Dublin minor star Lacey inspires Belvo comeback
Belvedere 20 St Michael's 19
There have been many great Belvedere wins down through the years but I doubt any surpassed what was witnessed in the final act of an absorbing Leinster semi-final at Donnybrook yesterday.
A pushover try in injury-time by replacement Mateusz Galinski, which was converted by full-back David Lacey, the game's outstanding individual, took the Great Denmark Street School to a fourth successive final as the three-in-a-row dream moves on to the final against Blackrock in the RDS on March 18.
It is difficult not to feel for St Michael's such was the quality of their all-round game for the best part of an hour.
In that time they had built up a hard-earned 16-point lead and at 19-3 seemed home and hosed.
When right wing Mark O'Brien performed a minor miracle in keeping the ball out of touch some 10 minutes before, the flowing move that followed, involving Rob Gilsenan, the irrepressible Ryan Baird, fellow lock Matthew Healy and culminating in centre Jay Barron crossing for his second and his side's third try, the outcome looked a formality.
But Belvo had a plan and in the immediate aftermath of Barron's touchdown Phil Werahiko unleashed his bench; making five replacements in one fell swoop. What followed more than justified that tactical call.
The opening spell had been understandably cagey with David Ryan fluffing his lines when missing a penalty opportunity just 12 minutes in.
But the skipper made up for that uncharacteristic miss almost immediately, adding the extras to the lively Gilsenan's sniping try.
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A sweet, cut-out pass from John Meagher to Alastair Loughrey took the reigning champions back into the opposition 22 where a penalty infringement in front of the posts saw Lacey reduce the margin to four.
But when Jay Barron crossed and Ryan again converted, at 14-3 momentum was with the side in blue.
Despite Belvedere being dominant at the breakdown it had taken two precise tackles from Lacey, who played minor Gaelic football for Dublin in 2016 and 2017, first on Baird and then on Chris Cosgrave, to keep his side in touch.
That and Lacey's tactical kicking saw the Belvo full-back involved in just about everything.
Even allowing for the reshuffle following Barron's 50th-minute try, it was difficult to see any way back.
Oh, we of little faith. First Lacey, following a Matthew Grogan break, converted his own try on the hour for 19-10.
He followed with a penalty (19-13) and then with the most courageous kick of the day took play to the Michael's corner for Galinski and the rest of the reconstituted pack to do their thing.
Appropriately, that handed Lacey a shot to win the match. He nailed it, bringing a truly incredible end to a quite extraordinary game.
Belvedere - D Lacey; A O'Grady, M Grogan, C Mulvaney (C Barry 50), A Loughrey; J Meagher, P Lysaght (T Walsh 50); J Gleeson (M Galinski 50), L Harmon, C Cagney (J Bell 50); N Howard (C Scott 50), J Murphy; G Hill, A Coleman and R Byron (capt).
St Michael's - C Cosgrave; M O'Brien, D Ryan (capt), J Barron (E Kelly 65), A Smith (J O'Loughlin 56); D Moran, R Gilsenan; J Boyle, L Barron, C Hennessy (F Finlay 44); M Healy, R Baird; J Booth, S Penny and D O'Donovan (M Hernan 55).
REF - Paul Haycock (ARLB).