Hardened 'Rock can regain title
FOR only the second time in the history of the Powerade Leinster Senior Cup, sister schools St Michael's and Blackrock come head-to-head in the final at the RDS today (kick-off 4.0).
The one previous shoot-out at this stage took place in 2006 when 'Rock emerged victorious courtesy of a 14-12 scoreline. Once again they will enter as favourites but only marginally so, given the intense rivalry between these two great rugby schools.
Certainly St Michael's, as reigning champions, will carry that holder's responsibility into today's showdown as they seek a little bit of history in becoming the first team from the school to record back-to-back victories.
Indeed, the pressure of the occasion is now almost second nature, given it will be their third final in four years having lost to Clongowes in 2010 before reversing that result so impressively in 2012.
Lock Ross Molony captains a side that includes prop Denis Coulson, halves Nick McCarthy and Ross Byrne, centre Adam Leavy, full-back Cian Kelleher, as well as utility replacement Mark O'Keefe from last year's cup final squad.
For 'Rock it is four years now (2009) since Jordi Murphy, along with fellow Leinster professionals Andrew Conway and Brendan Macken, proved too strong for Terenure in that year's final.
But while outright success might have escaped them in the interim, this is a 'Rock side led by dynamic scrum-half Charlie Rock (in his third senior campaign), with balance and scoring potential throughout.
They also have in Gary Ringrose an exceptionally cool and composed goal-kicking talent who has landed 17 successful kicks out of 18 – from all angles – in the campaign to date. Mind you, in Leinster schools out-half Byrne, St Michael's are also exceptionally well served in that crucial department.
Whatever else Peter Smyth and Andrew Skehan will have hammered home to their respective charges, the need for discipline anywhere in their defending half will be paramount.
Blackrock defeated Gonzaga 44-10 and Kilkenny 22-8 before digging particularly deep to overturn an 11-point deficit against Roscrea (23-20) when reduced to 14 men in the semi-final. Dane Fitzpatrick's match-winning try at the death encapsulated the substance within this Williamstown squad.
For the defending champions it's been a particularly tough route, with hard-earned wins over Castleknock (14-3) and Clongowes (21-13) before another tight encounter when overcoming Newbridge 21-17 at the penultimate stage. They will relish this match and this opportunity now.
Much like '06 we expect there to be little in it but, following that great semi-final escape, I take 'Rock to bridge the four-year gap for title number 67.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE– J Power; Z O'Hagan, G Ringrose, S Lawton, S Coughlan; P Quirke, C Rock (capt); J Loughman, T Cooke, O Jager; D O'Connor, G Fenn; R Tyrell, D Fortune, N Timoney.
ST MICHAEL'S COLLEGE – C Kelleher; M O'Hare, A Leavy, M Gilsenan, D Green; R Byrne, N McCarthy; H Redmond, R Allen, D Coulson; R Molony (capt), J Ryan; C Cregan, A Penny, J Murphy.
REF – S Gallagher (LRR).
Blackrock v St Michael's,
Live, Setanta Ireland, 4.0