When young guns become lost boys
Hugh Farrelly picks his top Schools XV who never made the jump to senior international
Until 2008, the best Schools player we had ever seen was John Carroll, who played on the Pres Cork team in the mid-1980s.
Then, two years ago, when Castletroy stunned the Munster Schools establishment on their way to the Senior Cup title, their centre Diarmuid McCarthy shone out as an outstanding talent. His two tries in the semi-final knocked out Pres and he produced another stunning try-scoring performance in the final as Christians were put to the sword -- leading to our prediction that he was destined for future Munster and Ireland honours.
Carroll was plagued by injuries while McCarthy is no longer involved and, whether it is the treatment table or the difficult transition from school time to adulthood, Irish rugby has a long history of phenomenal Schools talents failing to make it in the senior game.
Others went on to forge successful senior careers without taking the final step and the following is a selection of those Schools talents, no longer active as players, who, for whatever reason, never graduated onto the senior international side -- as well as a panel of three more Ireland Schools stars who also never made it all the way.
15 Pat Murray
Played twice for Ireland Schools in 1982 -- a 17-9 loss in Wales and a 42-0 hammering of Scotland at Musgrave Park -- before going on to forge a highly successful senior career with Shannon and Munster. Regarded as one of the best Munster players never to win a cap.
14 Brian Begley
A gifted footballer with pace, a jink and a massive boot -- out of hand or off the ground. Played for the Schools side in 1992 and was part of the Test team, coached by Declan Kidney, that ran the All Blacks so close on that summer's tour. Begley was in the Munster set-up under Kidney in the late 1990s but, while the talent never left him, professionalism didn't suit -- though he continued to amass points for Old Crescent in the AIL well into the 2000s.
13 Alan Reddan
Elder brother of current international Eoin, Reddan was part of the famous Crescent team, along with Paul Wallace and Shane Leahy, that destroyed all opponents on the way to the 1990 Munster Senior Schools Cup title. A classy centre, he served Lansdowne and Galwegians well in the AIL and was part of Warren Gatland's renowned Connacht side in the late 1990s. Was picked for Ireland A but that was as high as Reddan went.
12 Rory Moloney
Powerful and quick, with a low centre of gravity, Moloney was a star turn on the mid-to-late 1980s Pres sides alongside Charlie Haly, John Carroll and Ken O'Connell. Went on to play for UCC, Old Wesley, Munster and Leinster (as well as starring for Oxford in their famous 1990 Varsity win over Cambridge) but hamstring problems got in the way of his senior career.
11 John Carroll
Gifted runner and footballer, Carroll was rated the most exciting Schools player in the country in 1986, turning out in the narrow loss to Australia Schools in January that year, but injury was a constant companion and stymied his progress in adult rugby.
10 Fergal Campion
Plenty of options at out-half with the likes of Richard Governey, Richard Ormond and Emmet Farrell to choose from, but Campion was a quality operator who steered Ireland to the Schools Triple Crown win in 1993. Became an AIL stalwart with St Mary's and Bective Rangers and, with his composure on the ball and accomplished kicking game, had a run of matches for Leinster in the late 1990s but, for a variety of reasons, the selectors went elsewhere. It was Leinster's loss.
9 Kenton Hilman
A beautiful passing and footballing scrum-half, Hilman faced stiff competition from St Mary's future senior international Conor McGuinness but injury was his biggest foe. Had the build, skills and attitude to be a major player in a problem position for Ulster and Ireland but was never really allowed a proper run at it.
1 Leo Murphy
Awesome scrummager, who reduced opposition tight-heads to tears in 1989 when he was rated the most destructive prop in Schools rugby -- forming a formidable partnership with Paul Wallace on the national side. With Wallace again alongside, Murphy gave UCC unheard of scrummaging power for a university side and was picked for the Irish Universities, Students and the U-21s. However, injuries struck and, though Murphy turned out for Sunday's Well and Highfield in the AIL, his best days were behind him.
2 Willie Burns
Richard Kernohan from Ballymena Academy was an excellent Schools hooker, as was Terenure's James Blaney, who captained the Ireland team in 1992, but Burns was a fabulous No 2. He went onto have quite a productive club career with Lansdowne but there was stiff competition at hooker.
3 Derek Dowling
(De Le Salle Churchtown)
Played tight-head on the Schools team in 1981 and 1982, which was unusual for props, who usually only got selected in their final year with the need for bulk and maturity. Dowling went on to become a mainstay with St Marys and played for Leinster but the likes of Des Fitzgerald, Jim McCoy and Peter Clohessy saw Ireland well served at tight-head in the 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s.
4 Len Dineen
Played two seasons in the Ireland Schools second-row in 1984 and 1985, hugely effective as a front-of-the-line strong man. Didn't have the height for the top level at second-row but was an excellent blindside flanker, winning the inaugural AIL winners' medal with Cork Con in 1991 and turning out regularly for Munster in the 1990s
5 Roger Wilson
Tall, rangy and athletic, Wilson played in the second-row on the Triple Crown-winning Schools side of 1990. Had the footballing skills to make him an effective back-row and excellent form for Ulster saw him make the Ireland touring party to Australia in 1994. Never made the final step, however.
6 Stephen Rooney
Not the quickest nor the most skilful footballer but Rooney was one of the most punishing tacklers to have come out of the Schools system and was an automatic selection on the Ireland team in 1988 and 1989. Went onto star for UCD, Lansdowne and won Ireland U-21 and A caps.
7 Barry Gibney
The celebrated 'what might have been?' case when Schools players come up for discussion. A fantastic open-side whose abilities were flagged very early and for whom great predictions were made. Captained the dream team of 1996 that won the Triple Crown and beat Australia in Canberra. The perfect build (think Phil Waugh) with a low centre of gravity, speed over the ground and good hands, Gibney was set to go all the way until serious injury intervened.
8 Barry Walsh
Star of Crescent's 1986 Munster Senior Cup-winning team, along with Nicky Barry, Walsh was an Andy Ripley-type No 8 with an athletic ability that saw him compete for Ireland in the decathlon at the World Championships. While Victor Costello returned to rugby after his athletics sojourn, Walsh was lost to the Irish game, which was a tremendous pity.
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