The joyful scenes that greeted Rockwell’s 25th Munster Senior Schools Cup victory at Thomond Park yesterday had as much to do with relief as the realisation they had secured their first back-to-back trophies in over 50 years.
It was a final of average quality, but it was one of huge intensity, with thrilling moments and close calls before a gallant St Munchin’s side finally ran out of time in their brave bid for glory.
As Rockwell set off to hail their vociferous supporters, the sight of prostate bodies on the ground was the obvious show of bitter disappointment with inches twice coming between St Munchin’s and a shock result. The Corbally outfit narrowly failed to convert the only try of this intense game and were then penalised for a double movement on the Rockwell line late in the game, just when it seemed captain Lee Nicholas had scored.
But if it’s any consolation, St Munchin’s contributed handsomely to what was a ding-dong struggle.
Rockwell could never rest on their laurels. They were made fight for every scrap of possession and were forced to hang on in the face of huge aggression.
Rockwell had a share of promising attacks too, of course, but ultimately they managed to do enough to secure victory because of their huge success in winning lineout possession and ability to protect it brilliantly through powerful use of the maul when under most territorial pressure.
Both sides took time to get to grips with a swirling wind. The opening chance fell to Rockwell, but Aidan Moynihan’s 45 metre penalty attempt barely got off the ground. Despite having plenty of possession in the opening 15 minutes, Rockwell ran into a brilliantly organised and vigorous St Munchin’s defence.
Thereafter the Corbally outfit began to impose a bit of control by playing it tight up front and utilising the kicking skills of out half Shane Airey, but they also produced the most promising break of the half from centre Dan Goggin.
Courting danger in their own territory, Rockwell received a double blow on 25 minutes when DavidJohnston, injured in a first-minute clash, had to depart, to be replaced by Ronan Maher.
Immediately after that they yielded a try when a powerful St Munchin’s maul off a lineout ended with Matthew McSweeney touching down, a try that wentunconverted when Airey’s excellent kick drifted narrowly wide.
But after threatening in the closing moments of the first half, Rockwell had the perfect start to the second when Moynihan knocked over a penalty after 90 seconds.
Game on, particularly when Steve McMahon was denied a try after a mazy 35 metre run. He might have failed to score but set up an attacking position from which his side profited through Moynihan’s second penalty after nine minutes.
Airey’s penalty strike from half way two minutes later was good, but not quite good enough.
Yet, with St Munchin’s again throwing everything at their rivals, with Goggin’s brilliant run again producing a huge territorial gain, this game was in the melting pot.
The two forward units, with Sean McCarthy, Sonny Dwyer and Darragh Mulcahy constantly to the fore, slugged it out and St Munchin’s, spurred on by the Ryan brothers and Ezra Nugent gave as good as they got. St Munchin’s came agonisingly close to scoring a 64th minute try before being penalised on the Rockwell line. They conceded another for a late charge in the middle of the pitch and those concessions allowed Rockwell lift the siege.
ROCKWELL: D Johnston, A Lynch, R Jermyn, C Kiely, S McMahon, A Moynihan, D McGagh, J McCormack, D Mulcahy, J Maxwell, S McCarthy (captain), D Foley, A Sweeney, A Butler, S O’Dwyer.
Replacements: R Maher for Johnston (25, injured), A Barron for McGagh, N Flynn for Foley (both 50), J Feehan for Sweeney (61).
ST MUNCHIN’S: C O’Donnell, E O’Keeffe, D Goggin, T O’Neill, D Morrissey, S Airey, B Nugent, E Kelly, L O’Halloran, E Ryan, G Ryan, E Nugent, M McSweeney, L Nicholas (captain), D Ryan.
Replacements: J Clancy for Morrissey, G Powell for McSweeney (both 56), D O’Byrne for E Ryan (64).
Referee: L Colgan (M.A.R).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved