Towering Leavy Michael's hero
Published 19/03/2012 | 05:00
For only the second time in the Ailesbury Road school's history, the Leinster Schools Senior Cup belongs to St Michael's.
In 2007, they beat Clongowes to lift their first title and they repeated that feat at the RDS yesterday to spark wild celebrations.
Great credit must go to both schools for what was a belter of a game. The quality, discipline and organisation on show from both teams spoke volumes for the standard of coaching they receive.
As cup finals go, this was one to rank with the best. It was scoreless on the quarter mark, and just three apiece at the break, but this magnificent contest was high on intensity, with no-holds-barred commitment making it a thrilling watch.
In the end, the better team won. Right from the off Michael's played with a burning determination. Disciplined and hungry at the breakdown, it was like a blue wave had descended on the RDS, swamping anything wearing purple that moved.
No one epitomised this fiery attitude more than outstanding skipper Dan Leavy. It's one thing delivering when the momentum is with you, but when things aren't going your side's way, it takes a real leader to stand up and make the difference. Leavy proved beyond doubt that he is a true leader.
For the opening 10 minutes Clongowes dominated possession, but minus the ball the Michael's pressure was relentless. It was in this period the seeds for their success were sown.
It wasn't that Clongowes didn't want to play their free-flowing, off-loading game -- they just weren't allowed to. Were it Les Kiss coaching this Michael's defence he would have been proud.
Whether it was Jamie Lawless carrying, Cian Kelleher on the counter, Ross Byrne, who was the epitome of composure, or Leavy hoovering up almost everything, the message was clear -- a repeat of their 2010 final defeat to Clongowes was not on the agenda.
Perhaps even the match programme added to the Michael's resolve when listing Clongowes (for 2012) as the winners in the roll of honour.
It took 23 minutes for the deadlock to be broken and it came courtesy of the ice-cool Byrne, who landed a penalty from the first real goal-kicking opportunity. Clongowes wing Conor Mahony levelled in the last minute of the half to send the sides in all square at the break.
Just eight minutes into the second half, loosehead and skipper Edward Byrne took off on one of the many barnstorming runs we were to witness before the end.
Sebastien Fromm, always sharp and dangerous, provided the link for Mahony to almost scrape in at the corner, but the Michael's defence held firm.
In the 44th minute, Chris Fagan, in Tommy Bowe-like fashion, brilliantly read McQuaid's attempted pass and with finger-tip control made the intercept for a clean run to the line.
Byrne converted and at 10-3 it was the underdogs who were in control.
The next score would be crucial and it came in the 64th minute. The brilliant Leavy took the initiative in a driving run that took him all the way to the line. Byrne again added the extras.
At 17-3 the outcome seemed assured, but Clongowes refused to go down without a fight. From then to a thrilling end, with the rampaging Byrne and equally effective Peadar Timmins the catalysts, the champions dominated possession.
Byrne crossed in the last minute for Mahony to convert and Clongowes threw everything at their opponents thereafter.
But the blue wave prevailed, leading to scenes of agony and ecstasy at the final whistle and leaving no one in any doubt that the trophy was going to where it was most deserved.
St Michael's -- C Diamond; C Fagan (A Leavy 52), R O'Loughlin, R Kavanagh, C Kelleher; R Byrne, B Holland; A Barr, G Kelly, J Lawless (D Coulson 46); R Molony, A Coleman (S Harold 56); J Murphy (A Penny 67), D Leavy (Capt), D Lawlor.
Clongowes -- M McFarland; C Mahony, G McVerry, S Fromm, C O'Donoghue; M Nicolson (J Sullivan 43), C McQuaid (C Burke 60); E Byrne (Capt), B Byrne, D O'Byrne; J Paul, R Daly; J Wallace, S Kealan, P Timmins.
Ref -- P Haycock (Leinster).