Familiar foes reunited as Clongowes and Saints square-up

ALMOST from day one of this season’s Leinster Schools Senior Cup campaign, Clongowes Wood and St. Michael’s were lined up as two of the big favourites to make this afternoon’s St. Patrick’s Day decider at the RDS (3.30).

The neutrals in Leinster rugby will also be pleased to see that two schools with limited success — Clongowes have won just six times since 1926 and relative newcomers St. Michael’s just once since emerging to join the big players just over a decade ago — have a chance of glory.

Yet there will be an air of familiarity about this final between two schools who meet in a final for the fourth time, with Clongowes enjoying the best of the three previous encounters — 2 to 1.

Clongowes won the cup in 1988 and 1991 at St Michael’s expense but the south Dublin team responded to gain a measure of revenge three years ago. It makes for a most interesting match, with Clongowes seeking their seventh title and St Michael’s just their second.

St Michael’s will be looked upon as a huge threat; both teams have a solid look about them, packs with both power and quality and strong back divisions that have yielded little or nothing to date. If there appears to be little between the sides, the difference could come through the class of St Michael’s centre Alex Kelly and out half Cathal March as well as the experience of captain Emmet MacMahon, whose leadership qualities have been rewarded by the Irish U-19 selectors.

If much is expected of that trio, don’t be surprised, however, by the expected dogged resistance of this Clongowes Wood outfit whose unhappy memories of that 2007 loss is bound to give them even more reason for wanting to win this one.

l Ballymena Academy might have dumped out hot favourites and hat-trick seeking Methodist College in the semi-finals, but it is Belfast Royal Academy who are fancied to win the Northern Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup for only the second time in this afternoon’s Ravenhill showpiece (3.00 kick-off).

The Town v Country Academy battle is expected to be a close-run affair, but the city slickers appear to have the edge in experience and forward power and are hoping to overturn the result from the last time the two met in the final back in 1972 when Ballymena won 13-9.

The Alma Mater of the great Jack Kyle, BRA had to wait until 1997 to lift the trophy for the first time outright after seven previous attempts, three of which were shared in consecutive years back in the early 60s.

CLONGOWES WOOD COLLEGE: S Macauley, O Ó Suilleabhain, J McMahon, G Ó Suilleabhain, A Thompson, D Quirke, D O’Meara; E Byrne, E Lewis, I Prendeville, T Beirne, R Hynes, captain; C Gilsenan, N McCarthy, J Coughlan.

Replacements: S O’Riordan, T Collis, T Byrne, S O’Keeffe, S Burke, M Maxwell, N Jones.

ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE: C Diamond, M Corballis, A Kelly, M Craig, D Egan, C Marsh, L McGrath; K Duffy, F Barry, D Reynolds; E MacMahon captain; S O’Connor; D Leavy, C Kenna, P Dix.

Replacements: A Murphy, W Browne, S Hogan, S McGarry , K Jones, C Gilsenan, N Van Der Laan.

Referee: J Carvill (ARLB).

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