Crescent coaches deserve rewards

From the day they ran up 39 points without reply in the first round against CBC, there was little doubt that the 2014 Munster Schools Senior Cup trophy would find a familiar home at Crescent Comprehensive College in Dooradoyle.

Having won a couple of back-to-back Junior Cups in 2011 and 2012 and backed that up with a Senior Cup triumph in 2013, this can be safely described as the golden era for the college.

They now go in search of the elusive senior-junior double against PBC next week but regardless of the result, there is no doubt that much of the success they are enjoying is due to the outstanding bank of coaches they have built up at all age levels within the college.

The men behind yesterday’s success were Conan Doyle and Eugene McGovern, who have played with Munster and their respective clubs Garryowen and Old Crescent. Their junior coaching team is led by Francis Brosnahan and Shane Leahy, who have also worn the red jersey performing with distinction for Young Munster and Garryowen.

Having witnessed most of the matches at both levels, it is good to be able to report that the province appears to be blessed with several young men of considerable potential. It has been a most encouraging Munster Senior Cup campaign, with Crescent currently the dominant force.

At every opportunity, the champions played the game as it should be, with forwards and backs combining in some magnificent movements and centres and wings given every opportunity to show their pace.

All of which bodes well for the future, although it still remains to be seen how many go on to make the grade at the highest level.

Interestingly, only Greg O’Shea and Gearoid Lyons of the successful Crescent side of 12 months ago were given a sub-academy contract with Munster. The highest of standards are demanded, which is just as it should be.

The candidates from this year’s crop probably include Crescent centres JJ O’Neill, Will Leonard and Calvin Nash (although he is still on the young side) and number eight and captain, Cormac Blake. Ardscoil full-back Stephen Fitzgerald, flanker Ben Kilkenny of St Munchins, PBC’s John Poland and Paul Kiernan and CBC hooker Vincent O’Brien are also in the mix.

In recent years, Munster has had to rely on players born outside of the province. Only two of the starting back line in the most recent Heineken Cup game against Edinburgh — Keith Earls and Conor Murray — were born in the province.

The inescapable conclusion is that Munster has not been producing a sufficient degree of talent from within. Even those charged with promoting the schools game agree that too many games over the past decade have been dominated by teams favouring forward-dominated, pick and go, biff and bash style to the detriment of the 15-man game that once made schools rugby a pleasure to play and watch.

Thankfully, that has not been the case this season, with a whole succession of games leading up to yesterday’s final producing a far more expansive game with wings and centres capturing the headlines while the forwards worked in a creative manner to provide high-quality rugby, affording highly-talented young men the opportunity to display their talents.

Long may this continue.

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