After a thrilling opening round of Leinster Schools Senior Cup fixtures that included a comprehensive win for his own Newbridge College SCT side, PSA Academies’ Johne Murphy is back with his thoughts on some seriously tasty looking #LSSC Quarter Final ties taking place (weather permitting) between Monday 10th to Thursday 13th February. Read on below.
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So, after an action-packed opening round (where I called 5 of 7 of the fixtures right, with one abstention for obvious reasons!), it’s time for the Leinster Schools Senior Cup action to step it up a notch for four really interesting Quarter Finals this week. Despite the weather that has played havoc with weekend club fixtures up and down the country, the fantastic surface that the Energia Park now provides gives all eight teams the certainty of fixtures going ahead, which is a great start. No doubt everyone is looking to the weather forecast to figure out what impact potentially windy conditions will have but it’s the same for all the squads, so it will be the sides who can deliver strong ball retention and best manage the tempo of their respective games that will emerge with the all-important Semi-Final berths.
Belvedere College v Castleknock College, Energia Park, 3pm Monday 10th February 2020
Belvo may be the favorites for this one but Castleknock College are a very smartly coached side under ex-Connacht hooker Adrian Flavin and they’ll have taken great confidence from their opening Cup victory against a physical Cistercian College Roscrea side that pushed them all the way. Reversing the League Semi-Final result between the same two teams was no mean feat and they’ll be banking on another quick, tactically smart opening half, spearheaded by a Jeremy Staunton-coached backline, to repeat the treatment this time. For their part, Belvo just edged a young but very promising St Mary’s College team in round one, relying on their centre pairing of Jed Tormey & Daniel Hackshaw to capitalise on a typically physically combative forward showing. They’ll be hoping to iron out a few kinks for the Quarter Final, with a higher return from the kicking tee probably going to just be enough to see them get their noses in front at the finish.
VERDICT – Belvedere College by less than 7 points
Gonzaga College v St. Michael’s College, Energia Park, 3pm Tuesday 11th February 2020
This is going to be an absolute cracker and I’d imagine ‘Zaga would have been the last side that the Cup favourites would want to face at this stage, particularly after their fantastic comeback victory against a very strong Blackrock College outfit. St. Michael’s won’t have learned much about themselves from an easy first round 67-0 victory against Cup debutants Temple Carraig so they’ll effectively be starting again for this one. Gonzaga will have taken massive confidence from their win, particularly the way they managed the end game, with the ball kept in play for over 4 mins before the final try by winger Simon Wilson and nerveless conversion by out half Harry Colbert. The fact that their three tries came from the wings says something about the Ranelagh schools approach and with Colbert again orchestrating things from the pivot position, they will be asking big questions in a rematch of the 2019 Final between probably the two best teams in the competition. The fact that there was so little between the teams in a pre-Cup friendly in January also speaks volumes so this really is a very tight one to call. If I’m forced to pick, it will be the reigning holders just, with the slightest of edges due to their proven trophy-winning mentality and squad depth.
VERDICT – St. Michaels to just get home in a nailbiter
Kilkenny College v Newbridge College, Energia Park, 3pm Wednesday 12th February 2020
First of all, as a Newbridge College squad and management team, we’re delighted to have navigated the first hurdle in the Cup and be in the Quarter Finals. We took a while to get going in our opening game against a very competitive CBC Monkstown side that started really well but as a coaching team, we were very happy with the response of the side as we started to hit our straps through the second half. Hopefully, our lads can take a lot of confidence from it and can keep improving into this tie against a fine Kilkenny College team. Kilkenny will have taken their own positives from emerging on top in a thriller against the League Semi-Finalists Wesley College and in Leinster Schools out half Charlie Tector, they have a really smart footballer who made the difference in that tight opening fixture. They have a great physicality in attack and defence that will test our boys and we’re looking forward to taking on the challenge. No predictions from me here but hopefully we get the bounce of the ball in what will be tough contest.
VERDICT – Fingers crossed!
Clongowes Wood College v St. Gerard’s School, Energia Park, 3pm Thursday 13th February 2020
Clongowes made an impressive start to their campaign by comfortably beating Terenure 34-14 in the opening round. They may have been missing their injured Leinster Schools out half David Wilkinson but between flanker Calum Dowling’s two-try heroics and a 100% return from the tee by scrum-half Oisin Devitt (4 conversions and 2 penalties), they were in control throughout. They are a very pragmatic, well-coached side that play a nice brand of 15 man rugby but have the ability to up the power game and play in the right areas of the park. St Gerards got a good test of their own from Vinnie Murray qualifiers King’s Hospital, emerging in the end 20-5 winners. It may be a slight worry for them that they only added 5 points in a tight second half of that match but on the whole season’s evidence, they are an improving side that will cause the Kildare team plenty of trouble at different stages in the game. It will be tight but I do think Clongowes will have too much for Brett Emery’s team in the crucial last quarter of this one.
VERDICT – Clongowes to pull away in later stages