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Michael's eager to slay giantkillers

If St Gerard's are the giantkillers of the Leinster Senior Cup this year then St Michael's are the giants out to kill the dream.

"It is like an old FA Cup story of a team that has beaten Liverpool, followed by (Manchester) United and now they are playing Arsenal," said Greg McWilliams, director of rugby at St Michael's.

This is not a gentle putdown for the upstarts. It is an analogy drawn to emphasise the respect St Gerard's have earned over the last month by ending the ambitions of Terenure (13-11) and Blackrock, (7-0) in the first and second rounds respectively.

McWilliams has seen enough of them to reel off a list of players who have made an impression on him.

"The No8 (Jack Conan) is a fantastic player. The loose-head prop (Christian McAlinden), the No6 (Stephen Hacket-Delaney), their unfortunate scrum-half Robbie (Glynn), a great player who is out injured, all have quality. Their 10 (Stephen Crosbie) and 12 (Jody Crosbie) are very good at what they do.

"They are the ones with a head of steam up. They're going to come at us all guns blazing. We are going to have to be able to match that. If we don't, it will be game over," he warned.

"At the end of the day, it is a fight. And you have to win that fight. They're going to come at us all guns blazing. We have players who are very physical. But we also have players who can think their way around the pitch. We need them to do that in the semi-final".

McWilliams holds a long-term plan for the development of St Michael's as one of the leading feeder schools into the professional arena at Leinster rugby.

"I rate this side very highly. I want first years in the school to look at this team as a template for how St Michael's should play the game. For a school big enough in size, we have very few professional players," he said, in the aftermath of the 41-3 quarter-final annihilation of Castleknock last Sunday.

"We need that. Gonzaga have it with Kevin McLaughlin. We need three or four of these players to go and get Academy contracts. Long term, we want to have guys coming through into international rugby."

He believes there are players on his senior side that have legitimate prospects at making the difficult transition from schools to adult professional rugby. "The obvious candidates would be nine (Luke McGrath), 10 (Cathal Marsh), 13 (Alex Kelly). But, our No6 (Daniel Leavy) is only two weeks too old for the JCT. He is a phenomenal athlete in terms of his distribution, evasion, power, pace and awareness of space."

It sounds like McWilliams wants to create a rival empire to Blackrock. He knows St Michael's will have to deal with St Gerard's first.

"I can't wait," he said. He is not the only one.


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