Their pedigree in the competition could not be more contrasting. Glenstal from Murroe, Co Limerick have contested only one previous final (which they lost) while PBC, one of the country’s most acclaimed rugby academies, have landed 28 titles.
Tradition alone won’t win the day for Pres who are chasing their first title since 2010. They looked a mighty force in the preliminary round when running up six tries and 40 points against an Ardscoil Rís side that was to prove a far more dangerous outfit than that scoreline would indicate.
There was no doubting the class of several players that day, most notably full-back Jonathan Wren, scorer of two superb tries, and powerful captain and number eight Jack O’Sullivan who is related to Niall Scannell, the last PBC Senior Cup winning captain. Another link to past glories is scrum-half Gary Bradley, son of the legendary, Michael. PBC defeated Crescent in the quarter-final but struggled for spells of their 12-3 semi-final victory over Bandon Grammar. However, that sluggish display may prove a blessing in disguise and dispel any feelings of complacency.
“The seven years without the trophy adds to the excitement of the occasion,” admitted PBC Games’ Master Peter Scott. “From the first year students right up to the Board of Management, it’s a day we are looking forward to. It’s fantastic for Glenstal to be in the final and that adds to the uniqueness of the occasion. Some people will claim because we have won the cup 28 times, and Glenstal have yet to win it, there can be only one outcome. Rest assured, we don’t see it like that. Whether we’re meeting our oldest adversaries or whoever, we treat them all with the utmost respect. Also with the advent of professional coaches, there has been a definite levelling off in standards, that and the massive commitment of all the schools. You see that with Glenstal and Bandon and it’s great for the game.”
Glenstal proved their mettle by going to Tipperary and beating one of the great traditional bastions, Rockwell, in the quarter-final 18-0 but even that paled in comparison with the dramatic semi-final win over Ardscoil Rís whom they led 21-0 after as many minutes with spectacular tries by Jack O’Mahony, Michael Downing and Luke Fitzgerald all converted by Ben Healy. With 15 minutes to go, however, they led by a single point, 21-20 before holding out to reach their first final in 47 years. The excitement out Glenstal way is at fever pitch.
“That is true but we have to concentrate on the game,” says head coach Sean Skehan.
“What has impressed me most through a great year was the atmosphere in the dressing room after the Ardscoil game. The lads knew we played great attacking rugby in the first-half but that all dropped off in the second and they wanted to know how to rectify that. Of course there’s always a fear the occasion might get to them but we have worked on creating a cup tie atmosphere when beating St Munchin’s in the City Cup final, losing by one score in Dublin to St Michael’s and to a powerful Nottingham Academy side in England. There will also be pressure on Pres, there’s a lot of expectation on them, but I don’t think it will be an issue for either side.”
J Wren; P Buckley, S French, J Broderick, T Fitzgerald; P Sylvester, G Bradley; C Burke, B Scannell, B O’Connor, A McAulifffe, M McCarthy, C Fitzgerald, D Hyland, J O’Sullivan capt.
A Keating, K Nugent, E Burns, C Browne, E Quilter, D Harrington, S O’Donovan, H Dillon, L Bruce, P Kennedy.
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.
P Mulligan, P Prendergast, H Downing, J Fitzgerald, M Walsh, A Walsh, A Egan, D Floyd, E Callaghan, A Hogan.
Ken Imbusch (MAR).