McAuley's power play turns the tide for Clongowes
There have been many fine Clongowes cup-winning performances down through the years, with the Des Dillon-led unit of 1998 leading the way for polish and panache.
Yesterday that elite group were joined by the class of 2010, as Robert Hynes' squad embellished a very proud record, when they took the much-coveted trophy back to Clane for a seventh time.
Their build-up could hardly have been better, with St Michael's justifiable favourites on the basis of form in the competition up to yesterday's showdown.
For Clongowes, it made the perfect backdrop. No school does the underdog bit better.
But cometh the occasion, cometh the men and yesterday all the big performances of consequence came from those decked in purple and white.
To a player, they were outstanding, but in the search for honest analysis, it is difficult not to isolate at least one individual in every line.
Apart from scoring two bulldozing tries, prop Ian Prendiville wreaked havoc in broken-field play.
Lock Tadgh Beirne was like a man possessed and could have been wearing any of the three back-row shirts, such was his incessant work around the field.
Jordan Coughlan slotted in alongside the more experienced Conor Gilsenan and Nick McCarthy, but was born for the type of scraps Clongowes' back-rows live off.
Garret O Suilleabhain produced almost the complete centre performance, while the dormant volcano that was Stephen McAuley finally erupted when it mattered most.
That is not to take one iota from the remaining cast, but when big players perform to this level on the big stage then you know they will be successful.
It was difficult not to feel for St Michael's. They failed to do themselves justice for the simple reason that they weren't let. Shipping two converted tries in the opening six minutes had them on the back foot from the off.
Concession of a scrum from the kick-off cost them dearly when Oscar O Suilleabhain's block-down of Cormac Diamond's attempted clearance broke into brother Garret's hands for the latter to scamper over on the right. The same player converted and they were on their way.
Within minutes they had registered another score when, following a Garret O Suilleabhain clearance, first Evan Lewis, then Gilsenan almost made the line before Prendiville eventually did. O Suilleabhain again added the extras.
St Michael's needed to score next and they did. It came on the quarter hour when Cathal Marsh provided the perfect pass for Mark Craig to run in under the posts. Marsh landed the simple conversion and it was back to game on.
A further penalty from the same player before the interval reduced the gap to four and the comeback, inspired by right wing Mark Corballis and their outstanding player on the day No 8 Paddy Dix, was taking shape.
But what followed changed the course of the game and, with it, the outcome of the match. McAuley suddenly came to life and cut loose. His break up the middle and linking with Jack McMahon took play into the St Michael's 22.
They forced the penalty, but instead of going for goal they went for broke and a line-out in the corner. Finbar Barry threw, the impressive Beirne gathered for the umpteenth time and from the resultant maul Prendiville did the rest.
Garret O Suilleabhain again converted and this amazing final of twists and turns continued.
Marsh still had time to hit back with a penalty, but Clongowes had the clear upper-hand when going into the break with a 21-13 lead.
Upon the restart they upped the tempo again, keeping Michael's penned back deep inside their own half. More importantly, they kept the scoreboard ticking over by way of another O Suilleabhain penalty and a spectacular McAuley try on 52 minutes. O Suilleabhain converted from the touchline and at 31-13, it was all over bar the shouting.
There was time for both sides to register a converted try.
McAuley was first up, grabbing his second, which was converted by O Suilleabhain on 59 and then David Egan touched down, with Marsh completing the scoring.
The final blast of referee John Carvill's whistle led to scenes of uncontrolled joy for the most worthy of champions as Hynes took the Holy Grail back to the resting place it most deserved.
St Michael's -- C Diamond; M Corballis, A Kelly, M Craig, D Egan; C Marsh, L McGrath; K Duffy, F Barry (A Murphy 56), D Reynolds; S O'Connor (S Hogan 52), E McMahon (capt); D Leavy, C Kenna, P Dix (S McGarry 52).
Clongowes -- S McAuley; O O Suilleabhain, J McMahon (N Jones 63), G O Suilleabhain, A Thomson (M Maxwell 61); D Quirke, D O'Meara (S O'Riordan 68); E Byrne (T Collis 61), E Lewis (S O'Keefe 60), I Prendiville; T Beirne (T Byrne 68), R Hynes (capt); C Gilsenan, N McCarthy (S Burke 60), J Coughlan.
Ref -- J Carvill (ARLB).