Rock ready to dethrone Belvo in mouthwatering tussle
For the third year running Belvedere will grace the Leinster Schools Senior Cup final as Max Kearney's talented squad look to make it back-to-back success for the first time since 1971/72 against Blackrock.
That was in the halcyon days of Dave Fegan, John Brennan, Ollie Campbell, Ray Finn et al. It was a golden period for Belvo rugby; only once before, in 1923/24, had they managed to successfully defend the trophy.
But such has been the progress under Phil Werahiko, Andy Wood, Simon O'Donnell and others in recent times that today sees outstanding full-back cum scrum-half Hugh O'Sullivan play in his fifth Leinster schools final in as many years (two Junior and three Senior since second year). It is testament to an exceptionally talented young player but also to the strong underage structures in place at the school.
And as a guide to just how close it is between these two outstanding groups of players, when they met in the Junior final (U-16) in 2014 there was precious little in it.
'Rock, with Tom Roche's introduction the catalyst, took that memorable final at Tallaght Stadium 14-10. More than 30 of the players involved that day will be in action again this afternoon.
We had 12 months ago one of the greatest games ever in this hugely important competition when Belvo beat 'Rock in a humdinger of a quarter-final replay 35-29 at Donnybrook.
The rolling draw has been kinder this time round with the big two avoiding each other until today's eagerly anticipated showdown.
'Rock are confident they have talented centre Liam Turner (Junior cup winning captain in 2015) and influential lock Charlie Ryan back fit and firing. Along with John Gallagher these three have been key casualties on the way.
That said, for 'Rock it has been a relatively comfortable ride, accounting for King's Hospital (41-3), Terenure (27-7) and Gonzaga (34-8) through to today's finale.
For Belvo it has been a little more challenging: following a 48-7 first-round victory over St Andrew's , they beat St Michael's 29-18 and then edged out Clongowes 17-12.
It is a difficult game to call but with 'Rock marginal favourites. It has all the makings of a corker.
Blackrock - T Roche; T Maher, L Turner, J Moriarty, D Heavey; P O'Reilly, P Patterson; G Coyne, S McLoughlin, J Byrne; A Murphy, C Ryan; J Fairley, A Francis, C Reilly (capt).
Belvedere - H O'Sullivan; M Donnelly, P Maher, C Walsh, J Wilkes; D Hawkshaw, P Cagney; C Molloy, A McDonnell, J Robinson; G Murray, O O'Brien; C Doran, M Kearney (capt), R Byron.
Ref - P Haycock (ARLB)
Blackrock v Belvedere, Live, eir Sport, 2.00