Rugby Correspondent Colm Kinsella looks ahead to the Munster Schools Senior Cup and asks can a Limerick team be celebrating on March 18
LIMERICK schools will be looking to improve upon their recent records in the Avonmore Milk Munster Schools’ Senior Cup when the competition reaches the quarter-final stage at the end of the month.
Five Limerick schools are still in with a chance of wrenching the prestigious cup away from the grasp of 2011 champions, Rockwell College.
Limerick schools have won the cup on eight occasions in the past 26 years. Crescent College Comprehensive have been successful on four occasions, the most recent of which was in 1994.
St Munchin’s College, five-time winners of the Senior Cup in all, claimed the title on three occasions in the last decade. When Castletroy College won the Cup in 2008, they became the first new name to be inscribed on the trophy in 40 years.
Ardscoil Ris joined the three city schools and Glenstal Abbey in the last eight of the competition by beating Midleton College in a preliminary round qualifier at Towns Park, Midleton on Wednesday last.
The remaining sides in with a chance of tasting cup glory on St Patrick’s Day are holders Rockwell College, of Cashel, and traditional Cork heavyweights, PBC and CBC.
A change in the competition format introduced in 2009 means that the loser’s of the upcoming quarter-final, round one, ties will have a second chance to progress to the semi-finals.
Last season’s beaten semi-finalists Crescent College will enter the competition in confident mood. The Dooradoyle school, without a Senior Cup success since 1994, have been Junior Cup winners for the past two years.
The draw could have been kinder for Crescent who make the trip to Cork to face traditional cup heavyweights PBC in the opening round. However, with a backroom team which includes Tony Trehy, Niall O’Shea, Len Dinneen and Conan Doyle, the 9-time winners are sure to be well prepared for the task.
Highly promising full-back Greg O’Shea, son of former Shannon star Niall, bagged two tries in the 2010 Junior ﬁnal, and is one of Crescent’s most exciting attacking talents. O’Shea is one of four Crescent senior squad members who boast two Junior Cup medals. The three other players with two medals are talented back row forwards James Green and Cormac Blake as well as exciting out-half Gearoid Lyons, who captained the junior side to their 2011 success. Diarmuid Dee is one of the most exciting teenage rugby talents to emerge in schools’ rugby in recent times.
Victory for Crescent in their first outing would see them face the loser’s of the CBC v Ardscoil Ris tie in a knock-out quarter-final, round two, clash.
St Munchin’s College will quietly fancy their chances of doing well in this year’s Cup. Their squad includes the Ryan triplets, prop Evan, second row Gavin and back-row Darren, who are sons of former Young Munster player Ray. The triplets were members of the Munster U-19 squad this season. Two other members of that provincial squad, back-row and team captain Lee Nicholas and scrum-half Ryan Tsang are other key members of the St Munchin’s College squad. Back-row forward Ben Kilkenny, a Munster U-17 player, is a nephew of former Ireland captain, Keith Wood.
Ireland and Munster U-18 full-back Cormac O’Donnell is one of 9 ‘survivors’ from last season’s Senior Cup squad.
John Broderick, who has vast experience of coaching at this level is the side’s acting head coach/manager, while current Young Munster centre Andrew Burke is the side’s back coach, while another Clifford Park AIL star and past pupil of the school, Ger Burke is forwards’ coach.
Munchin’s, who recorded four wins from five in the city league, face local rivals Castletroy College in their opening round tie.
Opponents Castletroy College enjoyed the finest day in the Senior Cup when landing the title in 2008.
The Newtown school has assembled an impressive backroom team this year, including former Auckland Blues, Munster and UL-Bohemian prop Mike Storey who is the head coach. Storey is assisted by former Munster and UL-Bohs’ centre Barry Murphy and John Staunton, an AIL medal winner with Garryowen.
The squad boasts three Munster U-18 Schools players in hooker Ben Burns, who has also played at number seven, number eight Conor Bonfil and winger Jonathan McDonnell. Castletroy hooker Liam Cronin is a brother of Leinster and Ireland star Sean, while scrum-half Luke Clohessy is a son of former Munster and Ireland international Peter.
Ardscoil Ris, Junior Cup winners in both 2003 and 2005, will have the benefit of having played a competitive match in the Senior Cup when they travel to Cork for their opening fixture against CBC.
Ardscoil earned their place in the last eight by virtue of their 13-6 preliminary round victory over Midleton College at Towns Park.
The side is captained by talented number eight Ciaran Power, while prop Conor Glynn, and second row Patrick Kearns were members of the Munster Schools squad.
Behind the scrum, in-form full-back Ronan McKenna, exciting centre Robbie Deegan, who bagged the crucial try against Midleton and half-backs Robbie Burke and Joe Murray, are sure to be key figures in Ardsoil’s campaign.
Ardscoil haven’t enjoyed the best of luck in the premier Munster Schools’ U-19 competition in recent seasons. However, with a management team which includes the likes of Noel Davis, Gary Walsh, Fergal Lyons, Martin McPhail and Francis Broderick, the North Circular Road outfit are sure to prove difficult nuts to crack.
Glenstal Abbey are past masters at punching above their weight in the this competition.
Although their student numbers may be relative small, the Murroe side have made a significant impact in the Senior Cup in recent seasons.
Young Munster player-coach Mike Prendergast is joined by James Hickey and team manager Br Matthew Corkery in the Glenstal backroom team.
Their squad to face holders Rockwell College in their first outing on Thursday, February 1 is likely to include nine players who hold Senior Cup experience from last season.
One of those survivors from last season, Luke Bradley, is the team’s out-half and one of their most influential figures.
Number eight Ian McCarthy has played at U-19 level for Munster, while Ian Kenny and Tom Ryan have gained provincial honours at U-18 level.
The side is captained by Sean Gleeson. Winners of the Limerick City Cup, Glenstal Abbey boasted a record of six wins and a draw from their 10 fixtures.
Holders Rockwell will have to hit the ground running to get their defence off to a winning start against their East Limerick opponents.
Crescent College Comprehensive and St Munchin’s College appear the strongest of the Limerick sides going on earlier form, and it’s no surprise that bookmakers have priced the sides up at 4/1 and 5/1 respectively.
However, PBC, who top the betting market, remain the side to beat.