Conall Power was the hero at Energia Park on Monday afternoon as his late try helped Blackrock College to earn a comeback victory against south Dublin rivals St Michael's College in a gripping Leinster Schools Junior Cup final.
Having seen their senior side lose out to Gonzaga College in the Senior Cup showpiece earlier this month, it looked set to be another day of disappointment for the ‘Rock faithful as they trailed 15-5 at the midway stage in the action. The Williamstown outfit dug deep on the resumption, however, and ultimately claimed the silverware with 12 unanswered second half points.
Winners of the 2022 decider at the expense of Cistercian College Roscrea, Michael’s began this contest with ferocious intent and broke the deadlock through a routine penalty from Harrison McMahon with just under four minutes on the clock.
‘Rock edged two points clear when inside centre Bernard White released James Browne for an unconverted try in the right-corner, but it proved to be a short-lived lead.
Following a prolonged move after McMahon kicked a penalty into touch, Michael’s lock Haydn Gallagher powered over the whitewash for an 11th-minute try. McMahon added the bonuses to this score and while he was wide of the target in the aftermath of Setanta McLaughlin’s superb finish on the first-quarter mark, Michael’s were in a commanding position to hold onto their crown.
‘Rock did push hard for a second try as the interval approached, but excellent defensive work from their Ailesbury Road counterparts kept them at bay. While Michael’s had an opportunity to inflict further damage inside the opposition ’22’, their cushion remained at 10 points during the interval.
Despite losing captain Matthew Wyse and George Eggers to injury shortly after the resumption, ‘Rock breathed fresh life into their challenge on 41 minutes. After breaking away from an attacking scrum, flanker Tom McAleese passed out wide for Rhys Keogh to cross over on the left-flank.
With Luke Coffey majestically splitting the uprights off a touchline conversion, the gap was down to three points and a tantalising finale lay in store. Either side of Keogh’s score, the Michael’s rearguard had managed to hold up ‘Rock on the line as they looked to force their way past the whitewash.
Yet persistence paid off as Power burst his way over for a crucial score with the final whistle in sight to secure a 53rd title at this grade for Blackrock.
: Tries - J Browne, R Keogh, C Power. Cons - L Coffey.
: Tries - H Gallagher, S McLaughlin. Pens - H McMahon. Cons - H McMahon.
: C McCloskey; J Browne, O Daly, B White, R Keogh; L Coffey, C Martin; L Magee, M Wyse, L Kelly; G Eggers, C Power; T Keaveney, T McAleese, G Wall.
L Golden for Wyse (33), JJ Hamilton for Eggers (35), B Guerin for Kelly (45), C White for B White (59), P Agnew for Keaveney (60).
: S King; J Divilly, M Haugh, S Barron, E Loo; H McMahon, A Norse; C Canniffe, J Kennedy, M Dredge; H Gallagher, T Reynolds; S McLaughlin, O Twomey, M Berman.
: D O’Donohoe for Dredge (16), P Lynch for Reynolds, O De Vreeze for Norse (both 48), J McMahon for Barron (57).
: P O’Connor (LRR).