Brilliant Ryan drives Michael's
St Michael's created their own little bit of history at a sun-soaked Donnybrook yesterday, when they became only the fifth school in the province to complete the much coveted age grade double, adding this title to their Senior Cup triumph.
In the most benign conditions, and after their sixth final in as many years, they got their hands on the U-16 trophy for the first time since 2002.
The sky blues were pre-match favourites but they were pushed every inch of the way by a talented and determined Newbridge side that could well have edged it.
The Kildare school had their chances, but St Michael's ultimately deserved this victory in what was an enthralling final.
For Michael's, it signalled a first ever double, a third title at this level and joy unconfined. For Newbridge, it was devastation as they were left to ponder what might have been.
The side that made the fewest mistakes over the course of the hour eventually came out on top but it was mighty close. And much like their senior brethren, the juniors were led by an inspirational captain.
Right from the off, in the first line-out against the throw, No 8 James Ryan announced his intent.
Along with lock Evan O Nuaillain and the entire front-row the ball-carrying was relentless, but so too was the Newbridge fringe tackling. It made for a compelling encounter.
For Newbridge, highly promising centre Jake Howlett was again the three-quarter that looked most likely to break the solid Michael's defence. But they had done their homework, with Newbridge's No 8 Ciaran Callan, out-half Jimmy O'Brien and Howlett the clear and obvious preordained targets.
Newbridge were first on the scoreboard courtesy of a scintillating opportunist try at the end of a lung-busting 75-metre run by Gavin Burke following a loose St Michael's attempted grubber.
That came on 17 minutes, but the exhausted wing was unable to add the extras to his own try, which he scored under the Michael's posts.
On top of an earlier penalty miss from what appeared to be within his range, it was to prove a costly miss.
Prop Rory Mulvihill crashed over for a hard-earned touchdown following a concerted period of Michael's pressure coming up to the break. Barry Fitzpatrick converted and the Ailesbury Road school were ahead 7-5 at the interval.
Just a single second-half score followed and it came nine minutes in with Fitzpatrick the instigator, following a scrum against the head, and finished by way of another accurate swing of that unerring left boot.
From then to the end Newbridge gave it their all, but the occasional forward pass or crooked throw cost them dearly.
It was sheer ecstasy for Ryan and the rest at the final whistle and after five successive years of finishing as runners-up, who could blame them? This was their day and their year.
St Michael's -- M O'Shea (K Browne 35); J Kelly, O O'Meara, M Deegan, A Brennan; R Cosgrave, D Duggan; R Mulvihill, G Barrett, R Kelleher; E O'Nuallain, J Browne; B Fitzpatrick, G Croke, J Ryan (capt).
Newbridge -- R Cleary; G Burke, J Howlett, R Buckley, J Healy; J O'Brien (capt), M Delaney; M Doyle, T O'Neill, O Larkin; P Condon (D Delahunt 44), P Morrin; O Kelly, L Menton, C Callan.
Ref -- A Lynch (Leinster)