St Michael’s College were crowned Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup champions for the third time in their history with an emphatic victory over Gonzaga College at the RDS Arena.
Jack Boyle grabbed a brace of first-half tries to set Michael's on their way, before Lee Barron and vice-captain Rob Gilsenan also crossed to add to their previous successes in 2007 and 2012.
Given it was their first appearance in a senior final, it was understandable that Gonzaga were rank outsiders for this contest.
Even though Michael’s returned to this stage for the first time since 2013, they had already collected the scalps of Blackrock and Belvedere en route to this showpiece affair. Indeed, the Aylesbury Road outfit quickly stamped their authority on the play courtesy of Boyle’s deadlock-breaking score on seven minutes.
At the end of a multi-phase attack, the loosehead prop touched down in clinical style. Aided by a strong breeze, outside centre Chris Cosgrave converted to give Michael’s an early platform.
Thanks in no small part to their powerful set-piece - superbly marshalled by skipper Mark Hernan - Emmet MacMahon’s charges continued to place the ‘Zaga defence under immense pressure. While the Ranelagh men held out for long stretches, they fell further behind in the second-quarter.
Following another extended spell, the excellent Boyle claimed his second try off a close-range finish. Cosgrave was once again on hand to supply the extras, but Michael’s were subsequently reined in by the resilient ‘Zaga.
After keeping their south Dublin rivals pinned inside their own ’22’, lock Jack Coolican crashed over for a stoppage-time score. Despite being just nine points adrift (14-5), ‘Zaga suffered a set-back on the restart when Henry Godson was withdrawn through injury.
The absence of the influential front-row (hat-trick hero in their semi-final win over Clongowes Wood) was immediately felt as the Michael’s pack established a foothold inside the opposition half.
TMO Ken Henley Willis ruled out an initial effort on the left-flank, though Barron eventually grabbed his second try in as many games underneath the posts. Moving into the final-quarter, Gonzaga pushed hard for a consolation score.
However, it was Michael’s who had the final say on a sunny afternoon in Ballsbridge. Capitalising on Andrew Smith’s lung-bursting gallop, Gilsenan completed a breakaway effort on the hour. Cosgrave increased his seasonal haul to 47 points with another outstanding strike off the kicking tee as St Michael’s eased towards a convincing triumph.
Scorers for St Michael’s College: J Boyle 2 tries, L Barron, R Gilsenan try, C Cosgrave 4 cons.
Scorers for Gonzaga College: J Coolican try.
ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE: A Smith; E Kelly, C Cosgrave, S O’Kelly, M O’Brien; N Carroll, R Gilsenan; J Boyle, L Barron, F Finlay; S Woods, J Fish; J Guinane, M Hernan, W Hickey.
Replacements: B Victory for Barron (53), J Power for Finlay (56), R Van Den Asker for Kelly (63), C Booth for Woods (67), J Boland for Boyle, J Woods for Gilsenan, H McWade for O’Kelly, L Fehily for Fish (all 68).
GONZAGA COLLEGE: C Hennessy; F Ó hOisín, F O’Grady, K Morgan, B Barron; H Colbert, J Connolly; H Godson, H Fitzgerald, R Shaw; L Tyrell, J Coolican; C Kirby O Briain, T Cullen, J Barry.
Replacements: L Hammond for Godson (36), A Henry for Kirby O Briain (47), S Grimley for Shaw, M Colgan for Colbert, JJ Walsh for Ó hOisín (all 67), G Kenny for Fitzgerald, O Rogers for Coolican, S Wilson for Barron (all 68).
Referee: B MacNiece (LRR).