couple of opportunist tries, with Michael's chasing the game, to seal the deal, Belvo again appeared the most complete unit in the competition.
It would be wrong to suggest there are no stand-out individuals but certainly the many and varied components equal the sum of the parts, and for that Phil Werahiko and his coaching staff deserve immense credit.
Michael's sensibly put width on the ball in attempting to set the classy Jack Kelly free, but in truth despite an end-to-end second half, Belvo always looked in control.
That is no slight on Michael's in attack but a reflection of the quality and strength in depth of Belvo.
They went ahead in the tenth minute, when the dangerous James McKeown took a clever inside ball, slicing through the Michael's defence before trading passes with Hugh O'Sullivan in a race to the line. Conor Jennings converted.
Harry Byrne and Jennings exchanged penalties before the livewire Paraic Cagney crossed for a try in the 24th minute, with Jennings again adding the extras with authority for a 17-3 lead.
The ten minutes that followed proved the match-determining spell with Belvo establishing a huge psychological advantage when defending their line relentlessly in the vital lead-in to the break.
Michael's were playing well and with adventure, yet Belvo held them at bay until the break, and then asserted their dominance on the resumption.
Left wing Jeff O'Loughlin pulled off a try saving tackle on Jennings after a David Hawkshaw break five mins into the second half but the respite was short-lived as Jennings' superb attacking line cut through the Michael's defence for McKeown to cross again in the corner.
At 22-3 it was time for the Ailesbury Road school to throw caution to the wind, and they fought back valiantly, with Kelly and No 8 Barry Fitzpatrick crossing for tries. Byrne converting one to narrow the gap to 22-15.
Michael's were right back in it, but a long-range intercept try from O'Sullivan took the wind out of their sails.
They responded with a score from workaholic lock Jack Dunne, but another intercept try, this time by McKeown (for his hat trick) with Jennings again converting - secured victory for Belvo.
Belvedere - H O'Sullivan; J McKeown, C Jennings, H Sexton, P Maher; D Hawkshaw, P Cagney (F Flood); D McCaffrey (C Molloy), C Galvin (S Osborne), C Wynne-Walsh; H Fenlon (J Robinson), B Egan (Captain); S McNulty (F Smith), M Kearney (J Iredale), T De Jongh.
St Michael's - J Kelly (Captain); M Heaney, J Hickey, I O'Kelly (D Ryan), J O'Loughlin (D O'Donovan); H Byrne, T Killeen (P O'Beirne); R Kelleher (M Kennedy), S Judge (L Duffy), S Griffin (M O'Donahoe); R Baird (A Courtney), J Dunne; O Dowling, S Penny (M Roche), B Fitzpatrick.
Ref - J Carvill (Leinster Referees).