Seven tries, each one brilliantly executed in the course of a game that reflected the competition in the most favourable possible light, featured in St Munchin's 27-24 victory over Limerick rivals Castletroy College in the quarter-final of the Clayton Hotels Munster Schools Senior Cup at Markets Field.
While St Munchin's were the better all-round side and deserved to go forward to a semi-final meeting with PBC in two weeks time, Castletroy staged a dramatic rally in the closing stages during which they scored 14 points to reduce their arrears to three with four minutes still on the clock.
Munchin's held on to possession from there to the final whistle but that shaky finish was just one reason why head coach Ger Slattery was less than impressed with their overall performance.
“One good aspect of the game is that we travel to Pres knowing there’s 20 to 30 per cent improvement in us,” he said.
“There will have to be. We can’t afford to relax the way we did when 27-10 ahead and while there were areas where we improved on our first game against Ardscoil, there were others that just weren’t good enough.”
The one great regret after such a magnificent game is that the brilliant Castletroy scrum-half Jack Oliver made a mistake that contributed to his side’s defeat. A brilliant all-round footballer and superb tactician, the son of Greig, the former Scotland international and current Munster Elite Player Development Officer, scored his side’s two tries, both splendidly taken, along with landing three conversions and a penalty for a personal contribution of 19 points.
However, he had a pass intercepted by the St Munchin's hooker Kean Sheehy midway through the second half that stretched his side’s deficit to 27-10 and from which there was to be no way back.
Munchin's took an early lead through a maul try by hooker Jack Devany but Oliver struck almost immediately when diving over following concerted Castletroy pressure. Munchin's were back in front with a cracking try by right-winger Conor O’Shaughnessy and another following a 60m sprint down the left by James O’Brien, Alex Wood converting one. A penalty by Oliver left it 17-10 at the interval.
A second penalty by Wood, the son of former Ireland captain Keith and an out-half with a powerful left boot, pushed Munchin's 20-10 in front. Then came Sheehy’s opportunist try, converted by Wood, to leave 17 points between the sides with 15 minutes to go.
To their great credit, though, Castletroy refused to give up the fight and winger Mark Lyons and the mercurial Jack Oliver ran in tries, both converted by Oliver, to make for a very exciting finale to a highly entertaining schools cup tie.
Castletroy College – E O’Halloran; L Cunneen, S Hanrahan, J Aylward, M Lyons; M O’Hanrahan, J Oliver; R Magill, D McGinn, J McCormack, S DenDikken, J Moloney; J Toland, S Quirke, J McNamara.
Subs used – C Mulkern, O O’Shea, N Nymakazi, D McMahon, P O’Shea, R Whyte, L Heuston, J Lammond.
St Munchin's – D McDermott; C O’Shaughnessy, S McCarthy-Burbage, D Long, J O’Brien; A Wood, D O’Callaghan; K Sheehy, J Devanny, K Ryan, G Kirwan, C Finn, J Clohessy, E Hickey, L Neilan.
Subs used – K Tracey, G Harrington, S Nestor.
Referee – Joy Neville (MAR).