In Bandon Grammar School, a shattered community begins the rebuilding process.
After the shock of the death of former pupil Cameron Blair less than a fortnight ago, the students at the West Cork school take the first step in a collective recovery tomorrow, when they face Rockwell College (midday, Musgrave Park).
The Clayton Hotel Munster Senior Schools Cup is hotly anticipated and the main talking point in the corridors of schools across the province. However, for Bandon, it’s a distraction.
“It’s been a difficult week,” said Bandon Grammar School bursar George Bradfield. “Cameron’s brother would have been on the team, but he’s not going to tog out. He’s missed training and the preparation for the game. Obviously, it’s been a difficult time for the player and his family.”
The school hosted a funeral service for Cameron on Sunday and emotions there are still “raw”, said Bradfield, as the young team returned to the pitch after the death of their classmate’s brother.
After the impressive run in the cup last year was ended at the semi-final stage by Presentation Brothers College, Bandon Grammar are looking to get back to the last four.
PBC’s Louis Bruce held his nerve to break Bandon hearts with an injury-time conversation from a difficult angle to nick the win.
While Bandon will be looking to reach those heights again, 2020 will be about rebuilding.
As so often happens at this level, players graduating mean the school’s South African coach, Andre Human, has almost an entirely new team to guide into Musgrave Park.
“We’ve a young side this year, it will mainly be a fourth- and fifth-year team,” he outlined.
“There will be some sixth years but we are in the rebuilding process with a young side,” he said, adding that 13 of last year’s starting 15 have left the school.
It’s a great experience to play in Musgrave Park, it’s great for the lads, it’s a big occasion. They will certainly look forward to it.
Josh D’Alton and Nick Grene experienced Schools Cup action at the venue last year and Bandon will be looking to them for inspiration as they take on Rockwell College in the first part of a triple-header at Musgrave Park.
Elsewhere, there is a Limerick derby at Thomond Park as St Munchin’s take on Ardscoil Rís.
All of last year’s semi-finalists, including Bandon and Ardscoil, avoided each other in the draw. Defending champions CBC take on Castletroy College and Pres — who lost to their city rivals 5-3 in last year’s decider — meet Crescent College Comprehensive in the fourth quarter-final.