It was back in 1970 that Glenstal reached their one and only final and led Rockwell into the dying minutes only to be caught on the post and lose in the replay. Finally, they are back in a decider but only after giving their supporters the fright of their lives.
There was only one team in the game throughout the first 25 minutes during which Glenstal ran in three magnificent tries, all converted, to lead by 21-0.
But Ardscoil never threw in the towel and a seven-pointer followed by a smartly taken drop goal enabled them to narrow the gap to 21-10 at half-time.
Ardscoil maintained the pressure for most of the second-half and when they narrowed the deficit to a single point after 55 minutes, looked to have plenty of momentum to go on and successfully complete the rally.
It was then Glenstal displayed a measure of spirit and commitment that was to prove their saviour.
Given their final opponents have captured the coveted trophy on 28 occasions, they will need all of that spirit in the St Patrick’s Day final, but coach Sean Skehan feels his side can also draw strength from that magnificent opening salvo.
“Pres have been our benchmark since the start of the season, we knew we would have to beat them if we were to win the cup”, he said. “We will give them a good match if we play as well as we did in the first-half today when I thought we played some pretty good rugby and built up a big lead.
“After that, though, we were like Rory McIlroy at the Masters, we tried to protect our lead and you can’t do that. All credit to Ardscoil, who had the confidence of that shock win over the holders Christians in the bank, they came back and took their opportunities and in the last 10 minutes we had our hearts in our mouths.”
It was a lovely dry afternoon when Glenstal took the game by the scruff of the neck. After three minutes, full-back Jack O’Mahony finished off a superb attack in the left corner and out-half Ben Healy converted.
Shortly afterwards, another terrific offensive ended in a try at the posts for hooker Michael Downing and the match appeared to be over as a contest on 21 minutes when Luke Fitzgerald touched down try number three with Healy adding the points.
As the rain poured down and turned the pitch into a skating rink, Ardscoil took up the running and after a quick tap penalty by skipper Craig Casey, prop Alex O’Callaghan forced his way over, Casey converting with a fine kick.
Stylish half-backs Craig Casey and Evan Cusack pressed forward and just before half time the latter dropped a lovely goal to make it 21-10 at the break.
Casey narrowed the gap still further with a penalty four minutes after the restart before he followed Glenstal captain Rory Clarke for a seven- minute spell in the sin bin.
Still, Ardscoil smelled blood and they duly ratcheted up tension levels with 15 minutes to go when hooker Colm Slater charged down an attempted clearance by Fitzgerald and pounced for the touch-down, Casey’s conversion leaving a single point separating the sides.
Glenstal’s response was outstanding. Skipper Clarke and his back-row partners Mark Fleming and Conor Booth put in a series of great tackles and ably supported by halves Ben Healy and Thanade McCoole, did enough to keep Ardscoil at bay.
Meanwhile, Summerhill College from Sligo took a major step towards a possible first ever Connacht schools senior cup title when they edged out Garbally College 10-9 in the semi-final in Sligo. Hero for Summerhill was centre Ross Hickey who scored the game’s only try.
Summerhill will meet 13-time winners Coláiste Iognaid from Galway city in the final after ‘the Jes’ scored a 29-7 win over Sligo Grammar School at Newcastle.
J O’Mahony; T Molony, J Mawhinney, L Fitzgerald, R Quinn; B Healy, T McCoole; S Scanlon-Garry, G Downing, E Bergin, C O’Sullivan, S Downes, C Booth, M Fleming, R Clarke capt.
A Hogan for Molony 45; H Downing for Bergin 55; M Walsh for O’Sullivan 62.
D O’Gorman; C O’Rahilly, C Madden, G Clancy, M Gorman; E Cusack, C Casey; A O’Callaghan, C Slater, F Lyons, D O’Grady, R Whelan, L Clohessy, I Brown, O Ring.
S Hanley for Brown, 3; M Noonan for O’Rahilly, 52.
T O’Donoghue (MAR).