Rugger schoolboys prepare for battle
Published 13/03/2016 | 02:30
The Leinster Senior Schools Cup has had pride of place in a cabinet in the heart of Cistercian College Roscrea for 12 months now - and today the students are back to defend the title.
The school will take on Belvedere College - which it defeated on St Patrick's Day last year to take the trophy home for the first time.
Drawing a parallel with a the Nelson Mandela biopic, Seamus Hennessy, director of admissions at the college, described last year's win as the school's "Invictus moment".
Quoting the William Ernest Henley poem: "I am the master of my fate/ I am the captain of my soul", Mr Hennessy described the momentous voyage that the students will make.
"We exit by the lovely large gates, with the eagles at either side almost tipping their wings towards us as we leave.
"We are making an almost 'O Suilleabhain Beara' journey. Or like Eleanor, the Countess of Desmond, would have done during the Desmond Rebellion."
He said the students had been in rehearsals "from the green room to the concert hall, getting the chants ready.
"We have an inspirational talk nearly every morning when we assemble in the college chapel for morning prayer."
Mr Hennessy went on to explain the school motto: "(It) loosely translates as 'our eyes on heavenly things and our feet firmly placed on the ground' and behind the motto of the college is the eagle, who is soaring upwards, taking off and presiding over us, facing towards heaven."
Describing the emotional feeling as the coveted silver cup was about to leave the grounds of the school to go on temporary display in Limerick, he said: "(The students) will be gathering to have one last evening sharing their memories, seeing it off and hopefully preparing for its return, with the help of God."
Again, a group of monks, some in wheelchairs, some almost 100 years old, will get special permission to gather around a television set in order to watch the unmissable game.
As there is no television on the sacred grounds of the monastery, they will venture out to the nearby college to gather around the box to tune in to Setanta Sports.
Mr Hennessy added that regardless of the outcome today, the college had prepared the boys with the best start in life: "Win, lose or draw, the young men from all over Ireland who tog out on Sunday will leave the school in June as well-rounded individuals - just like people you would like living next door to you."
The Leinster Schools Senior Cup Final kicks off at 4pm at the RDS.