The Clayton Hotels Munster Schools Senior Cup begins this week, with holders Presentation College Cork amongst the first to see action when they take on Castletroy College at Muskerry today, a double-header programme with the schools meeting first in the Junior Cup at 1pm. Barry Coughlan looks at all 10 teams schools involved in the opening rounds of both cups and
assesses their prospects — with a little help from those inside the camps
Presentation Brothers College Cork v Castletroy College, Muskerry RFC,
Inniscarra Community Centre (2.30pm)
With a significant number of last year’s team back in harness, Pres are widely fancied, though Gamesmaster Peter Scott urges caution.
“The results have been a bit mixed but the team has not been entirely settled because of long and medium-term injuries. Happily, things are a good bit more optimistic on the injury front.
“We have a significant number of last year’s side back, amongst them Sean French and Jonathan Wren, two lads who lit up the campaign a bit last year. We’re captained by Billy Scannell, who brings some experience to the pack and there are others who were involved from last year’s forward unit.
“There are good quality sides out there, all the usual suspects and amongst them young but talented teams such as Bandon Grammar and Glenstal, whom we beat last season, so we will be taking nothing for granted.”
Have performed well to date but CBC (holders), Crescent Comprehensive, and St Munchin’s should all challenge for the under-16 trophy.
Castletroy’s Maurice Hartery has 10 of last year’s players in his small 25-strong squad and hopes they can use the experience to good effect.
“We have to accept we are not amongst the serious contenders but that’s not to say we’re incapable of pulling off a shock. We have a tough start against the holders and we’re up against it, for sure. Hopefully, we can at least compete with them and later on it would be great to win and maybe, maybe, with a good draw, for us to get to the quarter-finals.
“Because of our small squad, we didn’t play too many of the stronger sides in Munster this season, we cut our cloth to measure and organised matches against sides of similar strength in the other provinces to give our side an opportunity to perform. It will be tough but we have nothing to lose.”
Castletroy believe they’re good enough to be involved at the business end of the season.
St Clement’s v Crescent College Comprehensive,
Sports co-ordinator Mike Lynch expects a competitive local derby though accepts Crescent’s bigger squad makes them favourites.
“We have no injuries, our players are hugely enthusiastic and obviously looking to cause an opening round upset, so overall we are in a positive frame of mind.
“It’s fair to say we don’t have the really big players we had in the past and we’re competing against some teams with more tradition than us, but we set our standard as being a very good B school and one capable of going up a notch and being competitive.
“We can bank on a super captain in Aran Stacey, a really clever flanker in Chris Heelan and another back rower, Shane Brosnihan, who has played senior hurling, as well as our mainstay at scrum-half Evan Griffin.”
Boast a really good pack and a couple of outstanding backs. Can take a scalp, maybe against Crescent.
Nine of the Crescent side were involved with Munster at interprovincial level and coach Chris Cullinane hopes the experience gained will help in the upcoming campaign.
Crescent lost twice last season — to CBC in round one and to PBC in the quarter-final after beating St Clement’s in between.
Cullinane recalls: “We were beaten 13-6 by Pres and we had a couple of scoring opportunities we didn’t take. It was a young side and so we were pleased enough with our performance.
“Whilst our results this season have been up and down — and we have suffered because of injuries — we’re hopeful of doing well, there is a positive mood in the group but in the white heat of the cup, you just never know how things will go.”
The Crescent juniors, by all accounts, won’t be amongst the favourites, with St Munchin’s and CBC fancied within the Crescent camp to be the front-runners in the competition.
Glenstal Abbey v Rockwell College,
Tom Clifford Park (2.30pm)
Head coach Sean Skehan admits the better side won last year’s decider against PBC, as the Glenstal camp missed a rare opportunity to lift a first-ever title.
“We have some experienced players back in the squad, a good number in fact, and the appearance in a cup final has done wonders for the morale around rugby in the school, knowing we can get to that point and be very competitive as well.”
Skehan can choose from 15 of last year’s extended cup panel and 12 players who togged out on final day, including inspirational skipper Ben Healy, who has represented Munster at Under-18 and -19 levels and Ireland in the younger age-group.
One of the group back from last year is multi-talented Ronan Quinn, a nephew of Niall Quinn, and it’s no surprise that he comes with a decent soccer pedigree as well.
Yet, Skehan believes the real strength in this year’s squad is teamwork. “I don’t think it’s about any individual from our point of view, but about a collective ability.”
On the young side of the age group and little is expected of them in 2018.
There is an opportunity for Rockwell to gain revenge for the 18-0 quarter-final defeat to last year’s finalists and coach Kevin Leamy has the luxury of working with 16 of last year’s squad.
“We’re in a pretty good place at the moment and we had a good win over Campbell College in Belfast last week. We have beaten Glenstal already in the Limerick City Cup final but that was a very close match decided probably on the bounce of a ball, so we will have to perform to win.”
Won’t be amongst the favourites but have introduced some impressive talent from the under-15 squad.
Christian Brothers College Cork v Ardscoil Ris,
Perennially among the favourites but were shocked last year in a last-minute quarter-final defeat to tomorrow’s opponents. Head coach Tommy Crowe helped guide the juniors to their title last year and his promotion should ease continuity.
“After what happened last year, you can be sure we will be wary about this opener. We have a very decent squad, plenty of lads back from last year to provide the experience and a number of very talented younger guys coming through. I would consider this to be a pretty good all-round team, there are no particular stand-out players but it’s a very well balanced unit.”
Rated among the group of three or four serious contenders.
Travelled to Cork on a wing and a prayer to play hot favourites CBC last year. Coach Kevin Long knows another shock will be difficult.
“We would always go out in the hope of causing an upset, and that is what it would be should we win, but that’s the beauty of cup rugby and certainly nobody gave us even an outside chance last year. But, while ours is a young side, there are some cracking players in the team, three or four of them still under 17. We’re going down to Cork to give it a go.”
A young developing side have put the emphasis on performance.
Bandon Grammar School v St Munchin’s,
Bandon RFC (2.30pm)
There was a time when Bandon Grammar School would have been pleased to advance beyond the first round, but they have made huge strides recently and it is St Munchin’s now thirsting for revenge. Bandon beat the Limerick outfit in 2016 and repeated the trick in an intense quarter-final last season.
Gamesmaster George Bradfield expects it to be tougher this year. “Apart from the fact that St Munchin’s will be hell-bent on getting one up on us, we will be fielding a pretty inexperienced team, a good one we feel, but a very young one. Most of the boys are in fifth year at the start of the senior cycle and we will rely heavily on the likes of our captain Ashley Deane, who played representative rugby for Ireland last year, and on Jack Crowley, Victor Lovell, and Niall Beamish.”
“We’re excited about the talent available to us, but we have a tough opener against St Munchin’s, one of the clear favourites.”
Have lost the injured Paddy Kelly, who played for Ireland under-18s last year, but spokesman Eric Nelligan still believes the forward pack can be a match for anyone.
“I believe they won’t be pushed around by anyone in the tournament. Yes, Paddy is a loss but there are several other key figures in the unit and we have an exceptional scrum-half in Evan Maher. He is our go-to man in this third year playing senior cup and he is also our captain and decision-maker.
“We’re under no illusions, we know we’re not favourites but have set ourselves the goal of at least getting to a semi-final. After that, anything can happen.”
Favourites. Scrum-half Donnacha O’Callaghan has been mentioned in the same breath as Keith Earls, and out-half Alexander Wood is another special commodity. Yes, Alexander is the son of Ireland legend Keith Wood.
Each Munster Senior Cup tie is preceded by a Munster Junior Cup clash between the same schools at 1pm.
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