Belvedere secure an 11th Leinster Schools Senior Cup triumph
Belvedere 31 Roscrea 7
For the 11th time the Leinster Schools Senior Cup has masde its way north of the Liffey to Dublin 1 as Belvedere College closed the gap to Blackrock in the overall roll of honour by way of a very comprehensive victory over reigning champions Roscrea at the RDS.
It rewards a particularly talented group of Belvedere players with a winning return they so richly deserve having lost two Junior Cup Finals and one Senior Final in successive years between 2013-15.
In pretty much perfect playing conditions, the winners announced their intent early when twice declining to kick for goal and opting instead to go up the touchline in search of the opening try. Just two minutes in it came when the consistently outstanding Hugh O'Sullivan touched down under the Roscrea posts for the first Belvo' try of five. Last year's half back partner Conor Jennings, like O'Sullivan now playing further out the line, converted and 'mission revenge' was well and truly underway.
But with no fewer than 10 cup winners from last year back on board again including six in the pack the Co Offaly school was never going to relinquish this hard won title lightly. Sparked by a Brian Diffley surge carried on by Fineen Wycherley and Dylan Murphy they laid siege for the next 10 minutes deep in Belvedere territory.
While they will rue the number of errors in contact and, perhaps in retrospect, admit to not quite protecting possession as they might, they will concede that they struggled to breach the Belvedere defence who played with real intensity and physicality in the tackle and at the breakdown. Daniel McCaffrey, skipper Brian Egan and outstanding flanker Max Kearney leading the way.
Kearney has been immense throughout this competition and in the 20th minute, having survived the Roscrea siege, it was the tearaway flanker racing some sixty metres on a solo run deep into the opposition 22. Following another few phases the same player got his reward when diving over for try number two and with Jennings again adding the extras a fourteen point lead going into the break.
Indeed they might have had another and a possible contender for try of the season only for a forward pass from the outstanding O'Sullivan to James McKeown to be correctly called back.
It was vital Roscrea scored next but much like the opening phase it was Belvo hitting overdrive with the poacher supreme in McKeown showing extraordinary grit and determination to cross at the corner just over a minute in. The mole hill had become a mountain.
With Paraic Cagney and David Hawkshaw combining sweetly at half back a flowing move in the 46th minute sent Peter Maher - as effective on the left as McKeown is on the right - racing in at the Simonscourt corner for try number four and a near unassailable 24-point lead.
The exceptional Belvo adventure didn't finish there. A brilliant piece of invention with O'Sullivan (yet again) resulted in the supporting McKeown sprinting in under the posts for Jennings to widen the gap to 31.
To their immense credit the defending champions had the final say on the scoreboard when Jack Culligan touched down for Alan Tynan to convert. Alas it was much too little and far too late as the best squad over the course of the competition did themselves justice on the day. A title richly earned and taken with aplomb.
Belvedere - H O’Sullivan; J McKeown, C Jennings, H Sexton (F Smith 67); P Maher; D Hawkshaw, P Cagney (R Byron 67); D McCaffrey (C Molloy 60) C Galvin (S Osborne 67), C Wynne-Walsh (J Robinson 60); H Fenlon (J Kenny 55), B Egan (Captain); S McNulty (J Iredale 55), M Kearney (F Flood 67), T De Jongh.
Roscrea - C Kelly (E Browne 52); D Keane, P O’Shea, S Hastings (B Hyland 46), J Murphy; A Tynan, K Kavanagh (F Crowley 27); M Milne (R Lomas 52), E Maher (D Treacy), D Murphy; F Wycherley, A Browne (A Murphy 60); B Diffley (J Culligan 35), J Canning (C Walsh 58), S Meagher (Captain).
Referee - D Blake (Leinster Referees).