Turner's troops primed to end Belvo hat-trick dream
In all the euphoria surrounding last weekend's unprecedented success at Twickenham, we may have forgotten one small but very important segment of the rugby fraternity who might be forgiven for having mixed emotions about an occasion that will live forever in the hearts of just about every Irish supporter.
That group comprises the boys, the coaches, the parents, the teachers and indeed just about everybody associated with Blackrock College and Belvedere as they diligently prepared for what will be for many the biggest day of their sporting lives.
Enter the Beast Mark II and with it came, despite Grand Slam celebrations, the longest five-day wait ever for the boys centrally involved from both schools on either side of the River Liffey.
Well, it's finally here. The eagerly-awaited finale to the 2018 Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Cup season as Blackrock and Belvedere go head to head for the second year in a row and for the ninth time in all in the final of this premier underage competition.
Belvo are looking to make it three senior titles in a row for the first time in the school's history, having made it through to the biggest day on the schools rugby calendar for the fourth successive year.
'Rock lead the way 6-2 in terms of final-day balance but, significantly, Belvo have taken the last two, in 2005 and of course 12 months ago.
For skipper David Hawkshaw and forward leader Ruadhan Byron, it represents a tilt at history with the fit-again out-half running on in search of a third successive winner's medal in the pivotal position (an extraordinary achievement by any standard) with No 8 Byron on a similar quest albeit off the bench in that 2016 revenge win over Roscrea.
Significantly, both schools produced their best form in the semi-finals albeit in remarkably different circumstances. 'Rock were merciless in their victory over sister school St Mary's (42-15), while Belvo went to levels even they didn't think were possible when pipping St Michael's (20-19) in the final play of a remarkable match.
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Piece that all together and it makes for another fascinating encounter this afternoon as black and white meets blue and white.
Victory for 'Rock would make for a 69th title overall but for Liam Turner and the class of 2018 it would also represent that all-important first. And with James Culhane's Juniors having already taken the U-16 crown back out the Rock Road on Wednesday, an amazing 27th junior and senior double now beckons.
It's a brave man or foolish man who would call this definitively either way. It is a game riddled with uncertainty but overall form suggests 'Rock have the edge and can spoil that hat-trick dream.
To that end, I'm staying with that tentative nod towards blue and white but, in all honesty, would Phil Werahiko and Belvo want it any other way?
Belvedere - D Lacey; A O'Grady, M Grogan, S Barry, A Loughrey; D Hawkshaw (capt), T Walsh; J Gleeson, L Harmon, C Cagney; N Howard, J Murphy; G Hill, A Coleman, R Byron. Reps: J Haughey, M Galinski, J Bell, M Daly, C Scott, P Lysaght, J Meagher, J O'Grady.
Blackrock - S Madigan; L McMahon, L Turner (capt), T Maher, H Donnelly; J Tarrant, L O'Reilly; D Mescal, S Molony, T Clarkson; S O'Brien, J Stapleton; J Dixon, M McGagh, E Brennan. Reps: L Mion, C Duffy, H O'Malley, D Foley, J Burke, R Barron, G Jones, R Madigan.
Ref - N Correll (ARLB)
- Blackrock Col v Belvedere Col, Live, eir Sport, 2.0