Massey inspires magic Mary's to thrilling victory
St Mary's 10 Belvedere 7
It's 21 years since Shane Jennings captained St Mary's to the Leinster Schools Junior Cup and yesterday at Donnybrook it was Adam Mulvihill at the helm as the Rathmines' school qualified for their first final at this age level since then.
If ever the adage 'a game of two halves' applied, it was to this gripping encounter, which was balanced on a knife-edge right up to the final blast of referee John Flynn's whistle.
In the end, victory went where it was most deserved but Belvedere will rue the loss of so many first-half opportunities.
For the vast majority of the opening 30 minutes, they monopolised possession and completely dominated territory.
They held Mary's in a vice-like grip in that opening period yet, come the interval, had but a single try courtesy of No 8 Jonathan Ross to show for near total domination.
The score to break the deadlock came after 17 minutes when the Belvo skipper gobbled up an overthrown ball at the tail of an attacking line-out and raced over virtually unopposed for a richly deserved try, which Dylan O'Grady converted.
It took some exceptional Mary's tackling - most particularly from centres Barra O'Loughlin and Rob Nolan as well as full-back Max Svejdar, before he was forced off with injury following yet another body-on-the-line tackle, to keep Belvo at bay.
Down their key kicker and having been pummelled to such a degree, the second half looked extremely ominous for Mary's.
What followed was extraordinary as the Mary's pack warmed to the task and treated the large and enthusiastic crowd to a complete reversal of what had gone before.
Suddenly, it was Belvedere on the backfoot as first No 8 Adam Sloan just two minutes after the restart and then replacement prop Andrew Gibbons in 50th minute went over for tries to put Mary's ahead 10-7.
Whereas Ross, David Lambe and Senan Hayes had been the stand-out figures before the break, now Matthew Black, Daniel Leane, Hugo Massey and Sloan were the key players - all in blue and all part of an exceptional forward unit transformed.
Massey, in particular, had a towering second half and, along with Sloan, was at the heart of the turnaround.
Where either one went, the rest followed - including all three second-half forward replacements.
It was difficult not to feel for Belvo given the opportunities missed of keeping alive their hopes a successive cup double.
However, let there be no doubt that the better side over the course of the 60 minutes won.
Whether they will go on to emulate Jennings and the class of '97 is another question for another day.
For now, they are entitled to bask in the glory of a marvellous victory that will have the winners of today's second semi-final between pre-tournament favourites Blackrock and a very good Castleknock team taking nothing for granted.
St Mary's College - M Svejdar (E Feeney 28); R Moore, R Nolan, B O'Loughlin, S Czerniek; D Gilbourne, S Devereux; C Dillon (A Gibbons 41), M Black, A Mulvihill (captain); D Leane (G O'Moore 51), H Massey; W Sparrow (M Gallagher 41), J Kennedy, A Sloan.
Belvedere College - D O'Grady; S Meaney, J Maher, D Hawkshaw, E Carroll; F McCarrick, B Foy (R Keeley 54) C Russell (Z Hayden 51), D Lambe, S Hayes; J Flynn, C Doran; J Sargent, E Rutledge and J Ross (captain).
Referee - J Flynn (ARLB).