Never in the history of Irish schools rugby has there been such a scene as witnessed in Musgrave Park yesterday when the Clayton Hotels Munster Junior Cup tie between Presentation Brothers College Cork and St Munchin’s College was hit by three serious injuries and ultimately abandoned after just nine minutes of play.
Following an hour-long delay for two separate incidents, two Munchin’s players — Dylan Higgins and Craig Carew — were removed separately by ambulance to Cork University Hospital.
St Munchin’s were then instructed to retake the field by the match referee Paudie Sheehan but declined to do so.
Pres went back onto the field and lined up as instructed to form a scrum which had been called just before the last play. But with no opposition to contest the set-piece, the match was abandoned, with Pres leading 5-0.
The abandonment appeared to mean Pres would advance to the semi-finals. However, a spokesperson for the Munster Branch said the issue would have to be raised at age-grade and schools committee levels in the next 24 hours to decide what to do next.
Distressed St Munchin’s coach Pat Cross said his distraught players were in no position to play on, having seen two of their colleagues suffer frightening injuries.
“These injuries are unprecedented. There is no way our young players were in any condition to continue,” said Cross.
The game was first delayed for 37 minutes when flanker Higgins was floored after a collision with one of his colleagues in an attempted tackle. St Munchin’s full-back Dean Callinan also had to leave the field with a head injury, although he managed to make his own exit rather than on a stretcher.
Minutes after the resumption, Carew fell heavily and suffered the same fate and was also taken to hospital.
There was already talk of the match being abandoned and St Munchin’s made such a request in the circumstances. However, the decision was taken to proceed, but it was clear the young St Munchin’s players had no desire for this game to continue.
Pres coach Barry Howell sympathised with the Limerick school and insisted that they had been instructed to take to the field to complete the game, irrespective of what St Munchin’s had decided.
“I’ve never come across anything like it. I suppose it’s not an ideal way to advance to a semi-final. But we’ll have to abide by whatever the proper protocol is.”
Pres had powered into the lead just over a minute into the game when winger Conor Morey stormed over in the right corner after a good lineout take from Jack Kelleher, a driving maul and a quick execution of a move out wide.
Morey was unlucky not to grab a second a couple of minutes later only to be held up inches out; a subsequent forward drive ended when Pres knocked on with the line at their mercy.
That action soon concluded and it remains to be seen whether the game will be refixed.
St Munchin’s appear likely to appeal any decision to award Pres the game.
However, the main concern right now is the welfare of their players.
D French, C Morey, M Hand, D O’Sullivan, J Holden, A Walsh, J O’Leary, D McSweeney, B Kingston, C Morris, J Kelleher, M Giltinan, M O’Leary, R Foley (captain), A Kendellan.
D Devlin, M Hayes, T Gough, D O’Halloran, J Forde, J Keohane, D Hurley, C Doyle, T Buckley, T O’Sullivan.
D Callinan, J Campbell, K McInerney, C Carew, J Butler, J Ryan, D O’Callaghan, N Walsh, S Airey, N McNamara, C Duggan, L Neilan, D Higgins, E O’Brienm C Nesbitt (captain).
J Clohessy, S Mason, C Finn, G Kirwan, S Nestor, D Slattery, C O’Brien-Comerford, D Long, M Lawler, J Keane.
P Sheehan (M.A.R).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved