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Michael's miracle crashes on 'Rock



The old masters Blackrock, with their latest young crop, reaped the reward of their 46th Leinster Junior Cup title only after withstanding a fierce challenge from their sister school St Michael's at Donnybrook last Sunday.

The strong favourites were pushed to the very limit to resist a Trojan effort from a St Michael's unit which had been transformed by their miracle comeback against Newbridge in the semi-final.

The pre-Cup campaign rumours were that 'Rock would face their greatest tests from the killer Kildare combination of Clongowes Wood, who they dispatched 22-21 in a classic semi-final, and Leinster Junior League winners Newbridge, stunned by a St Michael's recovery (27-23) in the other semi-final.


It was that miracle match that made St Michael's twice the challenge they would otherwise have been. They simply bloomed into a team of believers and they had the proof of their semi-final escape to recall when the going got tough. And boy did it.

However, St Michael's had to be content with a fifth successive final defeat at this level.

To suggest it is a hoodoo is to recognise the 'so near and yet so far' state of play they now find themselves in. There is always next year. Oh how they must be sick to the pit of their stomachs of hearing that.

As in the semi-final, St Michael's looked on the verge of slipping out of the game. The Blackrock forwards used their physical size to dominate the close exchanges, flanker Oliver Jager surging from a scrum for their first five-pointer, converted by centre Ian Kinsley.

Where size matters, it is not everything. St Michael's had the willingness to put their bodies on the line. The previous outstanding form of their backrow of Alex Penny, Cathal McGettigan and Max Deegan was repeated here.

Still, they had to live off scraps. It would take a moment of genius or a genuine mistake to breach the gap. It came in the shape of an interception gobbled up by centre Oisin O'Meara as 'Rock attempted to move adventurously out of defence.

He had the body strength to hold off a brave bid to stop him by Johnny Redmond. Fly-half Matthew Gilsenan's conversion leveled it up.

Lo and behold, St Michael's moved ahead from Gilsenan's assured strike just before the interval to leave the crowd trembling at the break in anticipation of the fireworks thereafter.

The underdogs were on the up. They had to make it pay. Wing Will Butler was cut down just short of glory. Gilsenan couldn't direct a penalty shot on target. They just couldn't convert.

Slowly, the 'Rock forwards began to reassert themselves for their scrum-half Tristan Brady to put captain Nicholas Timoney in the danger zone where a number of his teammates drove him over in a 'one for all and all for one' surge to the line.

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Z O'Hagan; J Redmond, J O'Hehir, I Kinsley, D Coughlan; J Power, T Brady; S Lynch, G Moylan, E Holland, J Dwan, D O'Connor, O Jager, E Fanning, N Timoney (capt).

Replacements: D Fitzpatrick for Lynch (ht), H Kean for Moylan (ht), D Glynn for O'Hehir (ht); D O'Mahony for Coughlan (62); C O'Dwyer for Jager (68).

ST MICHAEL'S COLLEGE: G Duffy; K Victory, A Leavy, O O'Meara, W Butler; M Gilsenan, S Smith; O Joyce, J O'Connell, H Redmond, C Cregan, J Ryan, A Penny, C McGettigan, M Deegan.

Replacements: D Duggan for Smith (59); L Bradbury for Redmond (63).

Referee: E Kenny, Leinster Branch.