Thursday 22 February 2018

Belvo and 'Rock set for mouthwatering St Patrick's Day final

Ross Deegan of Blackrock College scores his side’s third try during their semi-final victory over Gonzaga. Photo: Sportsfile
Ross Deegan of Blackrock College scores his side’s third try during their semi-final victory over Gonzaga. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It says a lot about the work that has gone on in Belvedere College in recent years that the school are preparing to play in their third consecutive Senior Cup final, but there is a stark realisation that a mammoth test lies ahead against a powerful Blackrock side.

For players like captain Max Kearney, the mouthwatering St Patrick's Day decider at the RDS will also be the third final in a row he has played in, and the impressive flanker will be eager to ensure that he leaves school with a 2-1 record.

Belvo came unstuck against the power of Cistercian College Roscrea two years ago but they bounced back last season in stunning fashion when they gained revenge against the same opponents.

There is little doubt that the two best teams in this year's tournament will compete for the Cup but 'Rock go into the game as slight favourites.

Deter

That, however, won't deter Belvo, who have impressed en route to the final, and their last-four win over Clongowes on Tuesday showed that they can get the job done in difficult conditions as well.

With both sides having played all of their games to date on Donnybrook's lightning quick 4G surface, a different sort of challenge awaits at the RDS.

Belvo head coach Phil Werahiko deserves huge credit for the work he has done in the school and after their semi-final win, his skipper Kearney was quick to praise his influence.

"It's always a pleasure to get to a final," he enthused.

"It was quite scrappy, so we have a lot of things to work on but that's exciting for me. We'll follow the process, get the win and then move on.

"We were so tired towards the end but the bench came on and were able to see out the game quite well.

"I think it's all down to our coaches, that dominant air in Belvo at the moment. Phil has done a great job bringing in new young players to each team every year and that's why we'll really come on again next year."

Werahiko himself said that the performance levels of his players is what has driven them to yet another final.

"To be back again for a third time is just something that you never think about. You just take it year by year, and to be back in the final again is a difficult task, particularly when you've got new groups coming through every year.

Expectations

"The expectations get higher and you're kind of wondering whether it's going to break but you saw that we weren't going to break (in the semi-final).

"Clongowes were very good. They were very smart in what they did. We probably didn't approach it as smart as we had in the previous game but we stuck at it and reverted back to things that we've done well before. That got us through."

'Rock are chasing a staggering 69th title, while Belvo are gunning for their 12th.

After Belvo's success last year, however, next week's final will see the two most successful schools in the province go head to head.

'Rock are back in their first final since 2014 and will have something of a point to prove after recent disappointments.

Belvo are chasing back-to-back titles for the first time since 1972 when a certain Ollie Campbell steered them to both Cup successes.

The stage is set for the latest crop to write themselves into the history books.

Irish Independent

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