Thursday 5 December 2019

A to Z of schools rugby

Simon Zebo in action in 2007
Simon Zebo in action in 2007

A is for Ardscoil Rís who, despite having several internationals like Paul O'Connell and Dave Kilcoyne come through the school, have never won the Cup.

B is for Blackrock College, who won the inaugural title in 1887 and have since gone on to win it 67 more times.

C is for captains whose dream it will be to lift the Cup. Ross Gallagher and Barry Gibney (both Blackrock) hold a record in Leinster for having lifted the trophy twice in successive years.

D is for drop goal. Johnny Sexton slotted one over in the dying stages of the 2002 decider to claim a dramatic victory for St Mary's College. They have failed to win the Cup since.

E is for Earls (Keith), whose brilliant try for St Munchin's College in the 2006 final paved the way for his future success at international level.

F is for Fergus Slattery, who although never managed to win the Cup with Blackrock, went on to having a hugely successful career in which he represented Ireland 61 times as well as twice touring with the Lions.

G is for Garbally College, who are the kingpins in Connacht with 45 titles.

H is for Henshaw (Robbie), who in 2012 captained Marist College to their first Connacht Senior Cup title in 35 years. He made his Ireland debut the following summer.

I is for Ireland coaches, who are regularly spotted at schools games, eyeing up the future talent.

J is for Jackson (Paddy), who won back-to-back titles with Methodist College in '08 and '09.

K is for kicking kings. Johnny Sexton, Paddy Jackson and Ian Keatley have all won the Cup in their respective provinces.

L is for Leamy (Denis), who is on the coaching staff at Rockwell College, who will be bidding to retain their title this year.

M is for Murray (Conor), who was unable to force himself into the St Munchin's College starting XV when they won the Cup in 2006.

N is for Newbridge College, who won the second of their two titles 46 years ago.

O is for Omagh Academy, who lost their only ever appearance in an Ulster final in 1985.

P is for partnerships, of which many are forged at schools rugby. Peter Stringer and Ronan O'Gara, coached by Declan Kidney, were winners with PBC.

Q is for quarter-finals, which in Leinster are all live on Setanta Sports as well as the semi-finals and final.

R is for Roscrea College, who last year won the Cup for the first time in the school's history.

S is for St Patrick's Day, which is when the finals are usually held, but this year the Leinster and Munster deciders are taking place earlier to compensate for an Irish schools competition.

T is for tradition, the most long-standing being that the mother of the winning captain presents the Cup.

U is for upsets, of which there are always plenty. Kilkenny College's quarter-final win over Blackrock in 2007, when Ian Madigan missed a penalty to win the game in the 12th minute of injury time, remains one of the most famous.

V is for van der Flier (Josh), whose reputation with Wesley College saw him earn a place in the Leinster Academy and a recent call-up to Ireland's training squad.

W is for Wilson (Roger), who helped guide Royal Belfast Academical Institution to the title in 2000.

X is for the x-factor, which is always required to go all the way in the competition. Garry Ringrose provided Blackrock with it in 2013, when he played a captain's role in scoring a brilliant try as well as a crucial conversion late on.

Y is for young guns. The Senior Cup may grab most of the headlines but there are plenty of thrills and spills to be found in the Junior Cup as well.

Z is for Zebo (Simon). The Ireland and Munster star scored a sensational try in the 2007 decider to help PBC claim the title.

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