Blackrock set to edge titanic battle between two Dublin heavyweights
For the second year in a row traditional heavyweights Belvedere and Blackrock go head-to-head in the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior final at the RDS tomorrow (kick-off 2.0).
For Belvo this represents an unprecedented level of success as for the fourth year in a row they have made it through to the biggest date on the underage calendar .
Should they succeed tomorrow afternoon it will make for three U-19 titles on the bounce for the first time in the school's history.
For Blackrock it will be an attempt at title number 69, which would be an extraordinary achievement even by the Williamstown school's extraordinarily high standards.
To that end they can call on six from last year's runners-up with both centres - skipper Liam Turner and fellow midfielder Tom Maher (right wing in 2017) - starters then and in search of that elusive senior medal.
They did lift the Junior title for this age group in 2015 and 11 of that victorious side are still on board.
There is probably a psychological advantage of sorts too in that they did beat tomorrow's opposition in the semi-final (13-8) on the way to the trophy that year.
There will be little emphasis on that or indeed last year's defeat when the 2018 teams run out though.
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For 'Rock, cup form has been up and down when beating Castleknock convincingly in the opening round before suffering the fright of their lives against Gerard's in the second match with full-back Stephen Madigan providing the lifeline with a match-winning drop goal at the death.
They hit their best form in the semi-final however, when comprehensively outplaying sister school St Mary's.
For Belvo, the penultimate stage was even more dramatic again.
Trailing 19-3 to a St Michael's side that had looked the most complete in the tournament to that point, they somehow managed to turn that 16-point deficit into a one-point win (20-19) with the last play of an incredible game.
For David Hawkshaw and Ruadhan Byron, both fourth years when beating Roscrea in the 2016 final, a win today would represent an incredible third senior cup medal in as many years.
To make it through to three successive finals is a remarkable achievement yet as they and the entire Belvo squad are only too well aware there is no room for sentiment, particularly when it is 'Rock down the corridor.
Belvo were the marginal favourites 12 months ago with 'Rock carrying that unwanted mantle this time around. We'll give an unconvincing nod in the Williamstown direction.
Blackrock - S Madigan; L McMahon, L Turner (capt), T Maher, H Donnelly: J Tarrant, L O'Reilly; D Mescal, S Molony, T Clarkson; S O'Brien, J Stapleton; J Dixon, M McGagh, E Brennan.
Belvedere (possible) - D Lacey; A O'Grady, M Grogan, C Mulvaney, A Loughrey; D Hawkshaw, T Walsh; J Gleeson, L Harmon, C Cagney; N Howard, J Murphy; G Hill, A Coleman, R Byron (capt).
REF - Nigel Correll (ARLB).