O'Brien drives Belvo into another decider
Belvedere 17-12 Clongowes
For the third year running, the black and white of Belvedere will adorn the final as the holders overcame great Jesuit rivals Clongowes at Donnybrook to qualify for the St Patrick's Day decider.
And on this impressive evidence the defending champions are going to take some beating. Clongowes had huffed and puffed in their two previous cup outings but delivered a belligerent performance befitting their status.
They had key performers on top of their game in skipper Sean McCrohan, scrum-half Joey Murphy and particularly centre Ben O'Shea, while loosehead John Timmins and wing Reinis Lemess also made their mark.
And while Belvo too have gifted individuals sprinkled liberally throughout the side, there is a measured collective calm and control in how they go about their business.
As in the previous two cup campaigns the challenge is built on a formidable forward unit in which every player delivered, with skipper Max Kearney and most of all lock Oran O'Brien the eye-catchers.
Behind the scrum Paraic Cagney and David Hawkshaw continue to steer a steady course, while Hugh O'Sullivan remains the catalyst for their counter-attacking.
It took ten minutes to translate field position and possession into points as a beautifully timed incision by left wing Jordan Wilkes saw him take a clever inside pass at full tilt to race over at the posts, with O'Sullivan's conversion a formality.
While Murphy was getting through a mountain of work for Clongowes, Belvo were dominating.
In the 20th minute an O'Sullivan penalty took the lead out to ten before Clongowes hit back with their first meaningful attack.
McCrohan, Murphy and O'Shea combined before the latter sliced through the Belvo defence having taken the most sumptuous of lines on a delicate Murphy pass.
At 10-5 going into the break it was game on.
The holders continued where they left off with Cagney, having a profound influence from the base of the scrum.
In the 49th minute they stretched the lead to 17-5 when O'Brien touched down from a rolling maul, with O'Sullivan again adding the extras.
Clongowes threw everything into attack and in the 66th minute, following an initial incision by Lemess supported by McCrohan, Murphy touched down.
O'Shea added the extras but it was too little too late as a gallant riposte fell short. Victory and with it a place in the final went where it was most deserved.
Belvedere - H O'Sullivan; M Donnelly, P Maher, C Walsh, J Wilkes (G Petherbridge); D Hawkshaw, P Cagney (T Walsh); C Molloy, A McDonnell (S Osborne), J Robinson; G Murray, O O'Brien (D Hill); M Kearney (capt), C Doran and R Byron.
Clongowes - J Gilheany; R Lemess, J Carroll, B O'Shea, J Maher; T Monaghan, J Murphy; J Timmins, D Sheehan, A Odlum; S Phelan, M Martin; D Jeffares, A Ryan, and S McCrohan (Captain).
Ref - D Blake (ARLB).
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