Crescent Comprehensive, Munster Schools Senior Cup holders for the past two years, got their challenge for an unprecedented three in-a-row off to the best possible start when beating Christian Brothers College, Cork, by two unconverted tries to nil at Clifford Park yesterday.
Crescent dealt admirably with the atrocious conditions to build a 10-point interval lead and then coped in relative comfort with the best Christians could throw at them to emerge impressive winners and go through to a home quarter-final meeting with Glenstal.
“We planned our game plan carefully, we stuck to it and it worked for us,” said Crescent head coach Conan Doyle.
“We knew we were up against a very good side, rated favourites before the competition began, but that isn’t to suggest we didn’t think we could beat them.
“The conditions were obviously a leveller and we took our chances in the first half and it was always going to be hard for them to come back.
“We won’t get carried away and I wouldn’t be surprised to come up against Christians again before the campaign is over.”
For the Cork side, the result could well be a blessing in disguise, for they fully realise that a repeat of this performance will not suffice to capture the title for the first time since 2009.
They now face another visit to Limerick for a quarter-final clash with Ardscoil Rís.
“The better team won, for certain,” admitted their head coach Neil Lucey. “We just didn’t turn up and I will need a few days to figure out why. I can’t use the conditions as an excuse. I don’t think they played any part. For sure we expected to perform a lot better but we also know we are a better team than this.”
While Conan Doyle readily agreed it was not a pretty game of football, conditions dictated it would be a low-scoring, tactical kind of contest. A fierce, bitterly-cold wind, accompanied frequently by hail and rain showers, swept diagonally across the pitch and Crescent used it to near-perfection in the first 35 minutes.
They took the lead after seven minutes when a raking touch kick by out-half Dylan Sheehan carried play to within a few metres of the Christians line, from where lively flanker Peter Hickey slipped over for the crucial breakthrough score.
Crescent struck again after 25 minutes when their outstanding number eight Sean Fitzgerald soared high at a lineout, immediately passed down to back-row colleague Gary O’Sullivan, who in turn sent hooker and captain Caolan Moloney over for a superb try direct off the practice pitch.
That was the end of the scoring. Several Christians forwards, most notably number eight Evan Mintern and second-row Cian Barry tried all they could to lift those around them, but the side made too many handling errors.
Crescent forwards Moloney, Fitzgerald and O’Sullivan led from the front and were admirably supported by canny scrum-half Jack Lyons and number 10 Sheehan. The fact that they went into the game without three leading players, including last year’s Irish Schools wing Calvin Nash, further underlines Crescent’s capacity to complete the three in a row.
CRESCENT: G Dickinson; E Moloney, B O’Hora, A Harrison, D Hurley; D Sheehan, J Lyons; N Mulcahy, C Moloney capt, S Hensey, A Reeves, S Naughton, G O’Sullivan, P Hickey, S Fitzgerald. Replacements: S Garry for Hensey; J Blake for Naughton; A Thai for Harrison.
CBC: L Coombes; T O’Keeffe, M Clune, A McHenry, O Conway; M O’Halloran, R Cassidy; S O’Hanlon, E Scully, R O’Donovan, D Feeney, C Barry, R O’Neill, D Walsh capt, E Mintern. Replacements: E Cahill for Scully; D Leahy for O’Donovan; P Kelleher for O’Hanlon; L McSharry for O’Neill; D Lynch for Feeney; J Murphy for Cassidy; W Trevor for O’Halloran.
Referee: K Imbush (IRFU).
nQuarter-final draw: Crescent v Glenstal; Castletroy v PBC; Rockwell v St Munchins; Ardscoil Ris v CBC.
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