Clongowes comeback denies Castleknock historic final spot

Clongowes Wood College produced a devastating finish against Castleknock College at Donnybrook to reach their first Leinster Schools Senior Cup decider since 2014.

Clongowes comeback denies Castleknock historic final spot

Clongowes Wood College 29 Castleknock College 19

Clongowes Wood College produced a devastating finish against Castleknock College at Donnybrook to reach their first Leinster Schools Senior Cup decider since 2014.

Castleknock were set to end a 37-year wait to their last final appearance when a Jake Rooney try offered them a 19-15 advantage on the hour mark. However, converted tries courtesy of Eddie Carr and Oisin Devitt ensured that Clongowes advanced to face the winners of Tuesday’s clash between holders St Michael’s College and Newbridge in the March 17 showpiece at the RDS.

While Clongowes and Castleknock have accumulated eight titles apiece at this grade, the Clane men’s recent history in the competition is vastly superior. Since ‘Knock lasted tasted success in 1965, they have been crowned senior champions on seven occasions.

Nevertheless, a significant resurgence has taken place in the West Dublin school and they entered this contest on the back of claiming Belvedere College’s scalp at the quarter-final stage. Additionally, Clongowes’ surprise semi-final reversal to Gonzaga College 12 months ago left them on red alert for another ambush.

After skipper Louis McDonough turned down a shot at the posts, ‘Knock established attacking momentum off an ensuing line-out maul. Following a crunching tackle on Fionn Gibbons, full-back Alex Watson passed out wide for Will Hennessy to claim a deadlock-breaking sixth-minute try.

McDonough split the posts in confident fashion on the right-flank and the impressive fly-half inflicted further punishment on Clongowes just five minutes later. Off a quick tap-and-go inside the Clongowes 22, McDonough burst through a defensive gap to cross the whitewash. He convincingly added the bonuses to his own score, offering Castleknock a 14-point platform in the process.

Although the early signs were ominous for Clongowes, their challenge finally came to life.

Powerful lock Jack Kearney picked up possession in an advanced area and proceeded to power over the line for his third try in as many games. The returning David Wilkinson was wide of the mark with a tricky bonus kick, but his successful penalty on 28 minutes ensured Clongowes were just six points in arrears (14-8) at the end of a pulsating first half.

Both sides remained firmly in the hunt for a final spot and given all that was at stake, it was little surprise that the third-quarter proved so tentative. The game needed something special to spark it into life and it finally arrived on 56 minutes.

Clongowes had placed ‘Knock on the back-foot with a series of five-metre drives and persistence paid off when captain Calum Dowling touched down for a clinical five-pointer. Wilkinson’s conversion edged Clongowes in front for the first time but Castleknock immediately turned the tables on their north Kildare counterparts. At the tail end of a sweeping attack, Rooney sprinted over in the left corner.

Though the ’’Knock faithful started to dream once again, this was put on hold as a consequence of Carr’s bustling score to the left of the posts. While the tie remained finely balanced, a superb solo try by the excellent Devitt ultimately placed the outcome beyond doubt with five minutes remaining.

Scorers for Clongowes Wood College: J Kearney, C Dowling, E Carr, O Devitt try each, D Wilkinson pen, 3 cons.

Scorers for Castleknock College: L McDonough try, 2 cons, W Hennessy, J Rooney try each.

CLONGOWES: R Morrin; M Spillane, P Maher, C Grimes, H Wilkinson; D Wilkinson, O Devitt; B Dooley, E Cumbers, L McMahon; J Kearney, T Mulcair; E O’Boyle, C Dowling, D McCormack.

Replacements: E Carr for McMahon (57), K Fitzpatrick for Mulcair (60), R O’Regan for Cumbers, H O’Neill for O’Boyle (both 63).

CASTLEKNOCK: A Watson; W Hennessy, F Gibbons, C Delaney, J Rooney; L McDonough, C Duggan; B Bislin, A Creedon, B Griffin; L Callinan, S Callinan; F Stanley, C McCarrick, I Birmingham.

Replacements: G Quinn for Bislin (50), A Birnie for Birmingham (57), C Mahon for Duggan (64), J Duffy for L Callinan (66), A Malone for McDonough, E Keogh for Griffin (both 67).

Referee: D Blake (LRR).

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