Stars still lit up by magic of the Cups

Des Berry

"Who is going to win it this year?" asked Brent Pope, at the Powerade Leinster Schools Senior Cup draw at the Aviva Stadium on Monday evening.

"You can't chop the Wood," responded British & Irish Lions full-back Robert Kearney with a broad smile on his face.

It is a measure of the legacy that this competition leaves that Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, Kearney and the next bright young thing, Andrew Conway, appeared to draw out the schools that will lock horns this school year in the Senior and Junior Cups.

Ireland's greatest ever player, O'Driscoll, was not fortunate enough to earn a winner's medal while at Blackrock College. This schoolboy regret has been replaced by a store of rewards, both personal and professional.

"It doesn't exactly keep me awake at night. At the time, it is the be-all and end-all. Some of us are lucky enough to go on and have professional careers. It makes the bad days a little easier," he said.

"I can still remember Lansdowne Road in the semi-final in my final year. I was out-half that day. I missed four drop goals, the last one hitting the post in injury-time to go through to the final.

"The year before, I played in the first two (Senior) Cup games and got dropped for the semi-final and the final. I sat on the bench. There were disappointments. It is part of what drives you on later," he said.

The current state of affairs make Clongowes Wood College the hottest of favourites to complete back-to-back titles for the first time in their history.

They are rightly considered the school most likely given that they have more than half of their pack returning and both half-backs. It is a spine of experience that will be hard to overcome.


Kearney explained: "In terms of living and breathing the rugby, because you are all under one roof, there is that boarding school atmosphere.

"This competition is everything for those three-four months of the season.

"You still have that aspect of allegiance to your own school as you come up through the ranks (at Leinster).

"I am sure the banter will be there in the dressing-room about the draw."

However, Clongowes will have to travel the hard road with Blackrock almost certain to stand in their way in the last eight and, maybe, St Michael's in the semi-finals.

At the other end of the draw, Terenure College have won the last two Junior Cups and they will be a handful for anyone and everyone.

Indeed, they will fancy their chances of going all the way with a squad that is considered one year too young.

Then again, that was the theory why Clongowes wouldn't win the Leinster Senior Cup last year.