St Michael's weather storm to book place in decider
St Michael's 20 Clongowes 15
St Michael's qualified for their seventh Leinster Schools Junior Cup final in 10 years by overcoming Clongowes in a most entertaining encounter at Donnybrook yesterday.
With skipper Mark Hernan and No 8 Ben Gannon to the fore the Ailesbury Road school dominated the early exchanges, keeping Clongowes deep in their own territory.
They deservedly took the lead just three minutes in when good approach work by William Hickey paved the way for centre Cian McGettigan to send full-back Mark O'Brien racing in wide on the left.
Michael's added to their lead on 20 minutes when the lively Hernan blocked down an attempted clearance for the ever alert Niall Carroll to hoover up the loose ball. Robert Gilsenan combined first with Jonathan Fish and then the roving Hickey before setting Carroll and McGettigan free up the left for the speedy Zach Harrison to take the try scoring pass.
On a very rare sortie into Michael's territory David Wilkinson landed a penalty to narrow the gap to 10-3.
Christopher Cosgrave restored the 10-point cushion with a penalty coming up to the break. At 13-3 Michael's appeared in cruise control.
It was going to take something special to ignite the Clongowes challenge and in the early minutes of the second half it came when replacement hooker Ethan Noone made a vital intercept inside his own 22. The supporting Wilkinson carried the ball into the opposition half and in that inspirational moment it was game on.
The impressive Noone was accredited with a well taken pushover try in the 38th minute and at 13-8 the Dublin school appeared edgy.
To their credit they bounced back for a huge psychological score through the impressive Gannon midway through the half but with the powerful triumvirate of tighthead Ryan McMahon, openside Calum Dowling and No 8 Barry Dooley running at the heart of the Michael's defence they were in a dogfight and it showed.
Just short of the hour mark, following a scintillating break by full-back John Maher the powerful Dooley took a quick tapped penalty to cross for a richly deserved Clongowes try, but Michael's managed to hold on.
St Michael's - M O'Brien; A Smith, C Cosgrave, C McGettigan, Z Harrison; N Carroll, R Gilsenan; J Boyle, L Barron, J Toland (H McGovern 21); J Fish, L Dunne; W Hickey, M Hernan (Captain), B Gannon.
Clongowes - J Maher; C Grimes, T O'Brien, J Carroll (Captain), F Adams (C Joyce 17mins); D Wilkinson, H Arkwright: S Mo (C Doyle 30), H Lonergan (E Noone 30), R McMahon; T Coghlan (M Cruise O'Brien 59), G Dowling; T Power (E Boland 59), C Dowling, B Dooley.
Ref - B Cuttriss (Leinster Referees).