IT’S 20 years this March since Crescent College stunned a hotly fancied PBC side at Thomond Park to claim the Munster Schools Senior Cup title for the fourth time in eight years and the nine time in all.
Three of the central figures in Crescent College’s successful campaign, including Munster, Ireland and Lions flanker David Wallace recall the Dooradoyle side’s dramatic Cup campaign which ended in a thrilling 13-6 final win over PBC before 3,000 enthralled spectators.
David Wallace, Number Eight:
“I would have played a bit of rugby with Cork Con until when we moved to Limerick so until U-10s or U-12s and then I played with Garryowen. To be honest, I was always a year or two ahead of myself with Cons so I was always behind the rest, maybe not physically but mentally, so I never really enjoyed it.
“Then, when I came to Garryowen, I was playing with my own age group and I seemed to enjoy it a bit more.
“I think it was because the first day Con’, I was made scrimmage against the biggest fella and I was able to beat him, so I thrown into an age grade above my own. When I was six, I was playing U-8 and then at ten, I was playing with the U-12s. I was always less mature than the guys I was playing with.”
Shane McCarthy, Scrum Half:
“I I didn’t pick up rugby until I went to Crescent College. I was more into GAA with Mungret. I started to get into rugby in school, playing a small bit with Garryowen.
“I was playing in the scrum at that stage. Our coach, the late Niall Cantrell, figured out I would have made a better scrum half. So in 1990 I tried it and in ’91 we won the Junior Cup. It worked out and I played there at Senior level. We beat CBC in the Junior Cup final.”
John Noonan , Winger:
“I started playing rugby with Crescent u-13s. I was a sub on the Junior Cup winning team in 1991.
“Did I think we could win the Senior Cup at the start of the year? In a word ‘no’. But we went on a tour to Wales in November and I think there was a realisation after it that we had a very good chance. Everyone gelled and it took off from there.”
NO QUARTER ASKED
DW: “Being in Limerick then, you just couldn’t escape schools rugby. It co-incided with Paul (Wallace) probably starting to play Irish Schools representative rugby. They won the Cup when he was in fifth year (1989). They had a good team. The second year, they had a brilliant team (1990).
“I was in primary school when he won in the first time and in first year the second time round. It captured the whole school and the fact they won it the year before was even better.
“They wore all-black jerseys for one of the games and it reminded you of the New Zealand team. It captured the imagination. And then at the same time, Richard was playing for Garryowen. He had played with Munster as well under-age.
“Crescent Senior Cup side in ’94 was backboned by fellas who had been on the Junior Cup winning side of 1991, guys I had really looked up to, thinking they were an unbelievable team.
“They had beaten Ulster schools in a competition in London Irish. I really respected the team. I was delighted to get into the team.
“There was a big brawl in our first match against St Clement’s College. That was par for the course in those Cup matches back in those days.
“They had a massive pack, probably the biggest pack going in schools rugby at the time, all 18 or 19 stone. It was a close enough game. I would know a fair few of the Clement’s team.”
SMCC: “I was playing in the scrum at that stage. Niall Cantrell figured out I would have made a better scrum half.
“So in 1990 I tried it and in ’91 we won the Junior Cup. It worked out and I played there at Senior level. We beat CBC in the Junior Cup final.
“The same team, more or less, went through to play Senior in ‘94.
“We must have played about 20 games in the lead-up to the Cup. We’d have gone to Cork a few times, they’d come up and the same with the Dublin sides.
“I remember the referee in the quarter-final with St Clement’s was very close to calling it off in the middle of the game. The weather was bitter.
“Darragh Brehon kicked a penalty, I remember, and the ball actually went back behind him for a finish. He was kicking straight into the wind. It caught the ball and we ended up having to defend from it which was unexpected.”
JN: “I scored a try that day against Clement’s in the quarter-final. I don’t think there were 30 players involved in the brawl like the newspapers had indicated. But there was at least 20 involved. I was on the wing, too pretty to get involved in any of that stuff! There was no way I was getting involved.
“As a winger it was particularly cold. There was a loose kick from the St Clement’s out-half.
“The ball went across the pitch. I picked it up and had about 20 metres to run to the tryline. It was probably my one and only contribution on the day. The ball didn’t go beyond 12 or 13 that day.”
SMCC: “The amazing thing was that although we beat Clement’s in that quarter-final, the following weekend they brought out their pack – who had done really well against ours in the game, taught us a few things – they came out and trained against us right up through to the final. Fair play to those lads! They made up extra numbers and gave us that real opposition. James Cullinane was one of the main guys out helping us and pointing out a few things. It was very helpful and unique I am sure in schools rugby at the time.”
JN: “Our training was more from the Ger Loughnane school of training. I remember the late, Niall Cantrell, who was one of the coaches, over the Christmas holidays, organising ‘Christmas pudding runs’ which were brutal to be honest.
“There was lots of throwing up and cramps, fellas hiding in the long grass. From a scientific point of view, the training wasn’t as scientific as it is today, but that is not to say we didn’t train as hard. The guys from last year were huge. If the ‘94 team played the 2013 team, they would wipe the floor with us.
“The late Niall Cantrell’s influence on the group as a whole cannot be understated. He, along with Chris Cullinan, fostered the side from under14 through to SCT.
“This involved a number of successful rugby tours to Wales and England as well as a great deal of guidance to the group and individuals along the way.”
‘LONDON IRISH BALL’
DW: “I scored a try in the semi-final win over CBC, but I honestly don’t remember anything about it.
“One of the memories which has stayed with me from 1994 was Don Reddan, Eoin Reddan’s father, used to come out to us and you’d see his big Opel Omega drive in. And at the end of training, at the end of a long, hard session, your head would drop because you know what was in store after the session.
“Any time his car pulled up, he would walk onto the pitch and issue the immortal line ‘On the Line’. That would stick with me. We were going to get beasted. The fitness levels back then were brilliant. That stuck with me for the rest of my career.
SMCC: “Playing Christians in Cork in the semi-final was a challenge. We went to London Irish at the end of the previous season with an U-17 side. That formed the bones of the Senior Cup team the following year. While we were over there, the games were very short. It was a 15-a-side tournament but with 15 minutes matches. We had a call Dudley Herbert came up with, ‘A London Irish Ball.’
“That was shortened line-outs, no call. The ball always went to the person. Everything was done faster. There were no calls. That turned the game for us.
“David Wallace got the winning try in that game. We didn’t give them a chance to stop at the line-outs or scrums.It was all continuous.”
JN: “It was easy to keep any hype in check ahead of the final. We were playing PBC, they were the superstars. Even though it was on in Thomond Park, you were still the underdogs. Teams are usually measured by how many players they get on the Munster Schools team. We had our share, but the team was littered with Pres’ guys. The Cork glitterate got the headlines.
“After we won, I remember Don Reddan, who was helping out with the coaching being asked where our team ranked among the schools teams he had coached before. He just replied: ‘No, not even close. There were other sides which were better.’ That kept us in check.
“Darragh Brehon and Shane O’Leary scored tries in the final. We used to have an old video of the game and we used to watch it regularly when we would go out, it would be thrown up on the TV in Charlie Chaplin’s or whatever. We’d watch it. The final went by like a blur.”
DW: “The final against PBC was a fantastic game of rugby. We played very well on the day. Pres had a strong side, a host of players, who went on to play Irish Schools. The sense of achievement afterwards was great.
“Even after winning Heineken Cups and whatever, I would still put winning the Senior Cup up there in terms of memories. It certainly is a great thing to win a schools cup.”