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Rolling 'Rock can burn Wood

THE holders Blackrock will be hot favourites to double-up in the Beauchamps Leinster Schools Senior and Junior Cups. It all begins on the day before St Patrick's Day.

Blackrock College v Clongowes Wood College, The RDS, Sunday 2.0


While 'Rock have been mightily impressive in carving up defences on the road to the Senior final, the fact that they have not had a severe test of mettle either opens the door for Clongowes or firmly shuts it in their faces.

Fierce local rivals St Michael's were dealt with ruthlessly and a dangerous Newbridge were ripped at the seams by coach Peter Smyth's all-court game plan.

There is a scary backbone of 'Rockies that can bring to the contest the experience of being here and doing this from the epic 23-20 defeat of St Michael's in last year's final.

It all starts with the forward pack where captain Nick Timoney has been a leader by example, backed up by the heavyweight assistance of tighthead Jeremy Loughman and athletic second-rows in David O'Connor and Jack Dwan, who is a doubt with a shoulder injury.

The back-row should be completed by excellent groundhog Conor Oliver, the former Ireland Clubs loose-forward, and Caelan Doris, the utility back five forward.

This is a complete side too. The half-backs Tristan Brady and Seán Kearns, neither the biggest, are gifted footballers given to teasing defences out of their comfort zones with the silky skills of Jack Power at thirteen the diamond of a sweet-moving three-quarter line.

There is, however, a nagging feeling that if anyone can, Clongowes can. They have the insider knowledge of Ireland Schools coach Noel McNamara to scheme an upset.

They have also not quite hit their straps as a hard-working unit blessed with a physically imposing backline and a forward eight that must take their game to a different level for this one.

Clongowes avoided the bullets fired by Kilkenny in the first round as their direct running backs, led by captain Fergal Cleary, came on strong for a comfortable victory out in a wind-chilled Maynooth.

The sense of that Clongowes' 'Corinthian spirit' has not yet been required against Belvedere (26-14) in the quarter-final, even though they had to come back from a narrow half-time deficit to eclipse St Andrew's 27-12 in their semi. When they needed another gear, it was there.

Hooker Johnny Molony has something of a talismanic presence about him, while flankers Will Connors and Josh Pim are natural competitors either side of excellent carrier Stephen McVeigh (inset). They will all need to have the game of their lives to get enough ball into the hands of a deadly three-quarter line marshalled by out-half Cleary with Cian O'Donoghue a try-scoring machine on the outside.

Verdict: Blackrock