Not since 1930 has any school captured the Blue Riband of Munster schools rugby and the Dr Harty Cup for colleges hurling in the same year, but Ardscoil are now poised to bridge the 84-year gap and emulate the feat of Rockwell College.
This is the second time the college on Limerick’s North Circular Road — that has produced players of the calibre of Paul O’Connell, Sean Cronin and Mike Sherry — has qualified for the senior rugby final, although they have twice won the junior equivalent.
“It’s a great place for the school to be, on their 50th anniversary,” said coach Mossie Lawler, another distinguished former pupil and, of course, a regular on the Munster Heineken Cup team in the recent past. “Our only previous appearance in the final was in 1996, when I was on the bench, but I came on after five minutes and we went on to lose a good game against Pres.”
Lawler claimed it was their own shortcomings that kept St Munchin’s in the game in the first half, which was contested with fierce intensity but produced little in the way of attractive rugby.
St Munchin’s’ powerful pack held the upper hand while they also had the benefit of the wind and broke the deadlock on 20 minutes when a 20-metre rolling maul carried on by John Foley and David Begley opened the way for a try by prop Peter Meyer, which was converted by Alan Wallace.
However, Ardscoil showed their intent within three minutes of the restart when centre Paul McNamara finished off a splendid attacking move in which Jack O’Halloran played a key role. Out-half Dave O’Mahony missed the difficult conversion but more than made amends when he knocked over a fine penalty from close to the right-hand touchline after 56 minutes, and clinched the issue with a splendid 35-metre drop goal in stoppage time.
Ardscoil now meet the winners of tomorrow’s second semi-final between Crescent and Castletroy, to be played at Rosbrien.
ST MUNCHIN’S: R Meagher; M Devanney, E O’Keeffe, S Halpin, B Price; A Wallace, B Bennett; P Meyer, L O’Halloran capt, B Keogh, D Begley, N Nugent, T O’Dwyer, B Kilkenny, J Foley.
Replacements: S Doona for O’Keeffe temporary, 12; J Prendiville for Keogh 58.
ARDSCOIL RÍS: S Fitzgerald; B Moriarty, P McNamara, J O’Donnell, L Brock; D O’Mahony, D Scannell; K Bracken, S Fenton, T Walsh, D Ryan, P Staff, J Cannon, J McCabe, K Brown.
Replacements: K Bracken for O’Halloran 45.
Referee: O Hodges.