Pres provide greatest threat to Christian's Munster domination
Considering that over the past 40 years there have only been three years that the St Patrick's Day finale has not included one or other of Cork's big two, I think it fair to suggest that this year, yet again, either Pres (PBC) or Christians (CBC), if not both, will line out on Munster schools rugby's biggest day.
For the record, 2001 (when Rockwell beat St Munchin's), 1990 (when Crescent beat Rockwell) and 1970 (when Rockwell beat Glenstal) represent the last three final occasions without a Cork presence.
Mind you, the fact that both are again top-heavy with quality players certainly helps.
Christians are reigning champions and have contested the last three finals -- losing in '08 to Castletroy and '07 to Pres before beating Rockwell. Having travelled north to take Methodist College's (Methody) scalp just before Christmas, they are in confident mood ahead of their qualifying first-round opener with Crescent.
Again this year the Munster schools will experiment with the dual qualifying-round system. Bearing in mind that last year's eventual winners lost out to Munchin's, as indeed did runners-up Rockwell (to Castletroy) in the opening round, I think the 'back door' description definitely applies.
The Munster Branch is again to be commended for its initiative. It is not a watered-down version of the self-serving Champions League concept advocated by some to the guaranteed detriment of so many in Leinster. It is far from perfect, but its motivation is sincere and all-embracing rather than focused on the welfare of the strong.
Should Pres and Christians come through the qualifying rounds unbeaten, as I expect they will, then a semi-final showdown for the second year running awaits. At the other end, '06 winners Munchin's, if they can overcome Rockwell in the opening match, appear best equipped for a clean run through.
It could make for an all-Limerick semi (Munchin's v Crescent or Castletroy) at the top and all-Cork (CBC v PBC) down below.
That being the case, the smart money could be on a repeat of the '04 and '06 finals with Munchin's fronting up to Pres yet again.
With Pres fielding the bulk of the 2007 Junior Cup-winning squad, which beat Castletroy in the final, they appear in pole position to capitalise on that maturity now, but, as ever, it will be Christians lurking most menacingly in the long grass.