Quinlan: Schools Cup is perfect platform to develop
This season's SEAT Munster Schools Senior and Junior Cups were launched earlier this week with this year's campaign promising to showcase some of Ireland's most promising young rugby talent.
The highly-anticipated Schools Senior Cup will feature the majority of the Munster U-18 Schools squad who claimed the inter-provincial title in September for the first time in 11 years.
Former Munster player Alan Quinlan never competed in the competition but has played alongside plenty of team-mates who have come through the schools system.
"The Schools Cup is a fantastic competition," said Quinlan. "It's incredibly competitive and it's a great platform for young players to show their wares. They get great crowds, great excitement and great exposure because the standard is very high and it puts the players in a pressurised environment.
"You don't want to have too much pressure on players of that age but it is incredibly competitive and that can be a good thing. We've seen over the years the amount of young players that have come through that schools system.
"Players have gone on to have great success for Munster and Ireland so it's a great opportunity to play in a really competitive environment."
Munster's Donnacha Ryan was a vital part of the St Munchin's Senior Cup winning side back in 2002, just a year after taking up the game at 17 years of age with Nenagh Ormond.
"I found the Youths really good but just from a schools point of view, it allowed you to get more games," said Ryan. "I was two weeks overage for the youths so I went to St Munchin's for my final year of school and boarded there. John Broderick was our coach and we had a really good side, Damien Varley was in the team too and we beat PBC in the final.
"Morgan O'Gara, Ronan's brother, and Peter Stringer's younger brother (Dave) were both playing for PBC. It was a good occasion down in Musgrave Park, there was a lot of pressure at the time but it was good and enjoyable.
"We had nearly two games a week. The more exposure you get to rugby can only enhance your skills as a rugby player. And you build better relationships with the lads around you as well because, essentially, the players that you're playing with are the guys that make you in the end.
"It used to be knock-out when we were playing but now there's a bit of a backdoor system. That's great because after putting all that effort in training for the year it's kinda unfair to be knocked out after just one game so it think it's a good approach and it can only help schools rugby in the future."
Bertie Smith is the senior vice-president of the Munster Branch and is looking forward to both the Munster Senior and Junior Schools Cups getting underway.
"Last year I saw most of the games in both competitions and I was highly impressed with the way all teams were positive in the way they played the games," said Smith.
"A number of those Senior Cup players from last year have gone on to play at U-20 level with Munster, at AIL level with their clubs and we hope to see some of them appearing for Ireland U-20 in both the Six Nations Championship and the World Cup this year.
"I expect a high level of competition and that a number of the players will go on to play professionally with Munster in the footsteps of current players who displayed their talents in the Junior and Senior Cups in recent and not so recent years. I know that these players owe a lot to the grounding they got in tight and competitive School Cup games - such household names as Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony, Simon Zebo, Conor Murray and Keith Earls to name but a few."
The final first round participants were confirmed last week as Glenstal Abbey got the better of fellow Limerick side St Clement's to progress to the tournament proper.
St Clement's had beaten High School CBS and Bandon Grammar to reach the final qualifying round but fell at the final hurdle to a very strong Glenstal side. In fact Glenstal have already captured the Colm Tucker Limerick City Senior Cup after beating Crescent College Comprehensive 22-14 in the final before Christmas.
The prize for Glenstal is a first round clash with Castletroy at Rosbrien on Tuesday.
The other three first round clashes take place on Wednesday as Crescent College's Senior Cup side start their bid to win three-in-a-row with a tie against CBC at Clifford Park.
St Munchin's face Ardscoil Rís in Thomond Park and PBC take on Rockwell College at UCC's Mardyke sports ground in Cork.
Schools Senior Cup First Round:
Tuesday, January 27: Glenstal Abbey v Castletroy College , Rosbrien, 3.0;
Wednesday, January 28: Crescent College v CBC, Clifford Pk, 3.0; St Munchin's Col v Ardscoil Rís, Thomond Park, 2.0; PBC v Rockwell, Mardyke, 3.0
Schools Junior Cup Fixtures
Tuesday, February 3: PBC v Castletroy College, Mardyke, 3.0. Wed, February 4: St Munchin's Col v Ardscoil Rís, Grove Island, 2.0; CBC v St Clement's/Rockwell Col, Lansdowne CBC, 3.0; Crescent Col v Glenstal Abbey, Dooradoyle, 3:30.