Determined never to allow such a gap to develop again, the Limerick school prepared for this season’s campaign with vigour and duly had their reward at Markets Field yesterday when they decisively defeated Crescent Comprehensive and qualified for the March 18 decider against the winners of Thursday’s second semi-final between holders PBC and CBC.
Glenstal will be outsiders no matter which of the Cork giants provides the Musgrave Park opposition. However, they demonstrated in this unexpected but comprehensive defeat of Crescent that they are a superbly well-coached and skilful side adept at moving the ball wide whenever the opportunity arises.
Furthermore, they gave as good as they got in the forward exchanges and crucially had talented players in key positions who had clearly benefited from the experience of last year’s campaign.
Outstanding in this respect was out-half Ben Healy who contributed 15 points, landing one penalty from almost the halfway line and a 45m drop goal at a crucial stage of the second half.
The game got off to an electrifying start. Awarded a penalty on his own 22, Healy scorned the customary safe use of the touchline and instead found Ronan Quinn with a pinpoint flat kick that the left wing gathered in his stride before beating a number of players before being stopped just short of the Crescent line.
Glenstal promptly switched the direction of the attack, then swung back again to the left — fittingly it was Quinn at the receiving end of fine work by Aran Egan and Healy to dive over in the corner.
Healy converted with a superb kick and, a few moments later, tapped over a close-range penalty. It was Healy’s wayward clearance that put the excellent Crescent full-back Conor Phillips into space and he weaved his way deep into the Glenstal 22 before sending flanker Jack Madden over for a try that John Hurley converted. Those scores were immediately negated by an intercept try for wing Andrew Egan that Healy converted. And the game was still only 10 minutes old.
Things calmed down a little until the 32nd minute when Crescent prop Conor Fitzgerald was yellow carded for a dangerous tip tackle and Healy duly exacted reparation via a mammoth penalty from almost halfway.
Crescent badly needed a quick second-half score to narrow the 13-point interval gap, their cause helped when Andrew Hogan was sent to the bin for a late body check on the flying Phillips.
Rather ill-advisedly, they opted for a scrum when awarded a penalty under the Glenstal posts only to be kept at bay by a well-drilled defence. They decided to take the points when a similar opportunity was offered on 50 minutes and it was to be their only score of the second half.
Instead, it was Glenstal who finished powerfully. Healy landed a towering drop goal from distance and in the dying minutes a long line-out throw was collected by the outstanding No8 Mark Fleming and he charged over from 30m for Healy to add the points and seal a famous victory for the Murroe academy.
A Egan; A Hogan, H Benner, C Dooley, R Quinn; B Healy, A Walsh; H Boland, G Downing, P Prendergast; D Kelly, J Fitzgerald; R Leahy, C Booth, M Fleming.
R Hanly for Fitzgerald (53); B Leonard for Walsh (5; N Quelly for Leahy 63.
C Phillips; C Tuohy, J Hoffman, J Hurley, T Duggan; J Delaney, A Cosgrove; C Fitzgerald, R Reynolds, B Leahy; P King, C McDonagh; J Madden, D Feasey, F Coleman.
B Naughton for King 51; S Falloon for Tuohy 42; B Scott for McDonagh 67; J Fitzgerald for Reynolds 70; N O’Sullivan for Duggan, P Collins for Delaney; M Casserley for Hurley all 72.
Tommy O’Donoghue (MAR).