Leahy remembers glory days as Crescent aim to end drought

With his Crescent Comprehensive side a bundle of nervous energy in the dressing room before their first Munster Senior Schoolboys Cup final appearance in 20 years, captain Kelvin Leahy knew how to harness it.

Having spent a year in school at PBC Cork — Crescent’s opponents in that 1983 decider — as an eight-year-old, Leahy had a Pres jersey he knew he didn’t need. He produced it from his bag five minutes before the game, and his fired-up team-mates ripped it to shreds.

“The jersey incident was an example of the exuberance of youth,” Leahy, who went on to win a single Irish cap against the All Blacks in 1992, told the Limerick Leader this week. “You try to do something different. It didn’t need it. The lads themselves didn’t need to be motivated.”

The Crescent of 2013 won’t lack for motivation either. The 1983 success was the first of four cups over the next 11 years, but there has been a 19-year drought since.

There is also the current crop’s track record to take into consideration; having won the Junior Cup in 2010 and 2011, they will hope they can translate that into senior success.

First up in their quest is a tough ask against champions Rockwell College at Clanwilliam Park (3pm). The Tipperary school know all about trophy famines, or at least they did until recently.

They are gunning for a third successive crown having beaten PBC (9-3) and St Munchin’s (6-5) in the last two deciders, despite winning just once (1985) in three decades prior to that. But coach Mark Butler is weighing up this season’s campaign in different terms: “This is very different from a club environment; you have new players year-on-year. For this group, it’s their one and only tilt at a Senior Cup.”

Butler has a formidable coaching setup around him; long-time assistant Tom Mulcahy is again fine-tuning the Rockwell scrum and maul while recently-retired former Irish international Denis Leamy is on board too. While still at the peak of his playing powers in 2010, Leamy spoke of his pride at “having a connection” with Rockwell again in the guise of his brother Kevin, who was then the side’s coach.

Neither they nor other brother Ed ever won a senior medal; Leamy was a goal-kicking number eight in the side that were stunned by two late CBC tries in the 2000 final.

“Denis would have spoken to the Rockwell lads a few times over the years and he’s given a few talks this year,” explained Butler.

“He brings up that game in 2000 a lot; even with the Heineken Cups and the Grand Slam, that’s still the one game that sticks in his mind. When you have someone with his profile giving the lads that message, it really hits home.

A man he soldiered with in the Munster trenches for many years, the also recently-retired Mick O’Driscoll is also getting involved with his alma mater. He’ll be patrolling the sideline alongside head coach Paul Barr for PBC Cork in the first round’s other marquee tie against St Munchin’s.

Without a title since 2010 and deadlocked with Cork city rivals CBC on 28 wins at the top of the roll of honour, Pres will be desperate for success while Munchin’s have some scores to settle after a devastating one-point defeat to Rockwell in last year’s decider.

Castletroy College stunned the old guard in 2008 by announcing their arrival with a senior and junior double but have struggled to hit the same highs since.

They meet a CBC Cork side that have been making ominous waves in completing a clean sweep of Munster Schools trophies so far, most recently the Barry Cup after a 14-10 defeat of Munchin’s in last week’s decider.

The last tie sees a battle between relative minnows Glenstal and Ardscoil Rís. Both have yet to win a senior title but Ardscoil reached the last two Junior finals, suggesting a productive conveyor belt is in place.

Win or lose, all eight sides will get a second bite of the cherry thanks to a popular back door system introduced in 2009, with the winners of the first round ties getting a home quarter-final against one of the losers of the opening ties. The early mid-term means there will be three weeks between these games instead of the standard two.

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