GLENSTAL Abbey reached only their second ever Munster Senior Cup final after edging out a resilient Ardscoil Ris side 21-20 in their thrilling semi-final clash played at Thomond Park on Thursday.
Glenstal will make their first final appearance in 47 years when taking on Cork heavyweights PBC in the showpiece final at Thomond Park on St Patrick’s Day at 4pm.
A blistering start, which saw the Murroe side race into a 21-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes proved crucial to Glenstal’s first final appearance since 1970.
The County Limerick side scored three excellent tries during that spell from full-back Jack O’Mahony, hooker George Downing and excellent centre Luke Fitzgerald.
However, the winners failed to score for the final hour of the game as a hugely spirited Ardscoil side, hit back strongly scoring 20 unanswered points to come within a whisker of pulling off the great escape.
Ardscoil managed two tries from prop Alex O’Callaghan and hooker Colin Slater as the large, enthusiastic attendance remained on the edge of their seats until the final whistle.
Glenstal were in front within three minutes of the start when full-back Jack O’Mahony won the race to his own chip ahead, before touching down.
Out-half Ben Healy converted and also added the extras to two further tries from George Downing on 11 minutes and centre Luke Fitzgerald three minutes later.
Ardscoil Ris, who stunned a fancied CBC side in Cork in the previous round, finally managed the score they craved after 27 minutes.
Quick-thinking scrum-half Craig Casey took a quick tap penalty, sending lock Darragh O’Grady charging his way deep inside the Glenstal ‘22. The ball was quickly recycled, with prop Alx O’Callaghan showing great strength to power over.
Casey’s excellent conversion in the blustery conditions left it 21-7 to the county Limerick side.
And Ardscoil ate further into Glenstal’s advantage on 33 minutes when out-half Evan Cusack, brother of former Munster player Declan, landed a smashing drop goal from outside of Glenstal’s ‘22.
Conditions worsened for the start of the second half with persistent rain and strong wind. Ardscoil made the ideal start when scrum-half Casey landed a penalty goal with his trusty left boot.
Glenstal Abbey were reduced to 14 players when captain Rory Clarke was sin-binned soon after, Ardscoil scrum-half Casey was sin-binned a few minutes later.
Glenstal out-half Healy saw his 41st minute penalty attempt come crashing back off an upright as the rain grew more steady.
Ardscoil pounced for their second try of the game in the 51st minute when hooker Colin Slater blocked down an attempted clearance from the Glenstal defence before touching down.
Casey’s conversion left just a single point between the sides, 21-20, with a quarter of the game remaining, setting up a grandstand finish.
An attempted drop goal from Ardscoil out-half Cusack with 12 minutes remaining was blocked down. It was the closest the North Circular Road side came to overhauling their opponents.
SCORERS: Glenstal Abbey School: Jack O’Mahony, George Downing, Luke Fitzgerald try each, Ben Healy three cons. Ardscoil Ris: Alex O’Callaghan, Colin Slater try each, Craig Casey pen, two cons, Evan Cusack drop goal.
GLENSTAL ABBEY: Jack O’Mahony; Tim Molony, Jamie Mawhinney, Luke Fitzgerald, Ronan Quinn, Ben Healy, Thanade McCoole; Sean Scanlon-Garry, George Downing, Eoin Bergin, Conan O'Sullivan, Shane Downes, Conor Booth, Mark Fleming, Rory Clarke (Captain). Replacements
from: Padraic Mulligan, Patrick Prendergast, Henry Downing, David Kelly, Mark Walsh, Andrew Walsh, Aran Egan, Declan Floyd, Eoin Callaghan, Andrew Hogan.
ARDSCOIL RIS: Darragh O’Gorman; Cian O’Rahilly, Colin Madden, Glen Clancy, Michael Gorman, Evan Cusack, Craig Casey, Alex O'Callaghan, Colin Slater, Ferdia Lyons, Darragh O'Grady, Roy Whelan, Luke Clohessy, Ian Brown, Odhran Ring. Replacements
from: Rhys Tucker, Matthew Gaule, Conor O'Brien, John Taylor, Sean Hanley, Maurice Noonan, Hugh Fenton, Cian Murphy, Brian Noonan, Lloyd Mulcahy.
REFEREE: Tommy O’Donoghue (IRFU)