Tony Ward's guide to Leinster
(*Indicates those involved in last year's cup campaign)
Champions in '05 and '08, the Great Denmark Street school have enjoyed a low-key run-up to this year's eagerly awaited competition.
As they were last year, when they faced Blackrock, they will again be centre stage on the opening day, this time against St Michael's.
Gabriel Fulcher picks from a group captained by scrum-half David Shanahan, one of six back from last year's match-day squad, and including seven representative players in all.
John Conroy and Lee Mitchell have propped for the province at U-18 and U-19 level respectively, while fellow forwards Connor Owende (brother of last year's captain Michael Oyuga), Anthony Slein and Greg Ofiah have all lined out at either level.
So has Shanahan at scrum-half for the U-18s, along with versatile three-quarter Jimmy Hawkshaw.
Also included is Ireland hammer-thrower James McCabe (yet another from the remarkable Phil Conway Academy for developing field athletes).
Back-three talent Cillian O'Sullivan is back and raring to go following two frustrating seasons on the sidelines with injury. On the downside out-half/centre Aidan Power has a long-term injury and will miss the cup campaign.
Michael's will be favoured, but it will take a top-level performance from last year's beaten finalists to get back on track and put that bitter disappointment to rest. Discount 'Belvo at your peril.
Coaches: CJ Barry, Stuart Colahan, Fr Jim Culliton, Andrew Dunne, Gabriel Fulcher, James Hart and Colin McCarthy.
Last year: Beaten by Blackrock (20-13) in first round.
Squad: Sean Baird, Donal Brennan, Ian Brennan, Jonathan Butler, *Brian Byrne, Kevin Cagney, David Carey, Kevin Conneely, *John Conroy, Alex Davey, Garbhan Doyle, Caimin Dunne, Alex Fennell, Dan Fernee, Brian Fitzpatrick, Killian Foley, Sam Gaine, Tom Gibbons, Louie Hamilton, Cormac Hanlon, Jimmy Hawkshaw, Ross Holden, Michael Irving, Mark Kelly, Darragh Kennedy, Peter Lalor, Andrew Larkin, *Daryl Lynch, Eoin Lysaght, James McCabe, Dean McKenna, Lee Mitchell, Brian Moriarity, Emile Mullan, Ross Mullan, Killian O'Donoghue, Greg Offiah, Tom O'Hara, Eoin O'Hehir, Cormac O'Leary, Cillian O'Sullivan, Connor Owende, *Aidan Power, Mark Quinn Neylon, Brendan Ryan, Michael Sexton, *David Shanahan(Capt), Stephen Sheridan, *Anthony Slein, Fearghal Sullivan, Stephen Troy, Owen Waldron and Hugh Weldon.
Despite fielding 10 representative players (including nine back from last year's beaten quarter-finalists), this is a 'Rock side in which the whole is so much more than the component parts.
Yes, there are outstanding individuals, but having watched the Williamstown School on a few occasions already this season, it is the collective ethic that hints at a squad more than capable of rising to the challenge.
While most neutrals will be focused on the quarter-final and a potential tilt at reigning champions Clongowes, the immediate task for Peter Smyth, Fr Malachy Kilbride and Co is to prepare for Newbridge or De La Salle. Be in no doubt, the mindset will be right.
Cormac Maguire captains a squad which includes Mark Roche (son of former Blackrock and Greystones centre Dave) and Adam Boland lined out for Ireland in the recent U-18 defeat to England, while Gavin Thornbury and Conor McEllin were both on the bench.
Also included in another highly talented 'Rock squad are James Bowen, son of former Munster and Ireland winger Jimmy; Adam Langbroek, son of former Leinster and Ireland as well as Blackrock RFC president Job; and Jonny Sexton, son of former Leinster and Ireland winger Johnny. Sean Barron is a current Dublin minor hurler.
Although Clongowes took the pre-cup friendly, all bets will be off if purple and white and blue and white square up in Donnybrook in the last eight.
Coaches: Fr Malachy Kilbride, James English, Brian Savage, Peter Smyth (head), Justin Vanstone and Harm Jager.
Last year: Beaten by St Gerard's (7-0) in quarter-final.
Squad: Michael Carroll,*Adam Boland, Justin Murphy, Matthew Foster, Daragh Cahill, *Cormac Maguire (Capt), *David Hogan, Barry Fitzgerald, Jonny Sexton, Cillian Duff, Connor Quinn, Gavin Thornbury, *Pierce Dargan, Alex Carroll, Fergal Bolger, Max Connolly, Laurence Leonard, *Richie Marsh, Kevin O'Brien, Tom Austin, Paddy Hinkson, *Conor Kilcoyne, Adam Langbroek, Shane McEvoy, John Robinson, Mark McDonald, *Angus Lloyd, Paddy Beauchamp, Charlie Rock, Jack O'Carroll, Alex Walsh, Andrew Quirke, Johnny O'Hehir, Jack Dempsey, *Mark Roche, *Conor McEllin, Peter Conlon, Gavin Walsh, David Lunn, Ciaran Greenwood, Jack O'Doherty, Killian O'Leary, Conor McCrory, James Bowen, Karl Marron, Christian Dodd, Sean Barron, Jack Gallagher, Brefini Ryan, Luke Breen, Brian Aylmer and Michael Cantwell.
If ever a defeat hurt a school badly it was Castleknock's quarter-final loss to St Michael's last year.
The eventual runners-up hit overdrive that day, but the real disappointment, quite apart from losing, was that a highly fancied 'Knock side never showed up.
Suffice to say it will be a highly motivated group that either Joe O'Brien or Conor O'Riordan (brother of '07 skipper Dermot) will lead out to face Roscrea on February 2.
Head coach Andy Kenny picks from a squad which includes eight back from last year and includes Leinster representative players in wing Mike Mellett, No 8 Joe O'Brien, as well as highly promising fourth-year lock Jack O'Neill.
Pre-Christmas success over Coolmine (to retain the Eddie Melvin Cup) has the squad in good nick ahead of the upcoming campaign.
However, with no league form from which to gauge their ability, they are something of an unknown quantity. That said, having eked some form of revenge over Michael's and beaten Belvedere in highly competitive friendlies, the 'Knock challenge is not to be dismissed lightly.
In a wide-open top half, the eight-time winners are as well placed for a meaningful assault as any.
Add to that the technical input of Grand Slam-winning former Wales coach Mike Ruddock and it's fair to say the groundwork has been laid.
Coaches: Andrew Kenny (head), Mike Ruddock (technical consultant), Ian Smith, Darran Sheils and Nigel Travers (conditioning).
Last year: Beaten by St Michael's (41-3) in quarter-final.
Squad: David Barnes, Mark Bennett, Aidan Boswell, Ciaran Boyle, Darren Brennan, *Mark Briody, Jack Burke, James Carroll, Shane Carroll, Edward Cawley, Conor Clarke, *Sam Condon, Greg Culhane, Jason Daly, Sean Dempsey, Alex Dunne, Cormac Fagan, *Tom Farrell, David Flynn, Paul Geissel, Andrew Gillespie, *Rory Gleeson, Sean Hanlon, Thomas Healy, Darragh Henry, *Ryan Hickey, Conor Kearney, Evan McCormack, James McCormack, Andrew McGuinness, Ollie McKevitt, *Mike Mellett, Ahmad Mu'azzam, Paul Nalty, *Joe O'Brien (Capt), Tiernan O'Donoghue, Jack O'Neill, Barry O'Regan, Niall O'Regan, *Conor O'Riordan (Captain), Perry Dylan, Eoghan Quinn, Brian Rossiter, Keith Scanlon, Thomas Shields, David Sweeney, Brian Tighe, Robert Troy and Tarik Ullah.
CISTERCIAN COLLEGE, ROSCREA
The 1999 finalists are one of the dark horses. Only a three-point defeat to Gonzaga (25-22) prevented the Tipperary school topping their section in the league.
Having lifted that title at Junior level in 2008, it is a squad well used to competitive fare, with that all-important winning culture.
A narrow defeat to St Mary's deprived them of a place in the semi-final a year ago, but with 11 of that experienced squad back again now, this is a group with the wherewithal to inflict major damage this time round.
The friendly record is good so all comers be warned. Conor Finn is captain and one of seven representative players split between Connacht and Leinster. Finn, fellow centre Shane Layden, full-back Philip O'Dwyer, Ross Mooney and Matt Mellotte have all lined out at either U-18 or U-19 levels for the western province .
Tight-five forwards Oisin Heffernan -- at either hooker or prop -- and lock Rory Maloney have been involved with the Leinster U-17s. Layden, much like Wexford's Redmond Barry from the class of '99, is equally adept at Gaelic football, playing for his native Roscommon.
Having pushed mighty Clongowes to just a four-point friendly defeat (18-14), cautious optimism is well founded. Keep an eye on them.
Coaches: John Lillis, Alan Tynan, Peter Swanepoel and Wesley Carter.
Last year: Beaten by St Mary's (17-12) in quarter-final.
Squad: Gearoid Fallon, *Craig Farrell, *Sean Moran, *Denis O'Dwyer, Oisin Heffernan, Aiden McGrath, Rory Moloney, John Fitzpatrick, *Ross Mooney, Alex Henderson, *Adam Wheatley, *Colin Maloney, Eamon Quirke, Jack O'Driscoll, Gareth Gallagher, *Matt Melotte, *Bill Duggan, *Shane Layden, *Conor Finn (Capt), Cormac Brennan, *Philip O'Dwyer, Maurice Fitzgerald, David Kirwan, Keelan Moran, Killian Buckley, Andrew Mackey, Finton Browne, Ronan Tully, Gavin O'Donovan, Padraig Delaney, Liam Moran, Paul Phelan, Sean Cody, Fiachra O'Regan, Shane Kelly, Paddy Cummins, Paddy Ryan, Geoff Ryan, Ronan Hayes and Peter Bain.
CLONGOWES WOOD COLLEGE
Let's call a spade a spade. This is the team they've all got to beat. They are not just the reigning champions, but a squad with a track record of success at Junior and Senior level, and also one which plays the game in the right way with vibrant use of space at its essence.
That might give the impression of a laissez faire, Barbarians-type approach, but Clongowes' back-to-back assault is based primarily on a powerful pack doing the basics well and on the electric scavenging that has always served the Clane school so well.
There are seven cup-winners from last year, with more from the all-conquering Junior side of '08 to join them. They have experienced players in key positions sprinkled liberally throughout the side.
There is representative stock with Edward Byrne (another Cian Healy in the making), Conor Gilsenan (a powerful presence), Nicholas McCarthy (a chip off the old block that was tearaway flanker dad Noel in his prime), No 8 Jordan Coghlan and Bryan Byrne all turning out for Leinster at U-18 or U-19 levels.
You can add to that Dylan Coughlan, who's played in the Connacht green. He is yet another dual talent, with his prowess on the cricket field already acknowledged by way of selection for Ireland 'A'.
There are three Byrne brothers in the squad -- twins Edward and Bryan as well as older brother Thomas.
Defending the trophy will not be easy, but they are looking to create their own special niche in Clongowes history as the first side to successfully defend the title. Opportunity beckons like never before.
Coaches: Noel McNamara, Pat Kenny and Bret Igoe.
Last year: Winners
Squad: Bryan Byrne, *Edward Byrne, *Thomas Byrne, *Jordan Coghlan, *Tom Collis, Dylan Donnellan, David Doyle, Frayne Gordan, *Conor Gilsenan, Bryan Grehan, Diarmuid Kennedy, Rob Lipsett, *Nicholas McCarthy, Sean Mulholland, Dan O'Byrne, Tom O'Regan, Jack Paul, Brian Phelan, Peadar Timmins, Ian Tyrell, John Wallace, Harry Burns, Sebastien Fromm, Jamie Glynn, David Gray, Conor Joyce, Jack Kennedy, Stephen Lynch, Oliver Mackle, Conor Mahony, Max McFarland, Conor McQuaid, Garvan McVerry, Gareth Murray, Mark Nicholson, Ciaran O'Hanrahan, Brian Phelan, *David Quirke, Robert Scanlon and James Sullivan.
You won't hear them shouting it from any rooftops, but there is an air of quiet optimism in Ranelagh.
In terms of churning out representative players and academy recruits, the Gonzaga record in recent times stands tall. And though the draw could scarcely be described as kind, given it is 10-time winners Terenure first up, there is a feeling that the 'Nure will be facing a torrid test.
Terenure old boy and former Leinster forwards coach (in the Declan Kidney era) Bobby Byrne has instilled a winning psyche into Gonzaga.
And with 12 back from last year's cup match-day squad, all league signs (where they emerged with a 100pc record) point to a serious cup assault. Centre Stephen Murphy captains a side which includes fellow Ireland Schools caps Barry Daly and full-back Jack Fitzpatrick.
Also included is the versatile Hugo Mays (son of former Ireland second-row Kevin), who has played for this country's U-18 and U-19 cricket teams, while John McDowell (another back from last year) is a son of former Minister for Justice Michael.
All roads lead to Donnybrook on February 3, with the winner of that assuming the mantle of top-end favourites. Tradition might suggest the 'Nure are favourites, but don't be fooled: this is on-the-day stuff, big time.
Coaches: Bobby Byrne (head), Declan Fassbender, John Murphy, Oliver O'Brien (manager), Kevin Croke, Liam Hennelly, Graham Dean and Niall Bevan (physio).
Last year: Beaten by Castleknock (11-3) in first round.
Squad: Robert Byrne, Ronan Carroll, Andy Clarke, *Robert Cooke, Conor Costigan, Philip Crowe, Jack Curtin, Barry Daly, *Alex Deeney, Matthew Dooley, Patrick Finlay, *Jack Fitzpatrick, Gareth Forde, Jack Hennessy, *Patrick Hollywood, Dermot Lavelle, Michael Lenahan, *Richard Lenehan, Matthew Lowe, Simon Maybury Thornton, Andy Maye, *Hugo Mays, *Cillian McDowell, *John McDowell, *Andrew McEvoy, Sean McGrath, Conor McKeon, Niall McNelis, *Stephen Murphy (Capt), Ken Murray, Ultan Murray, *Conall O Brolchain, *Andy O'Reilly and Jack Phelan.
Kilkenny are Senior League Section A winners and a team on a repeat mission. They have pulled one over on St Mary's before and, given the depth of talent in Jeff Carter's squad, they know they've got what it takes to rewrite history.
Carter, along with Andy Melville, coaches a side captained by Ross Elmes and they have eight back from last year's side beaten by Clongowes (37-12).
Prop Elmes, out-half Peter Lydon and centre Foster Horan have all lined out for Leinster at U-19 level this season.
Although bunched with Section C heavyweights Belvedere, St Michael's and St Mary's, the Castlecomer Road school is more than capable of holding its own.
Confidence is high following an unbeaten league campaign and a second successful trip to the St Joseph's College Schools Festival in Ipswich, where they finished a creditable fifth of the 16 competing (including Campbell College, who were runners-up to the host school).
Coaches: Jeff Carter, Andy Melville and James Morrow (manager).
Last year: Beaten by Clongowes (37-12) in quarter-final.
Squad: *Ross Elmes (Capt), Adam Doyle, Barnaby Rhys Thomas, Colin Deacon, Dylan Leybourne, Evan Kelly, *Foster Horan, Gary Condell, *Gavin Ridgeway, Gordon Hanbidge, Harry Crowley, Henry Hatton, Ian Stanley, Jack McCarthy, Jack McDowell, *Jonathan Yates, *Max Barnard Day, Michael Triggs, *Peter Lydon, Robin Foot, Ross Bailey Kearney, Ross Deacon*, Sam Sterling, *Shane Delahunt and Tom Bulfin.
Once the main draw was made, the importance of the play-off between King's Hospital and Newbridge for the final automatic qualifying place (from the league) grew in stature.
The winners would play either Wesley or Templeogue in the opening round of the main event, while the losers would face the force that is Blackrock.
Luke Satchwell and his King's Hospital team grasped the significance of that clash and with it the all-important victory. So, for the beaten league finalists in 2009 and 2010, a place in the Challenge Cup quarter-final beckons. The Senior Cup is enough incentive in itself, but with Caleb Powell the sitting president of the IRFU, the team would like to do the man who has contributed so much to rugby at the Palmerstown school proud by way of producing a barnstorming run in the coming weeks.
And with eight back from last year, the omens are good. The forward conveyor belt is working as efficiently as ever with four Leinster representative players in the current pack.
From loose-head Colin Fair Brennan, alongside hooker Dale McDonough Kinkade through lock Josh Hinde to tearaway flanker Brian du Toit, the talent is undoubtedly there. With no Section C opposition in sight before the semi-final at least, the incentive is great.
Coaches: Matt Jarvis and Ray McIlreavy.
Last year: Beaten by Clongowes (13-5) in first round.
Squad: *Colin Fair Brennan, *Dale McDonough Kinkade, Eamon Lawler, Ben Heather, *Josh Hinde, *Luke Satchwell (Capt), *Brian du Toit, Cian Foley, *Harry Hevey, *David Potterton, Will Nolan, Ian Fitzpatrick, *Tom Quigley, Eoin Delaney, Josh Dowds, David Butler, Graham Reynolds, David Duffy, Alex Moore and Adam Burke.
ST GERARD'S, BRAY
Voted Powerade School of the Year in 2010 and with 10 of last year's league-winning cup semi-finalists back in tow, hopes are high for another good showing from the Bray school this year.
The draw has been kind compared to last year, although with the Murray Cup Qualifier 2 (most likely against CUS or CBC) first up, a gargantuan struggle at Stradbrook is guaranteed.
Ireland U-18 out-half Stevie Crosbie (brother of Jody and grandson of former Ireland golfer George Crosbie) captains a squad which includes Ireland U-19 No 8 Jack Conan as well as Leinster U-19 scrum-half Conor O'Rourke.
Although undefeated in qualifying for the league semi-final, they were held by both CUS and Kilkenny (who topped the group) along the way. A narrow defeat (10-8) to Blackrock in the first ever visit by a full 'Rock Senior team to Gerard's augurs well.
Centre Jett Desmond is a brother of Zach, who captained the 2005 team to the school's first semi-final against 'Rock at Lansdowne Road. Flanker/ centre Steve Hackett-Delaney has represented Wicklow boys in underage soccer, while Conan and David Symes have lined out for the Wicklow underage Gaelic football teams at U-16 and minor level respectively.
If they can remain injury free then a run to the semi-final and perhaps beyond seems a realistic aspiration. That said, Eric Miller, Crosbie, Conan and the rest will be looking nowhere beyond Stradbrook on February 2.
Coaches: Eric Miller (head), Shaun McCarthy, Damian Hall and Micheal McMullan (manager).
Last year: Beaten by St Michael's (15-6) in semi-final.
Squad: *Dylan Simmonds, Conor Shiel, Ian Byrne,*Jett Desmond, Rob Martin, *Simon Smith, *Steve Crosbie (Capt), *Conor O'Rourke, Darah Callan, Jack Roberts, *Stephen Hackett-Delaney, David Symes, Charlie Sherry, Hugo Wojnar, Keith Carroll, Daniel Morgan, Jamie Mooney, Robert Myler, Niall Smith, Jurgen Steinbach, Killian McNeive, Rory Cafferky, Simon Wilson, *Jack Conan, Jack Prendergast, Aran Maguire, David Murray, *Oisin O'Neill, *Rufus O'Brien, *Stephen King, Ryan Connell and Sean Fenelon.
ST MARY'S COLLEGE
They would describe their season to date as having been up and down, but with Mary's it tends to be generally more up than down.
They performed particularly well in an early-season tournament in Gloucester, finishing runners-up (on a 10-3 score line) to the red-hot Bristol Academy. Ten Irish schools representing all four provinces took part in that event, with the Rathmines school going closest of Bandon Grammar, Belvedere, Crescent Comp, Glenstal, Colaiste Iognaid, Sligo Grammar, Dalriada, CBC, Cork and Terenure.
Ireland U-18 lock Jerry Sexton (brother of Ireland out-half Jonny) captains a squad that includes 10 back from last year's unit which were beaten narrowly (10-9) by eventual winners Clongowes in a feisty semi-final.
Sexton and loose-head Gerry Gallivan have both represented Leinster, while also included are Matthew Andreucetti (son of former Mary's hooker Alberto and nephew of centre Paul), Conor Corcoran (son of RTE radio commentator Michael), Ben Matthews (son of former Ireland skipper Phillip) and Tomas Young (son of former Mary's prop Tom). Hugh McDonnell has also represented the Irish schoolboys at cricket.
'Remember 2000' is the guarded message on every Mary's player's mind ahead of the eagerly awaited clash with Kilkenny. In the quarter-final that year the Russell Armstrong-inspired Kilkenny put Conor Queenan, Ciaran Potts and Co to the sword 16-13.
Forewarned is forearmed, but Kilkenny are well up for a repeat.
Coaches: Brian Moore, Rodney O'Donnell, Matt D'Arcy and John Wynne.
Last year: Beaten by Clongowes (10-9) in Semi-Final.
Squad: Matthew Andreucetti, *Cillian Barden, Tiernan Barrett, Jeff Blackburn, *Eoin Boyle, Stephen Campion, Tim Conway, Conor Corcoran, Stephen Corcoran, Brendan Daly, Sean Daly, *Cian Delaney, Philip Dix, *Eoin Farrell, Mel Farrell, Andrew Ferris, Peter Fitzpatrick, *Gerry Gallivan, Andrew Godfrey, Ian Hall, Mark Hayden, Ian Hickey, Aidan Kernan, Jack Levins, Eoin MacMathuna, *Ben Matthews, Sam McDonald, *Hugh McDonnell, Rory McPhilips, Lucas Moran, Donal O'Brien, *Stephen O'Carroll, Jack O'Mahoney, Mark Reynolds, *Ian Robinson, *Jerry Sexton (Capt), Conor Sheridan, Luke Talbot, Rory Tisdall, Jack Walsh and Tomas Young.
ST MICHAEL'S COLLEGE
Senior finalists three times in the last five years and Junior finalists for the last four running, yet Michael's have only one outright success ( 2007) to show for it.
Despite all the disappointments, the one certainty is that the Ailesbury Road school has now a level of competitive consistency which is the equal of any other in the province.
That lone Senior Cup win fails to reflect the ultra-competitive force that St Michael's now are. And once again this year they have a squad oozing talent. Hooker Andrew Murphy, blind-side flanker Dan Leavy and scrum-half Luke McGrath caught the eye in the recent U-18 international against England at Donnybrook. These three, plus centre Rory Kavanagh and wing Mark Corballis, have represented Leinster at U-18/U-19 level this season. The all-action Leavy is one of four -- along with Ross Byrne, Cian Kelleher and Rory O'Loughlin -- still in the Leinster U-17 developmental set-up.
The hugely influential McGrath (nephew of former Ireland flanker and ERC chief executive Derek) is captain of a squad that includes eight back from last year's very impressive beaten finalists.
To go one step further than 2010 they are certainly going to have to do it the hard way, given that they find themselves with the most difficult route of all: should they negotiate Belvedere, they would probably have to beat Kilkenny or St Mary's followed by Blackrock or Clongowes just to get back to the final.
It's a tough path, but don't bet against a repeat.
Coaches: Kelvin Leahy (head), Shane Hunt, Bernard Jackman, Robbie O'Flynn, Paul Huntly, Junior Charlie and Craig Cusack (manager).
Last year: Beaten by Clongowes (38-20) in final.
Squad: Cameron Diamond, *Mark Corbalis, Rory O'Loughlin, *Rory Kavanagh, Cian Kelleher, Bobby Holland, *Luke McGrath (Capt), *Christian Daly, *Andy Murphy, Ross O'Neill, Donagh Lawler, Andy Coleman, Denis Coulson, Jake Barry, Jamie Lawless, Nick McCarthy, Ross Byrne, Paddy Cleary, Luke Martin, Jack Redmond, Paddy Hanley, Harry Cregan, Steve Dawson, Tom Slattery, *Ben Butler, Conor Duffy, Jamie Headon, Mick Craig, Ross Molony, Matty O'Neill, Andy Barr, Gavin Kelly, *Tim O'Connell, *Dan Leavy, Alex Comerford, Chris Fagan, Killian Victory and Jack Parsons.
Terenure appear to have landed the most generous draw of the heavyweights, but Padraig Forde has been around the block often enough to know that right from the get-go against Gonzaga, any route to the final for the 'Nure is littered with land-mines.
For very obvious reasons that game against Bobby Byrne and Gonzaga is the be all and end all to their season. They have no God-given right to look beyond it, nor will they.
That said, the 'Nure -- beaten finalists in 2009 and winners of their 10th and last title back in '03 -- have managed to avoid every other Section C school until the RDS final, should they make it that far.
On the developing wave of Junior Cup success in 2009 and 2010, Forde oversees a squad that includes five back from last year. Seventeen of that Junior Cup-winning squad from '09 have made the jump to Senior. Perhaps therein hangs the doubt. Could it be a year too soon? But the same question was asked of Clongowes (Junior winners in '08) 12 months ago, and we all know the answer to that one now!
Experience comes in the guise of all-action flanker Niall Lalor (Junior Cup -winning captain in '09), lock Cillian Simpson (son of former UCD and Shamrock Rovers centre-half Dave), Rory Barry, Danny McCormack and Leinster U-19 wing Sean O'Loughlin. Like St Mary's, their form has been inconsistent, but come cup time it can be taken as read they will deliver. With Gonzaga first up, there is no other option.
Coaches: Padraig Forde, John Campbell, Kieran Moloney, Harry Ronan, Paul Murphy and David McAllister.
Last year: Beaten by St Gerard's (13-11) in first round.
Squad: Killian Bolger, Pierce Kehoe, Cathal Owens, Silvio Borza, Paul O'Reilly, Adam Somerville, Jonathan Fitzpatrick, Sean White, Daniel Hynes, Jodie Carroll, Simon Keogh, *Cillian Simpson, Niall O'Riordan, Jack Kirwan, Robert Malone, Robert Somerville, Stephen Croke, Ciaran Moffat, Geoff Furlong, Billy Twomey, Eoghan Kelly, *Niall Lalor, Rory O'Hanrahan, Stephen Purcell, Niall Buckley, Eoghan Campion, *Rory Barry, Gary Clarkin, Cian O'Sullivan, Robert Rumley, Danny McCormack, Ryan Roopnarinesingh, Dylan Olin, Colin Jones, Ross Manning, Ciaran Quigley, Ronan Kavanagh, Oliver Barrett, Colm Rowan, *Sean O'Loughlin, Stephen O'Neill, Fiachra Bagnall, John Slattery, Luke Sparrow, Jack Wright, Alex Trimble and Philip Smith.
Vinnie Murray Qualifiers
(Starting with favourites to qualify )
A change in personnel sees Pat Fox take the role of head coach, while Conor Montayne shifts to the Junior Cup team.
Leinster U-19 centre James Kearns captains a Monkstown squad including 10 back from last year's Murray Cup runners-up and with other representative players in full-back Mark Rogers and right-wing Ben Howard.
To make it through to face St Gerard's at Stradbrook in the opening round proper, they face a tough scrap along with The High School, St Andrew's and CUS for that Qualifier Slot 2. It has been an injury-plagued season, but they now seem to have a full hand from which to pick from for both the Vinnie Murray and Senior Challenge Cup campaigns.
Form suggests that either CUS or CBC will make it through. Whichever team it is, they will be in good competitive shape, given the lead-in to that winner-takes-all game.
Coaches: Pat Fox (head), Tony Grainger, Ryan Corcoran and Nigel Osbourne.
Last year: Beaten by Cistercian Roscrea (16-13) in 1st Round.
Squad: Andrew Brennan, Josh Brown, Sam Curtis, *Sam Hanley, *Andrew Heffernan, Aaron Hickey, Gavin Hickey, *Ben Howard, Daniel Jordan, *James Kearns (Capt), *Evan Keogh, *Rory Keogh, *Ciaran McLoughlin, *Eoin McArdle, Ryan Moore, Simon Moore, Eoghan McKeever, Aidan O'Byrne, Gavin Meany-O'Brien, David O'Reilly, Tom O'Reilly, Jamie O'Sullivan, *Dylan O'Toole, Mohammed Shirin, *Mark Rogers and Cian Roche.
With five teams qualifying for the main (Section C) competition from the (Section B) league, the game to avoid is the play-off for that fifth automatic Senior Cup place.
Against the spirit of the play-off principle, some teams opt for the Vinnie Murray route, thereby making the one-off game competitive in name only.
That has been the case in times past, but not this year, given that the prize for winning is a fair crack at the top end of the draw, while the losers will almost certainly have to face Blackrock in the first round proper.
So, having lost out to King's Hospital (26-20) in the pre-Christmas play-off, such appears to be the Newbridge lot this time round.
Both Mount Temple and De La Salle will give it their best shot, but all evidence suggests a 'Rock/Newbridge head-to-head at Templeville Road on February 2.
It is a young Newbridge squad led by William O'Brien -- one of four back from last year. Prop forward Colin Grant, centre Michael Brown and out-half Peter Osborne have been involved with Leinster at U-17 and U-18 this season. Unfortunately the talented Brown is struggling with a long-term injury.
Leicester skipper and former Newbridge great Geordan Murphy will have an added interest, given the presence of his nephew Adam Murphy in the squad. Realistically, though, a shot at the Murray Cup seems the most likely route.
Coaches: Derek Sherlock, John Joyce and Aaron Dundon.
Last year: Beaten by St Michael's (28-7) in first round.
Squad: Conor Callanan, Chris Deane, Billy Delaney, Jack Doyle, Colin Grant, Jack Hogan, Robert Mullen, Conor Murphy, Bryan O'Donnell, Daniel O'Loughlin, Phil O'Neill, Billy Scully, Richard Snell, *Michael Brown, Ross Buckley, James Connolly, Cillian Dempsey, Eoin Dempsey, Rossa Devlin, Ciaran Fagan, Craig Grant, John Jennings, Ruairi Kehoe-Clarke, *Charles Kings, Darragh McConville, Adam Murphy, Cathal Murtagh, *William O'Brien (Capt), Ben O'Connor, Ciaran O'Neachtain, *Peter Osbourne, David Quirke, David Rigney, Conor Sheridan and Glen Tai.
PRESENTATION COLLEGE, BRAY
Despite finishing fourth in their league section, this is one team for whom the final picture fails to tell the total story.
They lost to the three teams above them by two points or less, so anyone who writes off Pres Bray on finishing position alone, does so at their peril.
This is a Pres team capable of a meaningful assault on the Section B Murray Cup title, although they face a tough opening tie against McMullan (Section A) Cup winners Newpark.
They are well organised and well disciplined in defence, and with 10 back from last year, there is an abundance of experience.
Unfortunately Michael Douglas, who shipped a long-term injury at the start of the season, is not yet available.
Nevertheless, this is a highly talented squad with representative players in Ferdia Kenny, David Downey, Conor Guihen, Kenneth Murphy and Cormac O'Donoghue. Adam Kenny is a member of the Wicklow Gaelic football schools team.
Powerful prop Murphy is a son of former Pres and Greystones stalwart Liam. Downey is the younger brother of former Pres and Leinster Schools player John. Irish Schools winger and All-Ireland 200m champion Kenny captains the side.
Despite being drawn in the tough end of the Vinnie Murray draw, there is no reason why outright success in that competition allied to qualification (to face Clongowes) cannot be achieved in the next few weeks. The talent is certainly there.
Coaches: Marc Ranigtawaa (head ), Nathan Beueck, Olan Savage (manager), Alex O'Sullivan and Aaron Higgs.
Last year: Did not qualify (beaten by St Andrew 19-17 in Vinnie Murray Cup first round).
Squad: *Kenneth Murphy, Cormac O'Meadhra, Dominic Sheehy, *Cameron Higgs, *Sean Brooks, *Gerry Peakin, David Doyle, Jamie Ashworth, *Niall Finch, Conor Guihen, Cormac O'Donoghue, Lorcan Maguire, *Michael Douglas, Oisin Moran, Chris Cassidy, Philip Haughton, *David Downey, Karl Devin, *Ross Keating, *Ferdia Kenny (Capt), Adam Conway, Killian Guihen, *Harry Barrett, Sam Doyle, Robert Brennan, David Blount and Dean Redmond.
1898 will forever remain ingrained in Wesley College history. That was the year the now Balinteer-based school ruled Leinster.
In 1994 they came close again when a particularly strong Senior side, including Eric Miller and Ray McIlreavy, now coaching at St Gerard's and King's Hospital respectively, led Clongowes 8-0 in the semi-final before eventually bowing out.
The goals set by Craig Petrie and Iain Wallace for the squad of 2011 are nowhere near as high. That said, with 11 back from last year and led by playmaker Greg Hawe (son of former Wesley Schools and successful club out-half Adrian 'Lefty') they are well capable of putting it up to any opposition on the day.
While league form disappointed, the early-season omens were good, with success at the Topflight Four Nations Tournament, where they lifted the Plate after beating Ysgol Glantaf from Cardiff in the final.
The draw (in the Vinnie Murray) has been kind too, with a bye in the first round followed by a tilt at Templeogue in the quarter-final. That match is scheduled for Anglesea Road on the January 26, with the dual prize of Senior Cup qualification (where KH, whom they have already beaten, await), plus a place in the last four of the Murray Cup.
The 'Logue will of course see it differently, but it is Wesley who appear the better equipped to make it through.
Coaches: Craig Petrie (head), Iain Wallace, Alan Thompson and Peter Wallace.
Last year: Did not qualify (beaten by Newpark 18-11 in Vinnie Murray Cup first round)
Squad: Harry Bowers, Niall Carmody, Ross Condell, *Conor Copeland, *Steven Davis, Daniel Deasy, *Hugh Fitzpatrick, *Alan McKay, Jack Nolan, *Andrew O'Sullivan, Eric Parfrey, Sam Pollock, *Peter Tierney, *Joshua van der Flier, Graham White, Robert Bracken, *Robert Campbell, Robbie Clarke, Samuel Clutterbuck, Matthew Coleman, Ross Doyle, Jack Hastings, *Greg Hawe (Capt), *Jonathan Lewis, Darren O'Rourke, James Quinlan, Richard Treacy, Andrew Walsh, *Stephen Young and Sahr Yambasu.
St Andrew's are first up for CUS in Round 1 of the Murray Cup and if they succeed here, CBC Monkstown are likely to stand between them and place in the Senior Cup main draw. This year's team includes three Beakey brothers: Mark and Kevin are twins and play in the back-row, while David plays at out-half.
Coaches: Gary Beresford Miller, Derek Dowling, Aidan Kenna, Matt Brown.
Last year: Beaten by Gonzaga in Vinnie Murray quarter-final. Squad: Ryan Sheady* (capt), Tom Kinsley* (Vice Capt), John McAllister*, Tadhg Doyle*, David Beakey*, Colm Driver*, Neil Miller*, Karl Cooke*, Kevin Beakey, Mark Beakey, Brian Keelan*, Joey Bodkin*, Shane Bodkin*, Ruadhan Magee, Marc Hiney, Josh Fallon-Doran, David Gahan, Matthew McCann, Adam Quinlan, Barry Kiely*, Tadhg Guiry, Lorcan Cooke, Robert Farrington*, Killian Daly*, Daniel Byrne, David Moore
DE LA SALLE COLLEGE, CHURCHTOWN
De La Salle have a bye in the first round but in the Murray Cup quarter-final the Churchtown school will have to displace Newbridge College to earn the even more difficult challenge of Blackrock in the Senior Cup first round proper.
Coaches: Lorcan Balfe, Thomas Leigh.
Last year: Beaten by Newpark in quarter-final of the Vinnie Murray Cup.
Squad: Ben Flynn (capt)*, Scott Finlay*, Brian Mullarkey, Luke O'Donoghue, Jack Morris, Leigh McDonald*, Gary Kavanagh*, Ian Burke*, Briain Gannon*, Killian Roche, Colin Neville, Sean Markey, Evan Moody*, Ahmed Elporgay, Conor Fox, Kevin Manning, Colm Dalton, Julius Mereckas*, Murtada Al Mohsen*, Colm Butcher, Jason Doyle, Justas Mereckas, James McHugh*.
THE HIGH SCHOOL
The Vinnie Murray draw hasn't been kind. To make a date with St Gerard's in the opening round of the Senior Cup, they must first come through a tough test with CBC before battling their way past the winners of CUS and St Andrew's College.
Coaches: Len McBride, Eamonn O'Riordan, Ray Walker.
Last year: Lost to High School in Round 1 of the Vinnie Murray Cup.
Squad: Cian McDonagh, James Fleming, *Ronan Lowther, *Josh Wiler, Michael Sykes, * Andrew Stein, *Robert Emo, * Ethan Conry, Matthew Mullan, Emmet Dwyer, Padraig Harrison, Neil Cosgrove, Shane Smith, Daniel Meijer, Conn Loane, Luke O'Donnell, *Conor Sexton, *James Sadlier, *Chris Downey (capt), Stephen Alexander, Jamie Connell, *David Cosgrave, Ian Sheridan, John Seagrave, Aidan O'Byrne.
Confidence will be high after their McMullan Cup victory against Skerries as they face into a tough battle with Pres Bray in Round 1 of the Murray Cup tomorrow. If they can progress there, Newpark are likely to face a repeat of that pre-Christmas final to determine who gets to meet Clongowes in the main draw. The omens are good after that 30-5 victory.
Coaches: Morgan Lennon, Andrew Adams.
Last year: Beaten by St Mary's in the Round 1 of Senior Cup.
Squad: *Fergus Halpin (capt), *Evan Thornley, *James Kelly, *Eoin O'Connor, *Odhran Duignan, *Sam Crowe, *Aubrey Marshall,* James Shehan, *David Burke, *Killian Sundermann, *Rafe Garland, *Harry Connor, *Brendan Clarke, *Joe Wheatley, *Zac Jungmann.
Newbridge followed by De La Salle stand in Mount Temple's way of a Vinnie Murray semi-final place and a spot in the Senior Cup draw against the giants of Blackrock.
Coaches: Cathal O'Flynn, Shane McGrath, Rosemary Buckley (manager).
Squad: Sam Gibney, Colm Kelly, Stephen Reamsbottom, Vincent Gavin *, Conor Hopkins, Senan O'Mahony *, Carl Reilly, Sam Skelton, Conal Tormey, Stefan Walshe, John-Oscar Gibbons (capt) *, Conor Kelly *, Conor McGinley *, Kevin Prout *, Sam Jennings, Mark Barton, Jordan Cagney, Max Grimes, Stephen Kenny-Gains*, Jordan Manning, Nathan Maxwell*, Lorcan Murphy-Gilligan, Hugh O'Dea, Eamonn O'Malley*, Fionn Brennan*, Jamie Buckett*, Shane Homan*, Adam Merrey*, David Skarkey-O'Keeffe, Shane Homan*, Adam Merrey*, David Skarkey-O'Keeffe.
Making their debut in the Vinnie Murray Cup, the rookie team will have to hit the ground running to overcome Skerries in the first round and then the winners of Pres Bray v Newpark Comprehensive to secure a date with defending champions Clongowes in the main draw.
Coaches: Patrick Collins (formerly Glenstal) Justin Howlett & Simon Morrissey
Last year: First time in Vinnie Murray Cup.
Squad: Louis Cannon, Conor McCormick, Patrick Orr, Alex Harvey, Lee Deighton, Josh Cowan, Mark Murphy, Cormac Ryan, Jack Pleass, Vincent Whelan, Patrick McCormick, Niall Campbell, James Orr, Oisin Berghenti, Elliott Finn-Phillips (capt), Jamie Scanlon, Chris Allwright, Andrew Bofin, Lorcan Clarke, Martin Smith, Matthew Tector, Terance Robson, John Naughton,Rob Foley, Shane Cullen, Ros Lynch.
SKERRIES COMMUNITY COLLEGE
They have Sandford Park first up and then Skerries will have a revenge mission against their McMullan Cup conquerers Newpark.
Coaches: Nick Heeney, Ross McCorry, Paul Sherlock PP, Gavin Duffy PP, Aidan Sherlock (manager).
Squad: Pearce Carty Heffernan, Kieran Leonardm, Stephen Dwyer (capt), Peter Rooney, Joe Palmer, Niall Collins, Aidan Sherlock, Mark Boylan, Eoghan Carron, Kevin McGrath, Christopher Delemere, Sean O'Driscoll, Fergus Grant, Sean Fox, Eoghan Fox, Vincent Watson, Jason Carroll, John Grimes, David Sisk, Ruairi Grimes, Colin Horgan, Matthew O'Rourke, Conor Sisk, Shane Davis, Chigozie Anyanwu Philip Tucker
Despite getting a bye in the opening round of the Vinnie Murray, they face a tough quarter-final hurdle in the meeting with Wesley College at Anglesea Road on January 26. If successful, King's Hospital await in the first round of the main event.
Coaches: James Norton, Michael Mooney.
Last year: Didn't qualify for main draw. Beaten by St Andrew's in quarter-finals of Murray Cup.
Squad: Harry Healy, Brian Brookes, Josh Essuaman*, Dylan Croke, Eanna Clynes, Oisin Manning* (capt), Evan Dunne, Michael Cotter, Aaron Lawes, Sean Patchell*, Gavin Sheridan*, Ciaran Deegan, David O'Connell*, Steven Butcher, Jack Hendricks, Eamonn Kennedy, Owen O'Neill*, Tom O'Reilly*, Zeeshan Ali*, Declan Dowling, David Lawes, Ryan Edwards
Irish Independent Supplement