Monday 23 October 2017

Class of '14 eager to write their own piece of history

St Gerard's have a lot to be proud of since entering the schools senior arena in 1977

Rian O'Loughlin dives over to score a try for St Gerard’s during their shock victory over Blackrock in the 2010 Leinster Senior Cup quarter-final
Rian O'Loughlin dives over to score a try for St Gerard’s during their shock victory over Blackrock in the 2010 Leinster Senior Cup quarter-final

Michael McMullan

Since our initial foray in 1977 into what must be one of the best schools sports competitions in the world, being involved in senior schools rugby, with one of the smallest schools in the competition, was never easy.

In those early days we spoke more of the cup match than of the cup campaign. It did not become a real campaign until 1983 when we achieved our first ever victory in a senior cup match (6-3 v St Paul's at Jones' Road, it took seven long years to achieve our first victory at this level, that's how tough it was) but 'tall oaks from little acorns grow' and it is our proud boast that we have never failed to make it into the main competition since the new structure embracing the McMullen Cup feeding into the Vinnie Murray Cup and eventually through to the Senior Cup came into being.

The school has come a long way. We won our first senior trophy – the Leinster senior plate – on March 21, 1982 with a team coached by John Carlos and Fergus Nolan (ex Greystones and St Mary's College). To win that plate we had to defeat St Mary's, Wesley and Gonzaga before finally beating St Michael's courtesy of an Ivan Power try in the final minutes at Donnybrook.

Conor Jennings became our first schools international in 1978. By the time William Moreton became the first Gerard's back to play for Leinster (1987) forwards Jennings ('78), Ian Duffy (1980), Cian de Buitlear (1985) and Ciaran McNamee (1985) had all donned the Leinster jersey in the previous 10 years. Ian also toured Australia ('80) as a member of the Irish schools.

In 1990 Mark Reilly played for Leinster schools. And in 1994 Ross Doyle's team reached the quarter-final of the cup (losing in the final minutes to Castleknock in a snowstorm. The captain went on to acquire an AIL winners medal with St Mary's RFC on the same day Eoin Costigan won the equivalent honour in the Spanish championship!)

In 1995 David Nolan (Fergie's son) toured Australia with the all-conquering Leinster schoolboys before going on to be selected for the Irish schoolboy XV. In 2002 we made it to the quarter-finals for the third time before losing out again to Castleknock. In 2003 Shane Canavan became our latest Leinster cap. In 2004 Tony O'Kane's team won the Vinnie Murray Cup with Tony himself going on to represent the Ireland schoolboys. Zach Desmond was selected for Leinster.

By now we are well into what I like to see as our 'golden age'. In 2005 we made it into the league final (versus Gonzaga) and cup semi-final (versus Blackrock) in Lansdowne Road. Coach to that Blackrock team, including such talented young prospects as Luke Fitzgerald, Vasya Artemyev and Niall Morris, was Tom Geraghty, now well ensconced as headmaster at St Gerard's.

In 2006 Kyle Tonetti and Burschi Wojnar became Ireland U-19 players while Cailbhe Doherty represented Leinster Schools and Max Duffy represented Canada Schools in 2007.

Between 2009 and 2011 we became a three-in-a-row school when winning the Leinster Senior League title in each of those years. Joe McDonnell was the senior coach for our breakthrough league success, with Eric Miller head coach to the 2010 and '11 winning squads.

In 2010 St Gerard's overcame both Terenure and Blackrock when reaching the cup semi-final before going on to be voted rugby school of the year at the Leinster end-of-season awards. We had come a long way! And in the same year Robbie Glynn, Jody Crosbie, Josh Glynn and Jack Conan all played for Leinster with the versatile Jack going on to play for Ireland Schools.

Since then Conor O'Rourke, Dylan Simmonds and Steve Crosbie have played for Leinster. Steve has also played for Ireland U-20s while Jack has captained Ireland at the U-20 World Cup.

From our present squad Tommy Whittle and Con Callan have played for Leinster schools with Con being called up to the national U-18 squad over the Christmas period. Forwards Charlie Kenny and Jack Ryan have figured in the extended Leinster squad while each week now a significant number of our former players are lining out in the All-Ireland League.

The squad of 2014 has a lot to live up to particularly with Daniel Power and the JCT taking the Junior League title (beating Newbridge in the final). That on the back of last year's cup semi-final breakthrough at U-16 makes for a ripple effect still spreading as rugby on the Thornhill Road goes from strength to strength.

* Former headmaster and SCT manager Michael McMullan in an interview with Tony Ward.

Irish Independent

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