ST MICHAEL'S COLLEGE v CASTLEKNOCK COLLEGE
Donnybrook, Sunday, 3.0
Castleknock College were able to move past the first round of the Senior Cup for the first time in four years when they knocked out Gonzaga College 11-3 last Thursday.
"There was an awful lot of pressure on us in the first round to get the monkey off our backs of not having qualified for the second round since 2006," said coach Andy Kenny.
"Gonzaga were battle-hardened. They had played competitive rugby through the Leinster League and the Vinnie Murray Cup before that game. It was a very physical game."
Blindside Conor O'Riordan will have to undergo a fitness test on Saturday to prove his fitness after a minor knee ligament injury. Shane Scott and Niall Cullen are in contention to step into that role. Ryan Hickey comes in for Joe Taylor on the bench.
Ireland U18 Schools tight-head Peter Reilly has been moved inside to hooker for his school. "I think, long-term, that is where he will play. We made that decision last November. It is his natural position," said Kenny.
Castleknock have moved pieces of the forward jigsaw around with Brendan O'Malley shifting from loose-head to tight and Aidan Noonan going from the second to the front-row. There is strength in the back-row with Peter Austin and No8 Joe O'Brien central to their game plan.
Ireland U18 Schools full-back Ross Jones has been relocated to out-half in his capacity as a game breaker, with Conor Toolan a danger from full-back.
"St Michael's are rightly going in as favourites. We saw them against Newbridge in the first round," added Kenny.
"They are a very strong side, one of the two best we've played this season along with Clongowes. We genuinely think we are in with a good shout. If we play well we are a difficult side to beat. We know how good they are."
St Michael's are likely to make just one change from the side that dismantled Newbridge College 28-7 in the first round. Tight-head David Reynolds should return to the first team, Tim O'Connell stepping aside for this one.
The Merrion Road nursery endured quite a disruptive and inconsistent campaign this season all the way into the New Year. In one way they were victims of their own success.
"We have been steadily improving at times. But we have had a very up and down pre-Cup campaign, with a lot of players taken away by Leinster and Ireland," said Robbie O'Flynn.
Castleknock will provide a stern examination. If St Michael's are able to execute their game plan, it could make for an eyecatching spectacle at Donnybrook on Sunday.
"It should be a close match," agrees O'Boyle. "The quicker the ball, the better for the style we like to play. We're not the bulkiest of teams. We like to keep the ball moving. If we can get quick ball we will be happy."
The spine of the St Michael's side is its greatest strength, with Ireland U19 Schools captain Emmet MacMahon their main leader in the second row, behind a mobile front-row.
From there, the breakaway unit is a scourge on opposition ball and a menace on it from edgy blindside Daniel Leavy across to scavenging openside Chris Kenna and the excellent Paddy Dix in between.
The half-back combination of Ireland U18 Schools scrum-half Luke McGrath and Leinster Schools out-half Cathal Marsh is designed to bring those around them into the game, especially the gifted, composed Alex Kelly at outside centre.
"We are strong all across the back-row with Daniel Leavy, Chris Kenna and Paddy Dix, and at nine (Luke McGrath), 10 and 13.
"It is hard to mark everyone. That is why we are good this year".
Verdict: St Michael's
Castleknock College (Probable): C Toolan; S Lacey, M O'Sullivan, T Farrell, M Mellot; R Jones (capt), P Byrne; A Noonan, P Reilly, B O'Malley, M Webb, L Briody, C O'Riordan, T Austin, J O'Brien.
St Michael's (Probable): C Diamond; M Corballis, A Kelly, M Craig, D Egan; C Marsh, L McGrath; K Duffy, F Barry, T O'Connell, S O'Connor, E MacMahon (capt); D Leavy, C Kenna, P Dix.