It’s Semi-Finals time in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup with Clongowes Wood College facing Castleknock College and holders St Micheal’s College facing a Newbridge College side coached by PSA Academies’ Johne Murphy. We’ve asked the man himself to have a quick look at the two matchups, with four fine teams looking to book that priceless #LSSC Cup Final place in the decider in 2 weeks time. Read on below.
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We’re down to the last four of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup and what a thrill it is to still have an active involvement in proceedings. The Semi-Final draw has thrown up two intriguing clashes and hopefully, the weather will be kind to fans and playing squads alike when the two games take place live on Premier Sports next Monday & Tuesday.
This one should be a great game with Clongowes having progressed very impressively in their two wins to date (34-14 versus Terenure and 55-24 versus St Gerards), whilst Castleknock are battle-hardened after getting through two tough ties versus Roscrea (24-17) and perennial challengers Belvedere College. Both schools have rich Senior Cup histories, having 8 Cups each to their names, albeit Castleknock haven’t lifted it since 1965 and Clongowes are nearly nine years waiting for their chance (having last lifted it in 2011, beating Roscrea). The two squads are relatively evenly matched in terms of representative players, with Luke McMahon & David Wilkonson from Clongowes and Fionn Gibbons & Conor Duggan from Castleknock having all played for the Leinster Under 18s back in the Autumn.
For their part, Castlekock also have the influential Louis McDonough as captain at outhalf and he’s had a massive bearing on their progress to date, with his game management and accuracy off the tee standouts, especially when slotting a high pressure 30 metre penalty late on to topple Belvo. Another of their key men in that Quarter-Final win was openside Ciaran McCarrick, who made a big impression with a number of turnover penalties and strong carries against a physical Belvo pack. The North Dublin school have shown that they have tries in their pack, with blindside Fergus Stanley and prop Ben Griffin both having scored a brace in the previous rounds. Very well coached by a highly experienced coaching team in Adrian Flavin, Jeremy Staunton, and Peter O’Donnell, they’ll have picked apart the game of their opponents and will look to play smart rugby, moving a big, strong Clongowes team around the park to negate their power game.
Meanwhile, Clongowes have struck all the right notes so far under their head coach Pat Kenny. Former PSA Academies graduate Eoghan Cumbers has been one of several squad members who have enjoyed a fine Cup campaign to date, with other stars being smart openside Callum Dowling and their Leinster U18 out-half David Wilkinson, who really stood out as a try-scoring substitute in their comfortable St Gerards Quarter Final win. As they’ve shown in scoring 13 tries to date, Clongowes are a hard-hitting, well-drilled team, that have the 15 man game to hurt any opponents. They won’t find it easy up against a team that have really come on by leaps and bounds this year but it’s hard not to feel that the Clane side should just have the edge in what should be a real ding dong tie.
VERDICT – Clongowes to get on top late on, winning by less than 7 points
Well, the draw has done its thing and we’re ready for a massive challenge in taking on the holders after their really comprehensive defeat of a strong Gonzaga College side in the Quarter Finals. As we’ve discussed as a panel since the draw, what better way to test yourself as a rugby player than to face off against the best side around! Our JCTs set a great example for us with their win against St Michael’s earlier this week, so we’ll be looking to feed off that positive energy on Tuesday, while being under no disillusion about the challenge we face.
St Michael’s have real depth and quality in their squad, with Cup-winning experience and representative honours throughout. The key men for them in the Cup to date have been prop Jack Boyle, number eight Will Hickey and full back Chris Cosgrave, who put in an exhibition of placekicking in their win over Gonzaga. The fact that their top try scorer in the campaign so far is their hooker Lee Barron just shows the danger they pose from all quarters. They really showed off their pace and power game against a Gonzaga team that was quietly fancied to push them all the way, reinforcing that they are a very good side with very few weaknesses in their armory.
For our part, players like captain and centre Marcus Kiely, blindside Mark Dennis and winger Donal Conroy have all had fine campaigns to date but to be fair, huge credit must go to our bench against Kilkenny, who collectively came in and changed the flow of a very tight game against a fine Kilkenny team. It was great that we had the son of a player who appeared on the last team to make the Senior Cup Final (Lucas Berti Newman) come in to make a serious impact and bring us one step closer to returning to the RDS.
However, that’s all history now and we’ve got a huge task ahead of us on Tuesday. We’ll have to be at our absolute best to be in with a shot but this team and squad is growing all the time. They won’t be found wanting for commitment, hard work and attitude. Hopefully, we play our game, get the bounce of the ball and a bit of luck along the way. Whatever happens, we’re going to enjoy the occasion as these days don’t come around often and are the types of days that every player should be playing the game to experience. Hoping all the supporters, teachers, coaches, parents and players of both teams enjoy a great day and that the match lives up to the best standards of Leinster schools rugby.
VERDICT – none, hoping for a cracking game!