Monday 19 February 2018

St Michael's graduates making a mark for Leinster

Leinster's James Ryan is one of six graduates from St Michael’s to have captained the Ireland U-20s in recent seasons. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Leinster's James Ryan is one of six graduates from St Michael’s to have captained the Ireland U-20s in recent seasons. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

This weekend, Leinster go to play in Bloemfontein - home of the Springbok factory Grey College.

The school is renowned for producing high-calibre rugby players, so much so that yesterday it emerged that French club Montpellier have decided to invest in the school, offering scholarships and funding French on the curriculum in the hope of producing players down the line.

In Ireland, Belfast's RBAI remains the most successful producer of senior internationals while Blackrock College have long been seen as the standard-bearers in the Leinster system.

Yet, before Isa Nacewa and Jamison Gibson-Park finally joined up with their Leinster team-mates in Cape Town this week, a quirk of the make-up of the travelling squad was that a third of the 27 players here had graduated from St Michael's College.

A Blackrock man himself, Leo Cullen laughed at the thought that he was relying so heavily on players from a rival school last week but it is clear that the work that has been done on Ailesbury Road has paid huge dividends for the province.

Noel Reid blazed a trail for the school, but he has been followed by a who's who of promising players in recent years - the latest being the highly-rated Ireland second-row James Ryan who is one of six graduates from St Michael's to have captained the Ireland U-20s in recent seasons.

Beginning

Now, they are beginning to make a real mark on the senior Leinster squad.

"From the outside looking in, it's just a credit to those working within the school," Girvan Dempsey, who brought many of the current crop through when he was academy manager, said.

"There's good coaching structure, keen coaches getting players to enjoy the game and want to train and play.

"They've been fortunate enough that they've been very competitive in Schools Cup rugby in recent years, both at Junior and Senior Cup level.

"It's phenomenal, the level of success they've had in getting players into the Leinster Academy and through to the senior team."

Lock Ross Molony believes the standard of coaching he received at the school was vital to his ability to make the next step.

"From my personal experience, in fourth and fifth year I had Bernard Jackman coaching and in sixth year I had Brian O'Meara," he explained.

"There are guys in there who have experienced it themselves, who have been able to pass on what they've learnt from playing with Leinster and through schools as well.

"Learning from them and others around them creates a good environment."

Irish Independent

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