Rockwell last captured the trophy in 2001 – their 23rd title – whereas Castletroy struck first in 2008 when they completed the senior and junior double to prove they have arrived as serious challengers to the small and elite number of schools who have largely dominated for decades.
Rockwell play their third successive match at Clanwilliam, having beaten St Munchin’s convincingly and Ard Scoil Rís with a less-than-impressive performance.
As Tony Smith, one of their coaching team, put it: “Everything that could go right for us in the first half against Munchin’s went right, but we didn’t repeat that form against Ard Scoil.”
Nevertheless, Rockwell are full of highly-skilled young sportsmen. JJ Hanrahan is already recognised as one of the most promising out-halves in the country and has represented Ireland at U-18 and U-19 levels this season. Flanker and captain Shane Buckley was also capped in both age brackets over each of the past two years.
Hanrahan is a native of Currow, Co Kerry, a remarkable area that, in the past, has produced famous senior internationals in the Doyle brothers, Mick and Tommy, Moss Keane and Mick Galwey. Galwey’s nephew, Sean McCarthy lines out in the Rockwell second row and, maintaining the Kerry influence is centre Donagh McGillicuddy, who is also a member of his county’s minor football panel.
Not to be outdone, left-wing Ross Mullane has been called up for the Tipperary minor hurling squad.
If versatility counts for anything, then it should be Rockwell’s day. But Castletroy are certainly not short of talent and performed well as a team in accounting for Bandon and holders CBC in their previous outings. The 14-11 win over Christians was a dramatic affair settled in their favour by a drop goal by centre Peter Murray with the last kick.
Castletroy have yet to finalise their side but it’s sure to include Murray, Kevin Doyle, Pádraig O’Connor and Michael O’Dwyer, all medal winners in 2008, along with a number of the Junior Cup champions of the same season. They are captained by Irish schools cap and hooker James Rael and their squad includes scrum-half Neil Cronin, a brother of Sean, the Connacht and Ireland hooker, and Luke Clohessy, son of Peter Clohessy.
After the thrilling victory over Christians, one of the Castletroy coaches, John Keehan, spoke of how they have been preparing for the schools cup since last June. “We brought the squad to South Africa at the time of the Lions Tour and won four of our five matches,” he said.
“Some of the lads played their sixth cup match against Christians and they have never been on the losing side. They won four in the junior cup campaign, were too young for the senior side last season, and have now come through their two games so far this year.”
ROCKWELL: B. O’Rahilly; S. Horgan, H. McNulty, D. McGillicuddy, R. Mullane; J.J. Hanrahan, T. Rafferty; T. Doyle, R. Moran, C. O’Donnell, S. McCarthy, S. McGuire, S. Buckley capt, J. Meagher, L. Cahill.
CASTLETROY (probable): – P. O’Connor; W. Shanahan, P. Murray, S. O’Carroll, A. Fullen; P. Quinn, N. Cronin; K. Kennedy, J. Rael capt, A. De Souza, D. O’Brien, M. O’Dwyer, K. Doyle, M. Dooley, E. Carroll.