Little to choose between Cork schools in derby battle

THE Avonmore Milk Munster Schools’ Senior Cup is down to the last four with a mouth-watering semi-final between CBC and PBC at Musgrave Park today (3pm).

Both will be seeking a place in the Centenary Final on March 15, where they face either Rockwell or St Munchin’s, who clash in Clanwilliam tomorrow.

Few rivalries in Irish rugby, however, are as intense as the Pres-Christians Cork derby, and there is every chance the latest fixture will go down to the wire.

Christians’ season was a slow-burner, having lost to St Munchin’s in round one before availing of a back-door system introduced for the first time this season.

CBC looked every inch the pre-Cup favourites when defeating holders Castletroy, 17-3 that day. The CBC brains-thrust of Peter Melia, along with former Munster forwards coach Brian Hickey and Heineken Cup winner John Kelly, report no injury worries, and with high winds and showers forecast, they’ll be looking to their powerful forward unit to prevail in an expected arm-wrestle.

Chris Corkery, Kieran Stokes and Damien Attridge provide solidity in the front row while lock Brian Hayes, a Munster U-20 representative this season, is their totem out of touch and in the loose. Half-backs Brian Slater and Darragh Dunne have formed a great partnership this season, while Joe Holland and Graham Mackesy can threaten out wide.

Christians possess the firepower to beat any opposition but putting back-to-back performances this season has been their Achilles heel.

“What has plagued us all year is our inconsistency,” says Melia. “However, form goes out completely out the window when these schools clash. We played them one year and we had five internationals and went out in the first round. Pres were similarly equipped last year and they went out in the semi-final.

“Pres are a pretty balanced team all round. Representative-wise they’ve got some good forwards and couple of guys on the Ireland Schools’ panel this year at U-18 level. And they’ve got quite a good back-line led by Kevin Kidney.”

Out-half Kidney, son of Ireland coach Declan, is Pres’ central figure in a young side of whom ten are under-age again next season.

As well as being a fine place-kicker, Kidney can pass well off either hand and possesses a good temperament for the big occasion. Indeed, the match could be decided by the kicking performances of Kidney and CBC’s inside centre Holland.

“Physically he has all the attributes,” says Buckley of Kidney who looks a strong candidate for a place in the Munster Academy next season. “If he’s nurtured and given the chance then he has every chance of progressing up the ranks.”

Pres, meanwhile, enjoyed a facile opening round victory over Árd Scoil Rís before displaying a fine offensive and defensive performance when overcoming Crescent 15-0.

The Mardyke college are without flanker Conail Murphy and reserve hooker Gearoid O’Sullivan, and aside from Kidney’s influence, Ireland U-18 Schools internationals Ian Scannell, David O’Mahony and Bryan Carroll are other on-field leaders. “We’re hopeful but this team is very young, the youngest Senior Cup team I’ve been involved with,” adds Buckley. “Nearly two-thirds of the team is in fifth year. It’s unusual for Pres to have it that way but we’ve confidence in these guys and we’ve been successful up the ranks at U-14, U-15 and U-16. They’ll find it difficult against an older, probably bigger Christians team, but we’d be very hopeful that they’ll perform.”

CBC: R Clune; E O’Donnell, B O’Leary, J Holland, G Mackesy; D Dunne, B Slater; C Corkery, K Stokes, D Attridge; B Hayes (capt), S Hanbridge; E Doyle, R Barry, W Ryan.

Replacements: R Martin, M O’Mahony, E O’Sullivan, Y Browne, J Maloney, S Barry, C Quinn.

PBC (from): E Dennehy, J Costigan, P O’Connell, C Bohane, O Dennehy, J McCarthy, W Murphy, K Kidney, S Óg Murphy, R Barry, M Yarrow, N Scannell (capt), B Vaughan, D O’Connell, I Mullarkey, J O’Sullivan, C O’Flaherty, D O’Mahony, R O’Herlihy, J Duffy, R Murphy, B Carroll.

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