It’s a schoolboy sporting rivalry which spans generations so expect plenty of fireworks when Christians Brothers College meet Presentation Brothers College in the Clayton Hotels Munster Senior Schools Cup final on St Patrick’s Day.
Down through the decades this pair have battled it out for provincial — and more importantly local — bragging rights. Some of Cork’s finest rugby stars have featured on this stage, but come Sunday, the class of 2019 will centre stage. The pair lie joint-top of the competition’s roll of honour with 29 titles apiece but such added pressure is not on CBC minds, according to coach Tommy Crowe.
“We don’t really burden the lads with the weight of the tradition in the school or the tradition of how many (Cups we’ve won),” he says.
“For them, this is the one they need to win, so they are focusing on that.”
Crowe’s men enter this St Patrick’s Day final in flying form after a thumping 48-12 win over Ardscoil Rís last time out having edged Crescent Comp in the quarter-final (21-19).
Pres present a more difficult challenge to Christians.
“Absolutely,” says Crowe. “We know that and the lads know that too, they’re clever enough to know the challenge that lies before them.
“All our cup matches, even back to the first day against Crescent, we had to be right on the day. That was a difficult task above in Limerick (against Crescent) and we did well to get over the line. The semi-final then, even though it had its moments, it ended up a little bit easier than we thought. We got scores at the right time which deflated Ardscoil a little bit,” he says of his side’s run to the decider.
While Pres needed a dramatic late converted try to defeated Bandon in their semi-final, CBC were mightily impressive at the same stage
“We’re very satisfied with the (semi-final) performance, it was great to see the lads produce a lot of very good and entertaining rugby but the final is going to have different problems,” says Crowe.
While the players are busy with training, they also have to cope with the excitement around the school. “We’re gathering the bodies and selling the tickets. We’re expecting a huge crowd, there’s a great atmosphere around the place,” says Crowe.
Given the fast turnover of players in schools sports, Christians have no survivors from the 2016 cup win, while just three players who started last year’s final are involved. “It’s definitely a mental exercise as well as a game of rugby like who can keep their heads in front of a boisterous crowd.
“It’s a big thing for young fellas, a Schools Cup final, that’s what you dream about. They’re all hoping they can keep their heads and make the right decisions at key moments.”
As a result, Crowe knows that the experience of the trio who started last year’s final — Mark Donnelly, John Willis, and Cian Hurley — will be key in such big moments. Four more — Harry O’Riordan, Cian Whooley, Charlie Rasmussen, and Scott Buckley — were on the bench but the matchday experience will be invaluable as the build-up to Sunday intensifies.