Tuesday 15 October 2019

Connacht Schools Senior Cup squads

Garbally’s John Claffey and Sam Fogarty of Marist during last year’s Connacht Senior Cup final PHOTO: LASZLO GECZO/INPHO
Garbally’s John Claffey and Sam Fogarty of Marist during last year’s Connacht Senior Cup final PHOTO: LASZLO GECZO/INPHO
Garbally’s Patrick Grehan is tackled by Rory O’Connor and Tomas De Paor of Colaiste Iognaid in last year’s final Photo: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

*Asterisk beside name indicates player from last year's squad

CBS Roscommon

MANAGEMENT: Eimhin Griffith (Head Coach), Patrick O'Farrell, Noel Galvin, Dave Purcell and Aidan Farrell (Manager).

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LAST YEAR: Finished behind semi-final qualifiers Garbally and Marist in Pool 1.

SQUAD: Michael Dunne, Aaron Lyons, Colin Walsh, Mark Purcell, Kaylem Hollian, Cian Glennon, Aodha Hession, Anthony Stewart, Mark Silva, Ryan O'Keefe, *Tim Lambe, Tom Farrell, Eric O'Doherty, Roddie McGuinness, Lorcan Maher, Ronan Lambe, *Amaury Duarte, *John McDonnell, *John Martin, *Conor Rohan (Captain), *Jack Tucker, Conor McNulty, Cian Moran and *Jack Keegan.

The school was founded in 1935 by the Christian Brothers, with Gaelic games and basketball the major sports. However, rugby is now a very real player for the 350 or so boys attending the Roscommon town school.

The 2014 and 2015 seasons represented landmark years in the short but developing rugby history, as a particularly talented cohort qualified for successive JCT finals. While the first was lost (36-22) to St Gerald's, the experience was taken on board and was followed by an emphatic (36-0) win over Colaiste Iognaid in the premier final the following year.

The seed to that success could probably be traced back a little further again and specifically to the achievement of the class of 2012 in making it through to the Junior Development Cup Final of that year, only to fall to Marist College (17-5) at that last hurdle.

This year CBS are positioned among the top six schools in the province competing for Senior League and Cup. It is a huge task but one from which Aidan Farrell as Manager and rugby organiser has not shied.

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Eimhin Griffith takes over as Head Coach this year from Lorcan Laheen, but with Noel Galvin, Patrick O'Farrell and Dave Purcell still on board to oversee what is a young but extremely enthusiastic and highly committed group of players. Pre- and post-Christmas friendlies against Munster and Leinster opposition in the guise of Castletroy, St Munchin's and Roscrea has whetted the appetite even more.

A fifth-place finish in the League included strong performances against heavyweights Garbally and the Jes as well as a richly deserved win over Summerhill in Sligo. Conor Rohan is captain and lock/No 8 on a 24-player squad (scarce resources but massive desire) that includes seven back from last year's SCT side that finished behind qualifiers Garbally (eventual winners) and Marist in Pool 1.

Mark Purcell and Cian Glennon present something of a throwback to the New Zealand five-eighth system of old, interchanging between out-half and centre. Both have represented Connacht at under-17, as have props Jack Keegan and Jack Tucker as well as halves Tim Lambe (scrum-half/out-half) and Aodha Hession (scrum-half). Vice captain Lambe has also represented Connacht at under-18, with Hession moving to another level again when lining out for Ireland against Italy in Treviso at under-18.

The link with Creggs RFC remains strong, with Hession one of many playing for school and club. Nor is the talent limited to the oval ball, with no fewer than six - Purcell, Glennon, Hession, Lambe, flanker John Martin and wing/centre Colin Walsh - involved with the county footballers at underage.

It is a tough cup road in Pool 2 this year alongside Marist and Sligo Grammar, but the philosophy is about looking after performance and letting results look after themselves. Either way, the benefit for next year will be enormous.

Colaiste Iognaid (Jes), Galway

MANAGEMENT: Bernie Kelly (Head Coach), Morgan Codyre and Steve Parkinson (Manager).

LAST YEAR: Beaten by Garbally (45-26) in final.

SQUAD: *Jack Madden, Liam Carton, Gary Lally, *Rory O'Connor, *Niall Murphy, *Dara Lenaghan, *Liam Smyth, *Niall Hanahoe, *Lloyd Solan, *Thomas Gillanders, *Cian McCale, *Ciaran Anthony, George Hill, *Eavan Kenny, *Cathal Forde (Captain), *Jack Power, *Rory O'Flynn, *Dara Hanrahan, *Luke Hurson, *David Burke, Cian Gilroy, *Eanna Fitzgerald, Luke Kelly, Cian Roche, Jamie Finnerty, *Dara Golden, Robert Shannon, McDara O'Griofa and Cian Roche.

The new millennium has been great for rugby at Colaiste Iognaid and the Jes has been great for rugby in the new millennium in the West. Ten Senior finals embracing eight wins since the turn of the century sees the Sea Road school second only to Garbally in the overall Roll of Honour.

With 14 Senior titles now in the locker, the first two decades marks the golden period of competitive rugby in the school.

So much of the credit goes to Steve Parkinson and his passion for the game and the school, extending back to his own schoolgoing time there. "We are all about the culture of rugby in the school and once a potential rugby player enters the Jes they are brought up to love the game rather than pressured to be perform," he says.

Unlike sister schools Crescent College, Limerick, Clongowes Wood College, Kildare, Belvedere College and Gonzaga College, Dublin, Colaiste Iognaid is non fee-paying but the culture of rugby remains the same, due in no small measure to Parkinson.

Bernie Kelly is again Head Coach with Morgan Codyre (Senior Cup-winning captain in 2016 and current Galwegians out-half) back on board as assistant with responsibility for the backs. Despite losing out in last year's final to a particularly strong Garbally side, Kelly and Codyre can call on the nucleus of that extended cup final squad again. Cathal Forde is captain of another highly competitive group that finished just a point behind Garbally and Marist in the round robin phase of the pre-Christmas League.

Injury took its toll and Marist showed little mercy when comprehensively taking the League semi-final (38-7). However, an overall League return of a draw, three wins and a single defeat (also to Marist 24-30) hints at a squad well capable of going the whole way.

All the walking wounded are expected to be back up and running for a cup pool that includes League winners Garbally and Summerhill.

Ireland under-18 out-half Forde is one of six players to have represented Connacht at underage this season: Forde, Dara Hanrahan and Jack Power with the under-18s; Eavan Kenny at under-19; and Gary Lally and George Hill for the province's under-17s.

The Ballinasloe school will be red-hot favourites (and with good reason) to top Pool 1, making the match with Summerhill the make-or-break tie for the Jes this time around.

Marist College, Athlone

MANAGEMENT: Tony Dolan, Damian Browne, Adrian Why (S&C), Cian O'Brien (Analysis) and Mick Loftus (Manager).

LAST YEAR: Beaten by Colaiste Iognaid (23-16) in semi-final.

SQUAD: *Darren Browne, Daniel Butler, *Roan Byrne, *Gonzalo Catarino, *Keelan Connolly, Gavin Daly, *Cian Daly, *Liam Doyle, Adam Flanagan, Koronato Kiripati, Lasha Laoshvili, *Leo McFarlane, *Killian O'Sullivan, *Sam O'Sullivan, *Jack Scouler, *John Why, *Sam Fogarty, *Mark Tallon, *Mathias O'Neill, Fergal Cunniffe, *Michael Byrne, Ruaidhri Fallon, Tom Shine, *Darragh Mulvihill, *Cathal O'Grady, Kieran Egan, James Downes and Nathaniel O'Neill.

For Steve Parkinson in Colaiste Iognaid read Mick Loftus at Marist. Junior Cup winners in 2013, 2016 and 2018, the seeds are being consistently sown. Mention the names Robbie Henshaw and Jack Carty and you get an idea of the standards now being set by the Athlone school.

Seven Junior and three Senior titles marks a school on the rise - and bear in mind that the game was only introduced to Marist College (by the late Paddy Walsh) in 1974.

If there was a golden year to date, it was 2013 - a year in which every major Connacht title made its way to Athlone. That included League and Cup doubles at Senior and Junior as well as sevens and first-year cup wins, with the latest in the Marist Henshaw rugby dynasty - Robbie - providing the icing by way of his first three senior Ireland caps.

Already this year the Juniors and Seniors have come close, with both under-16s and under-19s falling at the final hurdle in the League to Garbally at the delayed double finals in Tuam.

There was little between the schools in the round robin section of the League, with Garbally shading it on points difference but, perhaps more significantly, taking the pool clash between the two convincingly (26-0) in Ballinasloe. It leaves the reigning League and Cup champions hot pre-competition favourites and maybe for Marist that is no bad thing.

They should still prove much too strong for CBS and Sligo Grammar in Pool 2, pushing the next clash with Garbally out to the Sportsground in March if at all possible.

Former Buccaneers RFC and Connacht Youth interpro-winning coach Tony Dolan is again at the helm, with former Connacht, Northampton, Brive, Leinster and Oyonnax player Damien Browne (in the words of Manager Loftus "a brilliant acquisition") alongside.

Darren Browne is captain and one of 16 back from last year's extended cup panel. Sam O'Sullivan and Leo McFarlane were part of the Connacht clubs interpro-winning squad last summer in Limerick. Browne along with Adam Flanagan and Sam Fogarty will be playing their third successive season of Senior Cup rugby. One to watch is Ruaidhri Fallon: whether playing out-half or full-back, this St Brigid's and Roscommon underage footballer already has that Henshaw/Carty look about him.

Losing both League finals to Garbally was a psychological blow they could well have done without. However, there's only one way to make good that defeat at both levels. Roll on the Cup!

St Joseph's College, Garbally

MANAGEMENT: Kevin Tierney (Head Coach), Mike Devine, Noel Mannion and Gerry Kelly (Manager).

LAST YEAR: Winners.

SQUAD: *Seamus Egan, *Jamie Curley, *Jack Dempsey, John Claffey, *Fergus Finneran, Mark Mitchell, Matthew Devine, *Oisin McCormack, *Cian Tracey, *Odhran Dooley, *Saul O'Carroll, *Stephen Mannion, Kyle Blackweir, *Cathal Dolan, *Jack Ryan, Jack Noone, *Shane Jennings, *Patrick Grehan, *Padraig Galvin, *James Carry, *Cormac Finn, Tom Fitzpatrick, Shea Hennessy, *Sean Horkan, *Cian Silke, *John Coughlan, Matthew Kelly, Robbie Carry, Ben Daly, Joe Carry, Conor Goode, Andrew Doyle and Padraic Flanagan.

It would be wrong to suggest that rugby experienced a temporary death when then teacher and passionate Garbally rugby man Gerry Kelly (an Arsenal fan too, but we'll forgive him that) headed over to Galway to take up the post of CEO at Connacht, then taking its first tentative steps in the mysterious world of professional rugby.

It would be wrong because further finals followed in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007, resulting in wins in '02 and '07. Between that last outright success in '07 and 2012 there was no doubt that a decline had set in. The root of the temporary decline was, however, much more quantifiable. With the curtain coming down on boarding at St Joseph's College, it was inevitable the knock-on effect would be immediate and telling.

And so it came to pass. In terms of Senior Cup success, no other comes close to the Ballinasloe school. To draw a rugby parallel with the 'Rock domination in Leinster would be more than justified.

At the end of the 2011/12 season a light at the end of this dark tunnel appeared when the CEO quit his post at the Sportsground and by the start of the 2012/13 was back on board the good ship Garbally.

After a gap of five years they were back on the Cup final stage (in 2013) and have been ever present since bar 2017, when the Jes and Summerhill battled it out. And with the 2018/19 League title already secure, the quest for back-to-back cups is underway.

Kevin Devine is again Head Coach, supported by Mike Devine, Noel Mannion and Gerry Kelly in the dual role of Manager/assistant coach. They oversee a squad that includes 13 players who participated in last year's Cup final win over Colaiste Iognaid.

Connacht and Ireland representative players include back-row John Claffey (Connacht under-17), younger brother of Peter, Connacht senior squad and ex-Garbally back-row Mark Mitchell (Connacht under-17) and scrum-half Matthew Devine (Connacht under-17), son of coach and former Connacht player Mike and brother of Joseph (last year's winning joint captain) and John (captain of current Junior team).

Back-rower Oisin McCormack has represented Connacht at under-18 as well as playing for Galway in last year's All Ireland Minor final defeat to Kerry. He was also a member of the Ireland under-18 side against Italy at Treviso earlier in the season. Brother Eoin (also ex-Garbally) plays up front for Galway United in the League of Ireland.

Out-half Cian Treacy is a member of the Connacht under-18 squad, as is wing/centre/full-back Shane Jennings who has also represented the Ireland under-18 Clubs/Schools against Canada and England and was also selected in the Ireland under-18 sevens squad last season. He too represented the Ireland Clubs v Italy this season and in addition to all that was a member of the All Ireland-winning Galway hurling panel and was voted Man of the Match in the final against Kilkenny.

Hooker/centre Odhran Dooley was captain of the 2016/17 JCT and, like Oisin McCormack, played in last year's All Ireland Minor Football final defeat to Kerry. Dad Aidan shared that feeling of disappointment against the Kingdom when playing for Roscommon in the All Ireland Final defeat to Kerry in 1980.

Centre/wing Saul O'Carroll is currently a member of the Connacht under-19 squad as well as representing the Ireland under-18 Clubs/Schools against Portugal, Canada and England last season.

Wing/full-back Stephen Mannion is the son of former Connacht and Ireland No8 Noel (he of that amazing Arms Park length-of-the-pitch try) but is already making his own way to the whitewash having scored two tries as well as kicking four conversions in last year's final.

Back-rowers Kyle Blackweir and Jack Noone, centre/wing Shea Hennessy and out-half/centre Conor Goode are all members of the Connacht under-17s squad, while prop Jack Ryan is the son of former Offaly All Ireland-winning hurler John. Wing/full-back Sean Horkan was there alongside McCormack and Dooley with the Minor footballers in that final defeat to Kerry. This multi-talented squad also includes the three Carry brothers: centre James, prop/back-row Joey and prop Robbie, with the latter two twins.

Put all that together and is it any wonder Garbally are hot favourites for back-to-back doubles in League and Cup over the next few weeks?

Sligo Grammar School

MANAGEMENT: James Gavin, Jason East, Alan Brandon (S&C) and Jimmy Staunton (Manager).

LAST YEAR: Beaten by Garbally (57-0) in semi-final.

SQUAD: *Taylor Anderson, Sam Atumonyogo, *Seamus Blackwell, *Lucas Codyre, Eddie Coyle, *Matthew Earley, Isaac Ellison, Darragh Feehily, Jacob Fleming, Daniel Ford, *Hubert Gilvarry, *Matthew Harte, Mark Irwin, Nana Koranteng, *James McDonough, Mark McGlynn, Ben Millar, Sean Ndego, Sean Nee, Matthew O'Hara, Kacper Palamarczuk, *Fiachra Staunton, *Andrew Ward, *Robin Weaver, *Brian West (Captain), *James Whelan and *William Whelan.

Since the turn of the millennium, whether it is League or Cup, Sligo Grammar School is consistently there with the best of them. Like most schools, strength varies from year to year - but for consistency, the Grammar has cracked it.

There have been four finals including two wins - 2010 and 2014 - in this decade alone leaving them just two behind the Bish and four behind the Jes in the race for second behind Garbally. They are now a main player and serious contender most every year.

The seeds for that last 2014 win were undoubtedly sown through Junior Cup final appearances in 2012 and 2013; unfortunately the class of 2019 has no such base. However, a 50-50 split in the League making for a place in the last four suggests a potential they are well capable of realising.

Emphatic defeats to Garbally in both the round robin (21-7) and knockout semi-final (26-0) illustrates the magnitude of the task in a Cup pool that also includes CBS Roscommon, making that game effectively the knockout to determine who joins the Ballinasloe school in the semi-final.

Brian West is captain of a Grammar squad that includes 13 players back from the extended cup panel well beaten by Garbally in the 2018 semi. However, serious injuries to first-choice half-backs James McDonough (broken leg) and Andrew Ward (shoulder) has made life really difficult for everyone concerned. McDonough has been ruled out for the season, with Ward now three months on the sideline. Given the central role each plays and on the assumption Ward doesn't make it back it, it will be a difficult campaign for what is effectively a very young squad anyway.

Hooker Matthew Earley, wing Hubert Gilvarry and back-row forward Kacper Palmarczuk have represented Connacht at under-18, while a mid-term trip to Lisbon in late October including two wins from two against local opposition made for a timely boost to collective morale.

Realistically Garbally appear much too strong at this point in time, but a winner-take-all performance against CBS will be the realistic objective. Beyond that the semi-final, irrespective of opposition, will look after itself.

Summerhill College, Sligo

MANAGEMENT: James O'Hehir (Head Coach), Gary O'Hehir, Ross O'Boyle (DOR) and Denise McCann (Manager).

LAST YEAR: Finished behind semi-final qualifiers Colaiste Iognaid and Sligo Grammar in Pool 1.

SQUAD: *Tom Moyles, *Jamie O'Carroll, Damien Cullen, *Shaun Cawley, *Ciaran Cummins, Micheal Broaders, Jack Curran, *Donnacha Byrne (Captain), *Darragh McElhinney, Adam Higgins, *Oisin Brennan, *Luke Hogge, *Thomas Fox, Bob Reynolds, Shane Muldowney, Patryk Badowski, Jake McNiffe, Louis Scott, Sean Keaney, Jim Davis, Finn Young, Matthew Moroney, Conor McDermott, Stephen Doyle, Padraig McGowan, Cillian McMeekin and Diarmuid O'Grady.

Not since St Saran's College, Ferbane, in 2004 (although technically a Leinster school, it is so geographically isolated that they sought and got special permission to compete in the Connacht Schools Cup) has a new name been inscribed on the Connacht Schools Senior Cup.

One school has come as close as is possible over the last few years without actually lifting the trophy - Summerhill College, Sligo, who were runners-up in 2015 (to Garbally 19-18) and again in 2017 (to Colaiste Iognaid 13-7). Add to that beaten Junior Cup finalists in 2005 and 2009 and it is difficult not to feel enormous sympathy for this extremely sports-conscious school. Soccer, Gaelic football and basketball have long been the main school sports, but rugby has been very much to the fore since the new millennium.

James O'Hehir has taken over from Director of Rugby Ross O'Boyle as Head Coach, with Donnacha Byrne the captain of a squad that includes eight others back from last year: Tom Moyles, Jamie O'Carroll, Shaun Cawley, Ciaran Cummins, Darragh McElhinney, Oisin Brennan, Luke Hogge and Thomas Fox.

It was a tough pre-Christmas League campaign despite spirited performances against CBS Roscommon and of course Sligo Grammar. The Cup draw hasn't exactly helped either, with two of the top three in Pool 1. Summerhill face Garbally and the Jes in search of a place in the semi-final.

The skipper is one of three representative players, having lined out for Connacht at under-18 and under-19 and was also a member of the Ireland under-18 Club and School training squad. Micheal Broaders has played for Connacht at under-17, with Hogge on the Connacht under-18s but also part of the Ireland under-18 School Training squad.

Shane Muldowney and Jim Davis play with the Sligo under-17 footballers, while Ciaran Cummins is the younger brother of Adrian and Darragh, both of whom made it to SCT finals.

Unfortunately it's a big ask for Ciaran and Summerhill if it is to be three from three for the Cummins brothers.

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