Sport Schools Rugby

Friday 26 April 2019

Munster Schools Senior Cup squads

Bandon Grammar School’s Tom Beare scores a try against High School CBS Clonmel during their match at Irish Independent Park this week. Photo: ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Bandon Grammar School’s Tom Beare scores a try against High School CBS Clonmel during their match at Irish Independent Park this week. Photo: ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Crescent’s Darragh Casserly. Photo: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Keith Hyland of St Munchin’s is tackled by James O’Meara of Rockwell during their match at Irish Independent Park this week. Photo: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Ardsoil Rís, Limerick

MANAGEMENT: Robbie Bourke (Head Coach), Joey Conway, Kieran Horrigan, Will Hughes (S&C), Darragh Kennedy (Physio) and Enda Gavigan (Manager).

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LAST YEAR: Beaten by PBC (67-7) in quarter-final.

SQUAD: Rory Desmond, *Stephen Clery, Jack Barry, Kevin Danaher, Alex O’Halloran, Eoghan Collins, Loughlin O’Keefe, Cian O’Reilly, Oran O’Reilly, Gearoid Power, *Will O’Callaghan (Captain), *John Salmon, Gearoid Hanrahan, *Daniel Okeke, Alex Long, *Jack Ward Murphy, *James Horrigan, *Cian Moloney, Scott Fitzgerald, Darragh Dineen, Josh Moore, Jack Moloney, John Moloney, *David O’Byrne, Killian Dineen, Liam O’Sullivan, *Oscar Czyszczon, *Ian Leonard, James White, Jack Dillon, Feidhlim Barry and Darragh McGleenon.

If Glenstal can do it, then why not Ardscoil? Prior to 2018 the current Senior Cup holders, just like the North Circular Road school, have been knocking on the door and been to the final without getting in. Indeed, the city school have been there three times (1996, 2014 and 2015) to Glenstal’s two (1970 and 2017) before the country cousins made the big breakthrough at the third attempt. 

I say it year after year but how Ardscoil manage to continue so competitively in two major team sports — rugby and hurling — is quite phenomenal, particularly in the modern age demands of close to total commitment. Five Harty Cup wins this decade alone speaks volumes of the quality of coaching and standard of hurling in this great sporting school.

Interest in this year’s Harty for the reigning Munster champions was ended by St Colman’s Fermoy in November, with the Limerick school finishing third behind St Colman’s and Nenagh CBS. What impact, if any, that might have on the upcoming rugby campaign remains to be seen.

Already this 2018/19 season represents a landmark for the school with the formation of a new rugby club – Ardscoil Old Boys (ASOB) RFC. This exciting new junior rugby club is the first to be formed in Limerick for over 40 years. The objective is simple: “To encourage the people of Limerick to take up, return to, and continue playing the sport they love.”

Given they can already boast players of the calibre of Paul O’Connell, Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne and Mike Sherry to name but some, the North Munster Gleeson League will have an exciting new club in its midst.

For now all rugby focus centres on the SCT and the upcoming clash with Castletroy in the second round (courtesy of a bye in the first). Former ASR student and current UL player Robbie Bourke is Head Coach, with fellow UL teammate Joey Conway as assistant to a squad that includes 10 back from last year’s match-day unit beaten by Pres in the quarter-final. 

Will O’Callaghan is captain and one of four along with Jack Ward Murphy, Killian Dineen and Dan Okeke to have represented Munster at under-18 level. O’Callaghan and Okeke have also represented the province at under-19, with Okeke a member of the initial Irish Schools Training Squad.

The talented No8 is unquestionably the star turn in a side well capable of making it through to the semi-final, although Castletroy will have a very different perspective when these cross-city schools come together for that crunch opening round. 

Bandon Grammar School

MANAGEMENT: Andre Human (Director of Coaching), Denis Collins, James Collins, Philip Murphy, Adam Doyle and George Bradfield.

LAST YEAR: Beaten by Glenstal (26-7) in quarter-final.

SQUAD: *Jack Crowley (Captain), *Michael Archer, *Niall Beamish, *John Beamish, *Rowan Palmer, *Harry Hall, *Joshua Brady, *Thomas Beare, *Soren Minihane, *Conor Heaney, *Bruce Matthews, *Ciaran Roberts, *Alex O’Connor, *Brian O’Donnell, *David Ogden, *David Twomey, *Dirk Jan Baaker, *Eoin Nash, *Harry Golden, *Jason Connelly, *Joshua D’Alton, *Moses Lynn, *Niall Barrett, *Sam Golden, Andrew Dale, Christopher Coomey, Jerry Coughlan, Luke Franklin, Robert O’Connor, Jack Walsh, James O’Donovan, David Collis and Craig Bateman.

For Bandon Grammar the graph continues to rise. Only eventual winners Glenstal prevented a second successive semi-final for this great County Cork school whose history and tradition in the sport goes back to the 1880s. In 2017 it was also the eventual winners (PBC) to stop their gallop. 

As I have said before, a potential giant has been woken from its slumber. And that despite the loss of Director of Rugby Regis Sonnes to the pro game after he joined a revitalised Toulouse. That Toulousian revival since Sonnes checked in is a little more than coincidental. 

Andre Human takes over as Director (of Coaching) with Denis Collins again Head Coach and early season results are most encouraging, including historic first ever wins over Munster Schools giants Crescent and CBC.

Captain Jack Crowley was a representative on the provincial under-19 team in the recent game against the touring Australians and leads a squad with over two thirds back again from last year.

High School Clonmel will make for formidable opposition in Round 1, having come through SMI Newcastle West to qualify for the main event. Had that outcome gone the other way and SMI taken the qualification play-off, it would have made for a little bit of history repeating itself given that Cecil Beamish — the father of current No 8 Niall — was on that 1974 Bandon team against the same Co Limerick opposition.

In 2018 during the transition from exempt to non-exempt status, Bandon school players were permitted to tog out with the Bandon club. No fewer than eight of the present SCT squad contributed to Bandon RFC winning the All Ireland under-18 competition. Unfortunately, between school and club it continues a difficult conundrum in all four provinces and with no simple or foolproof solution.

For Andrew Dale, sport is in the DNA. The Munster interprovincial hockey player follows in the footsteps of dad Stephen who represented Munster with Bandon in both rugby and hockey, in addition to playing hockey for Irish schools as well as making the Irish schools rugby trial.

Christopher Coomey competes in the hammer and he too is following a family trail after brother Travis, who was successful in throwing events at provincial and national level. It is not as strong a squad in depth as 2017 but the ripple effect of that campaign is still being felt in a positive way.

There is too the big incentive of a return clash with Glenstal (in the quarter-final) 12 months on — an opportunity I suspect that will prove too tempting to miss.    

Castletroy College, Limerick

MANAGEMENT: Darragh Frawley (Head Coach), Kevin Grant, Nathan Randles, Niall O’Shea, Cathal Sheridan, Brendan Colleran (S&C), Hillary Kiely (S&C), Paul Harmon (S&C), Rory O’Donnell (Physio) and Bernard King (Manager).

LAST YEAR: Beaten by Rockwell (15-7) in 1st Round play-off.

SQUAD: Andrew Shanahan, Brian Murphy, Caolan Dignam, Cian Mulkern, *Cian White, *Cillian Toland, Colm McArdle, Dave Crampton, David Mullowney, *Dean McGinn, Dylan McMahon, Eoin O’Sullivan, Evan O’Halloran, Finn Curtin, *Ronan Kiely, Hugh Brady, James Flannery, James Lammond, Jamie McNamara, *Jason Aylward, Jason McCormack, *John Moloney, John Toland, *Kieran O’Shea (Captain), Louis Cunneen, Mark Lyons, Michael O’Hanrahan, Moses Adewale, Nesta Nyamakazi, Padraig Hartnett, Paddy Hoen-Quinn, Paul Brennan, Paul O’Shea, Paul Ross, *Robert Magill, Ronan Kiely, Rory Murphy, Ross O’Brien-May, Sam Den Dikken, Sam Hanrahan, Scott Kavanagh, *Sean Madden, Sean O’Shea, Sean Quirke and Stewart Bradshaw.      

Whether the GPO 1916 or Thomond Park ’78, the historic occasion on a par with both those events for Castletroy folk will always be Dooradoyle 2008. It’s over a decade now since Diarmuid McCarthy danced his way through the CBC defence for a cup-winning try guaranteed to stand the test of time.

This was the CC equivalent of Gareth Edwards’ try – THE TRY – for the Barbarians against the All Blacks in ’73. We exaggerate, of course, but you get the drift. The Junior Cup followed out the Dublin Road within days. Both major cups rested in the trophy cabinet at Castletroy eight years after the school’s founding.

There has been another Junior Cup won since, in 2013, but what transpired in ’08 truly was the stuff of dreams. Of course the downside has been an impossibly high bar set by the trailblazers. For Captain Kieran O’Shea and the class of 2019, however clichéd, it’s about one game at a time and specifically that quarter-final clash with Ardscoil. Either way it guarantees at least one Limerick school making it through to the semi-final.

Darragh Frawley takes over from Bernard King (now Manager) as Head Coach and oversees a Castletroy squad that includes nine back from last year’s match-day panel beaten by Rockwell in the 1st round play-off.

Munster under-19 hooker O’Shea (part of the Ireland under-18 squad in 2018) is a cousin of Jerry Flannery and has no doubt picked up some handy tricks of the trade along the way. Centre Sam Hanrahan has also been involved with the Munster under-18 squad, while scrum-half Michael O’Hanrahan, although still in fifth year, was a football county finalist with Monaleen earlier this season.

The squad received a timely boost with the return to fitness of Cian White after prolonged injury, while also returning for his second year of Senior Cup rugby is lock Cillian Toland, who is a son of Brian and nephew of Liam both of Crescent and Munster fame.

Andrew Shanahan and Padraig Hartnett are both promising hurlers and have been involved with the Limerick minors in the past year. Ardscoil bring a comparable level of versatility to a tie that has all the makings of a tight decider.        

Christian Brothers College, Cork

MANAGEMENT: Tommy Crowe, Conor Quaid, Ian Dunne, David Lee, Tom Carroll, Dr Larrie Martin, Donnacha Mulcahy (S&C) and John O’Sullivan (Physio).

LAST YEAR: Beaten by Glenstal (18-17) in the final.

SQUAD: Sean Rall, Andrew Treacy, *John Willis, Corey Hanlon, *Killian Coghlan, Sean Coombes, Matthew Soans, Conor Walsh, Karl Waterman, David Kiely, Will Fielding, Matthew McCarthy, Jack Ryan, *Cian Hurley, David Shanahan, Finn Mac Fhlannachadha, Alex O’Regan, John O’Mahony, Conor Lavin, Harry McHenry, Mark McCarthy, *Cian Whooley, Niall Fitzgerald, Dermot Cremin, Mark Buckley, Edward O’Mathuna, *Dillon McAuliffe, Bobby Khan, Adam Forde, *Mark Donnelly, Ronan Blackton, *Charlie Rasmussen, James Murray, Sean Kelly, *Billy Cain, *Harry O’Riordan, *Aaron Leahy, *Mark O’Connor, James Moylan, Aidan Brien, Padraig O’Brien, *Scott Buckley (Captain), Luke McAuliffe, Tom McCarthy, Robbie Kelleher, Kevin Murphy, Alex O’Brien, Johnny Murphy, Oisin Leahy, *Ronan O’Sullivan, Jim Morrison, Jason Aherne and Patrick O’Hara.

We’re tempted to suggest we don’t know which makes for the greater motivation — to win the cup or shade Pres in the overall race for provincial superiority. To achieve both would make for the optimum outcome, of course. Losing last year’s final to Glenstal (welcomed everywhere bar Sidney Hill) represented an opportunity lost for CBC in so far as the two superpowers on Leeside still share that outright lead in the overall Roll of Honour at 29 titles apiece.

Rockwell continue in that race too. Between 2009 and 2015 the Tipperary school made it through to six finals, winning three. In four of those finals, between 2012 and 2015 inclusive, we had the unusual spectacle of Munster Senior Cup finals minus a PBC or CBC presence.

Normal order has been restored with Christians contesting the 2016 and 2018 finals (winning the former) and Pres taking the one in between when beating Glenstal in that 2017 final. Hence the trans-Lee score remains deadlocked, with Rockwell just three behind on an equally impressive 26 to date.

So where do CBC stand in 2019? Yet again Scott Buckley and the rest are at the top of the tree. The emphasis and work put in at Junior (under-16) is continuing to bear fruit in the Senior cycle. In this decade alone Christians have been to six Junior finals, including the last four, and won three.

With that foundation in place, optimism is always well placed come SCT time. Tommy Crowe is again at the helm of a mighty squad led by Buckley and including 13 back from last year’s beaten finalists. Buckley, Killian Coghlan, Mark Donnelly, Cian Hurley, John Willis, Charlie Rasmussen (a junior medal winner as far back as 2015) and Harry O’Riordan were all centrally involved in that match-day panel.

Hust prior to Christmas the beaten 2018 ‘J’ finalists made good that loss when squeezing last year’s Junior Cup winners St Munchin’s at Thomond in the Bowen Shield (under-17) final. Between under-17 and under-19 is an immensely talented group that can count on many underage Munster players including the skipper himself as well as Coghlan, Hurley, O’Riordan, Donnelly, Rasmussen, Cian Whooley, Dillon McAuliffe, Billy Cain, Aaron Leahy, Mark O’Connor and Ronan O’Sullivan.

It makes for some base and yet the draw has been cruel in the extreme. To face Crescent in a Limerick quarter-final makes for pretty much the ultimate challenge, given that the same core group in both schools (now in fifth and sixth year) contested the 2016 and 2017 Junior finals. In 2016 it went to a replay, which was taken by Crescent (17-7) after a 16-16 draw. A year later, revenge was sweet when Christians shaded it (21-19).

That is how close this rivalry is. It will take a brave or foolish man to predict the quarter-final outcome but if they are to edge back in front of Pres, then the class of ’19 will sure have to do it the hard way.

Crescent College Comprehensive, Limerick

MANAGEMENT: Ed Barry (Head Coach), Matt Brown, Eugene McGovern, Lee Nicholas and Calem McGrath (S&C).

LAST YEAR: Beaten by Glenstal (30-10) in semi-final.

SQUAD: *Maccon Casserly (Captain), *Charlie Dinneen, David Ahearne, Joe Rickard, Ben Carew, *Barry Scott, *Jake Connolly, *Cian Tuohy, Ben Davey, Luke Burke, David Doyle, Eoin Quinn, *Timothy Duggan, David Murphy, Oisin Evans, Dean O’Grady, *Joshua Fitzgerald, *Darragh Casserly, *Ronan Gallery, Jamie Cross, Cian Gorey, Ben O’Sullivan, *Jamie Hoffman, Ethan O’Sullivan, Colm Quilligan, Aodhan Herbert, Aaron Hughes, *Jack Delaney, Gary Kelly, *Jack Madden, Sean Malone, *Cian McDonagh, James McKeogh, Jordan Nash, Darragh O’Shea and *Tony O’Sullivan.

The formula outlined in relation to CBC laying the foundation in that Junior cycle from first to third year has been very much at the core of Crescent College Comprehensive and the Dooradoyle school’s re-emergence as a significant force in the Munster schools game in recent times. As highlighted here before, it’s not rocket science but it does take hard graft. Short-term investment equals long term gain.

Seven Junior finals this decade between 2010 and 2017 (including three wins) makes for a school with its priorities in place. To that add Senior Cup success in 2013 and 2014 followed by another cup final appearance in 2016, going down by the narrowest of margins (9-8) to CBC.

Five successive JCT finals between 2013 and 2017 sees CCC now a major Senior player.

Ed Barry takes over as Head Coach from Matt Brown but it smacks of an efficient system working from within, given that Brown and Eugene McGovern (another former Head Coach) are still there alongside the new main man in addition to the up-and-coming Lee Nicholas.  

Despite St Michael’s taking the main trophy in that early season Methodist College tournament, a strong Crescent showing in Belfast allied to the lifting of the Limerick City Cup since sees Crescent best placed of the Limerick schools to challenge the big Cork two.

It’s a nasty draw to start but the experience of losing out to eventual winners Glenstal at last year’s penultimate stage should benefit the 13 players still on board from that extended match-day squad. Munster under-19 representative (v Australia) Maccon Casserly is skipper of a powerful panel that includes four other Munster representatives in Jack Delaney and Jake Connolly at under-18 as well as Timothy Duggan and Jamin Hoffman at under-19. Whether wearing 10 or 12 Delaney looks the business and a very real talent in the making. Significantly he was chosen at out-half for the Ireland under-19 team against the Australian Schools at Energia Park in early December. Remember the name.

Other familiar Crescent names include Charlie Dinneen, son of Len Jnr from the Dinneen rugby dynasty beginning with granddad Len, former London Irish and Old Crescent prop and captain, as well as the voice of rugby on Limerick local radio. 

Cian Tuohy is the son of former Crescent player and stalwart Stephen, while Ronan Gallery is grandson of the famous Dan Gallery, with Jordan Nash a brother of Calvin now making his way at professional level with Munster rugby. Piece it all together and it makes for a Crescent squad that could go out to CBC at the first time of asking but equally succeed in that quarter-final — then title number 12 is a very distinct possibility.

Glenstal Abbey, Murroe

MANAGEMENT: Sean Skehan (Head Coach), Tom Hayes, Kelvin Brown, Ben Healy, Felix Ross, Lukasz Kirszenstein (S&C), Brian Collins (Physio), Fabienne Green (Physio) and Ben Swindlehurst.

LAST YEAR: Winners.

SQUAD: *John Ashe, *Emmet Aylward, *Harry Benner, *Caolan Dooley, *Marcus Esmonde, *Eoghan Fitzgerald, Conor Kennedy, *Brian Leonard, Matthew Lynch, *Scott MacKeown, Daniel John O’Mahony, *Niall Queally, Tiernan Ryan, Ruairi Woodcock, Cyprien Tampe, William Twomey, Alex O’Dwyer Gough, Cian O’Farrell, Timothy Murphy, Art Keane, *Donagh Hyland, Darragh Hanly, Denis Hayes, Brian Hirooka, Cormac Frawley, Taylor Gleeson, Conor Fleming, Peter Fahy, Maxwell Downing, Daragh Butler, Matthew Cannon, Aidan Booth, Angus Robert MacDonald, Seamus Kerrisk and Iarlaith Reilly.

They made their debut in 1945 as Glenstal Priory, losing to Rockwell on that inaugural journey, and 25 years later lost out to the same opposition in the first final of the three to date. No matter what happens from here on, however, 2018 will forever represent THE golden year in the history of Glenstal Abbey rugby. Fr Peter would be proud and for sure smiling down from above. The disappointment of 1970, and of course much more recently 2017, was washed away courtesy of that long overdue but richly deserved win over CBC in last year’s final.

Not even the most fervent Christians supporter would begrudge the Co. Limerick school this success, which has been the fulfilment of a dream following the heartbreak of defeat to Pres in horrendous weather conditions at Thomond 12 months before. 

Just how to follow that is the conundrum facing the inspirational coaching duo of Sean Skehan and Tom Hayes as the 2019 title defence begins. Bear in mind too that having lost the 2017 final, this will be an attempt at making it through to three Senior Cup finals in a row. A heady thought in very special times down Murroe way.

Garryown FC and Glenstal Head Coach Skehan picks from a squad that includes ten back from last year’s extended cup-winning panel and seven from the match-day 23, including both starting centres Harry Benner and Caolan Dooley.

Donagh Hyland, John Ashe, Niall Queally, Brian Leonard and Scott McKeown were also centrally involved in that cup final squad on that history-making day in Cork. History could well repeat itself should Bandon Grammar manage to stay afloat in Round 1 against High School Clonmel. That would make for a Glenstal/Bandon quarter-final for the second year running. For both schools the incentive of a semi-final place in 2019 is massive. The force is with Glenstal at this point, but marginally so.         

High School CBS, Clonmel

MANAGEMENT: James Hayes (joint Head Coach), Jean Lonergan (joint Head Coach), Brendan Mullan, Colm O’Loughlin, Donal Ryan and Aidan Bradshaw (Physio).

LAST YEAR: Did not qualify.

SQUAD: Michael Dillon, Liam Ryan, Conall Ryan, Mark Sheehan, Ben Lonergan, David O’Keefe (Captain), Evan Phelan, Cian Walsh, Cathal McGuigan, Conor McGrath, Aidan Hickey, Michael Cleary, Shane Fitzgibbon, John Askins, Zak Cahalane, Michael Geoghegan, Eoghan Ryan, Josh Dolan, Cormac McNamara, Josh Fahey, Thomas Shanahan, Michael O’Donnell, James Boland, Edward McIntosh, Enda O’Donnell, Jack O’Loughlin and Andy Higgins.

It takes the commitment of a special type of person to generate the enthusiasm that emanates from High School CBS. The person to whom I refer is former pupil, player, now assistant principal as well as teacher, rugby co-ordinator and assistant coach to this history-making group of 2019, Brendan Mullan.

A Cork native and great rugby man with a great rugby name, Mullan was a student at the Clonmel school in the 1990s where he was on the first High School CBS rugby team in 1991 as well as playing with Clonmel RFC before heading off to college at UCC. He eventually returned to the school in 2003 and I think it a little more than coincidental that rugby in the CBS has since made massive strides. The school caters for many sports, with rugby alongside GAA (both football and hurling) as well as soccer in terms of strength and pupil interest. It is by no means a solo mission with joint head coaches James Hayes (former representative for Munster at under-17 in rugby and under-18 for Tipp in football) and Jean Lonergan (72 Munster and 45 caps for the Irish women’s team). 

The school was founded in 1899, with notable past pupils in the oval ball code including Tom Lane (Ireland under-18s 1994), Conor Burke (with Munster in the ’90s) and most prominent of all Dave Foley of Munster and Ireland before heading for Pau in France at the start of the 2017/18 season. He continues to be a colossal role model for all young rugby players in the town and especially at the school. History now records that the three first-half tries touched down by Cathal McGuigan and Cian Walsh (twice) plus Conor McGrath’s conversion of Walsh’s first saw Scoil Mhuire agus Ide, Newcastle West, agonisingly eliminated through the side scoring the more tries in the event of a draw. It was 17-17 at the final blast of David O’Riordan’s whistle (3-2 on tries to High School) and it was agony and ecstasy for SMI and CBS respectively.

East Munster representative David O’Keefe is flanker and captain of a multi-talented sporting squad that includes full-back Zac Cahalane (Munster under-16; it’s in the DNA, with mum Sandra having played on the Irish hockey team), scrum-half Aidan Hickey (East Munster), wing John Askins (silver medallist All Ireland 400m in 2017), out-half Conor McGrath (East Munster and Tipp footballer at every age grade from under-14 to minor; and dad John won five county senior football titles in the ’90s) and prop Edward McIntosh (Munster under-18 and silver medallist in Munster Athletics shot putt).

Shane Fitzgibbon took All Ireland track and field titles at 600m and 800m following in the footsteps of mother Angela McCann, former winner of both Cork and Limerick marathons. No 8 Cian Walsh and flanker David O’Keefe have both represented East Munster.

Irrespective of the outcome against Bandon Grammar, this is a massive achievement and huge psychological step for High School Clonmel rugby. Brendan Mullan and everyone else centrally involved can take a well-earned bow.  

Presentation Brothers College, Cork

MANAGEMENT: Paul Barr, Ger Burke, Enda O’Regan (S&C), Marian Carey (S&C), Ian Lehane and Brian McMahon.

LAST YEAR: Beaten by CBC (17-15) in semi-final.

SQUAD: Brian Anthony, Louis Bruce, Ben Comiskey, Keelan Cronin, Peter Cunningham, Mark Dean, Rory Duggan, Harry Fitzgerald, Mark Fitzgibbon, Richie Foley, John Forde, Darragh French, Andrew Geaney O’Brien, Tom Gough, Michael Hand, Frank Horgan, Daniel Hurley, David Hyde, Jack Kelleher, Alex Kendellen, James Keohane, Billy Kingston, Cuchualainn Livingstone, David McCarthy, Mark McLoughlin, Darragh McSweeney, Conor Morey, Darragh Murphy, Adam O’Connor, David O’Halloran, Max O’Leary, Liam Ormond, James O’Shaughnessy, Daragh O’Sullivan, Sam O’Sullivan, Eoin Quilter, Louis Scully, Daniel Squires, Sean-Henry Squires, Alex Walsh and Jeff Holden.

With Glenstal very much the interloper in 2018, the great race at the heart of the great rivalry between the superpowers of Cork and Munster rugby was put on hold. Well, for 12 months at least. At 29 titles apiece, it’s back on – and no, we’re not forgetting Rockwell. 

Defeat in last year’s semi (15-17 to Christians) really hurt and six of that side are back on board, with two – Eoin Quilter and Louis Bruce – Senior Cup winners from 2017. Jack O’Sullivan was captain and the central figure of an outstanding Pres team that beat Glenstal Abbey (11-3) in that rain-soaked Thomond final.

PBC set high standards and place high demands from within, so I think it fair to say that by their own barometer the last seven years has represented something of a fallow period, with that 2017 success the only final appearance in seven attempts in that time.

Yet again they are served by an excellent coaching structure through Paul Barr, Ger Burke and Brian McMahon. Despite losing to a strong Michael’s squad (where Barr served his apprenticeship) early in the season, this latest Pres squad is backboned by representative players and looks at this distance one well capable of going the whole way.

Again, as with Christians, the draw hasn’t been kind, with the winner of Rockwell/St Munchin’s earmarked for the quarter-final on Leeside. Louis Bruce was a medal winner two years ago and is captain for this latest assault and there is pedigree in his DNA. The Cork Con member and representative player for Munster and Ireland at under-19 (v Australia) is grandson of the legendary Tommy Kiernan.

Bruce leads a squad littered with representative players and in most every sector. Mark Fitzgibbon, Richie Foley, David McCarthy and Mark McLoughlin are all back from last year, with Quilter, a clubmate of Bruce’s at Con and also at Munster under-18 and under-19 in recent times.

Another serious prospect emerging through the Temple Hill colours is Peter Cunningham, who is from a GAA background primarily but developing rapidly at Pres. John Forde, like Quilter, has represented Munster at under-18 and again this year at under-19 against the touring Australians. In addition Michael Hand, Daniel Hurley, Jack Kelleher, Billy Kingston and Darragh McSweeney have represented Munster at under-18, with the highly rated Muskerry prop McSweeney only under-17 but tipped for great things ahead.

Alex Kendellen has worn the Munster red at under-18 and under-19 as well as the green of Ireland at under-18 and also that green shirt in the abbreviated form of sevens. He is to this side now what Jack O’Sullivan was two years ago and another name well worth remembering.

James O’Shaughnessy is the son of former Munster and Dolphin stalwart Bernie, with Alex Walsh and Jeff Holden sons of Brian (Con player and coach and ex-Munster player and coach) and Scotty Holden (ex-Dolphin). Darragh French is the younger brother of 2017 cup-winning centre Sean, while Sam O’Sullivan is the younger brother of Jack, captain of that last Pres cup-winning side. He is the son of Munster doctor Tadgh and cousin to the Scannell brothers currently making their way in the professional game.

All of that leaves little room for doubt that Pres are serious challengers yet again. The winner of Rockwell/Munchin’s will have the advantage of a pressurised cup game before taking on the might of PBC. But irrespective of who gets through, it is difficult to look beyond Pres for that semi-final place and beyond that again. A serious proposition for 2019. 

Rockwell College, Cashel

MANAGEMENT: Kevin Leamy (Head Coach), Eamon Connolly, Denis Leamy, Jonty Rae, Jason Newton, Shane Moloney, Padraig O’Connor (S&C), Tomas Ryan (Physio) and Leanne Fogarty (Physio).

LAST YEAR: Beaten by Crescent (27-20) in quarter-final.

SQUAD: *Harry Tobin (Captain), *Tom Dowling, *Killian Lane, *James O’Meara, Dara Murphy, Dylan Foley, Cathal Ryan, Jack Heffernan, Ethan Casey, Dean Fanning, *Robert Browne, Kevin Grogan, Luke Fogarty, Brian O’Dea, Joe Dwan, Brian Flavin, *Stephen Grogan, Mikey Bergin, Brian O’Connell, *John O’Sullivan, Kevin O’Connor, Adam Maher, Eddie Daly, Josh O’Dwyer, Tom Tobin, Peter Wall, *Alan Flannery, *Dylan Farrelly, Sam Tarleton, Gavin Ryan, Michael Mulligan, *Sean Cotter, *Jack Hunt, Cian Mullane, Andrew Moloney, Ben McCarthy, Sean Allison, Harry Fitzgerald and Juan Pablo Gomez.

Five Senior Cup finals — including three wins in 2011, 2012 and 2015 — marks this decade as another golden period in Rockwell College rugby. It all began back in 1909 with an inaugural Senior Cup final appearance (beaten by CBC) but followed up in 1910 with that first outright success.

The 2001 season, with Eoin Macken as captain, was an important milestone in that it bridged a 16-year gap in which the giant had slept. Indeed, between 1970 (when beating Glenstal) and 2001 there was but one other outright success and that came in 1985 with Conor Slattery at the helm. Two cups in three decades, yet Rockwell are still battling at the head of the Roll of Honour with the big Cork two.

 And since the rugby Rock of Cashel was re-awoken, the challenge beyond the all-Cork and Cork/Limerick city rivalry has been guaranteed. Bear in mind that between them PBC, CBC and Rockwell have taken 84 of the 109 cup competitions played to date. In terms of consistency over such an extended period, it is a remarkable achievement and speaks volumes as to the commitment and dedication in all three great rugby-playing schools.

It was Crescent who put a stop to the gallop in 2018 but Kevin Leamy as Head Coach can call on 11 players back from that extended match-day cup squad beaten in the quarter-final. Harry Tobin is captain and oversees a group that includes Munster under-19 representative players in scrum-half Kevin O’Connor and wing Jack Hunt.

And while the season started slowly the 50-50 record fails to reflect momentum being built by the Leamy brothers et al of late. It’s a tough opener against a young if talented Munchin’s squad, but with Tipp footballers Eddie Daly, Alan Flannery, John O’Sullivan and Dylan Farrell to the fore, hopes are high of a tilt at Pres in the quarter-final at least.

It is a hard one to call but I expect the smart money to be on the 2015 champions over the Corbally opposition as the quest for title number 27 gets underway.   

St Munchin’s College, Limerick

MANAGEMENT: Davie Quinlan (Head Coach), Andrew O’Byrne, Stephen Chamber, Garry Quilligan, Dave O’Halloran (S&C) and Martin McMahon (Manager).

LAST YEAR: Beaten by Ardscoil (10-5) in 1st Round play-off.

SQUAD: *Aaron Deegan, Alexander Wood, *Cathal Hynes, Conor O’Brien Comerford, Conor McInerney, *Conor Nesbitt, Conor O’Shaughnessy, Conor Sheahan, *Craig Finn, Darragh Long, Darragh McDermott, Darragh Slattery, David O’Regan, Denis Bermingham, Diarmuid DeBarra, Donnchadh O’Callaghan, Dylan Higgins, Dylan Kelly, Evan Hickey, Evan Kelly, Ewan O’Brien, Graham Kirwan, Ian Cunningham, Jack Devanney, *Jamie Hamilton, *Jamie Ryan, Jason O’Reilly, Joachim Clohessy, Joey Ryall, Johnny Kelly, Josh Egan, *Josh Neill, Kean Sheehy, *Keith Hyland, Kieran Ryan, *Laurence Hogan, Liam Neilan, Louis McCormack, *Mark Crowe (Captain), Nathan Walsh, Niall McNamara, *Ronan Moloney, Scott Quilligan, Seamus McCarthy Burbage, Sean Nestor, Sean Quigley and *Tyrone O’Halloran.    

Can we start by congratulating principal David Quilter, Head Coach Davie Quinlan, Rugby organiser Eric Nelligan and everybody involved in the game from school management to the players at St Munchin’s, not on last year’s much valued Junior Cup win, but on the recent Signage initiative based upon RESPECT.

Next to the playing pitches (where Munster ’78 along with so many others have done their thing down the years) new signs have been erected. The key message, expressed in simple words makes for a simple reminder to ALL as to what this great game is, or should be all about.

‘Welcome’, ‘respect’, ‘fun’, ‘applaud’, ‘praise’ are just some of the key words signposted, but each fully reflective of the values we learnt and practiced from a young age. Back in the day they were central to taking up the ball and running and given the rugby explosion since (for better and for worse) those fundamental values and more need to be highlighted, not just by Munchin’s but by every club and every school throughout the land, bar none.

We’ll not labour the point other than to highlight the Limerick school message that bad sideline behaviour, if not addressed, will have a crushing effect on underage (youth) sport everywhere.

Back to matters immediate and that first-round draw against familiar opposition in the guise of Rockwell College. It is now seven cup campaigns since that last Senior final appearance, when losing out to the Cashel school on the narrowest of margins (6-5).

The late ’90s/early ’00s represent the golden period in Munchin’s rugby, embracing three wins from seven final appearances between 1997 and 2012. And while two of those final-day defeats were to Rockwell, there was always ’68. They talk not about that drop goal in Paris back in February but of Larry Moloney’s history-making winner (3-0) in a sea of Thomond Park mud against the same opposition. That to Munchin’s folk everywhere represented THE perfect drop goal, irrespective of the 40-plus phases required in 2018!

It was special and celebrated by an enthusiastically supported reunion of the class of ’68 (Thady Coughlan take a bow) early in this academic year, given it was 50 years on since that big breakthrough. So with five titles now in the locker courtesy of Moloney (’68), Pat Murray (’82), Michael Carroll (’02), Fergus Walsh (’04) and Ger Slattery (’06) the quest for 2019 is underway.

Mark Crowe is captain of a squad that includes 12 back from last year’s extended cup unit beaten by Ardscoil in the play-off round. It will be Crowe’s third successive Senior Cup campaign, which is a wonderful achievement in itself. Although he leads a relatively young squad (with so many of last year’s successful ‘J’ making the transition) it has been an encouraging season to date, with particularly solid performances against cup opponents Rockwell, Campbell College and most recently in the 7-7 Market’s Field draw for a share with Crescent in the (Sean) Conneely/ (Dudley) Herbert Christmas Charity Cup.

Craig Finn has represented the Munster under-18s and -19s as well as the Ireland -18s between this season and last, with Conor Sheahan also lining out for the province’s under-18s. The multi-talented Josh Egan is a member of the Tipp minor hurling panel as well as an All Ireland sprinter. Also making his way from the Junior cycle through to Senior is Alexander Wood, son of Keith. Along with fellow half-back Donnchadh O’Callaghan, these two were at the heart of that first Junior Cup success for Munchin’s in 20 years.

From little acorns do mighty oaks grow.

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