Blackrock edged out 12-10 winners over St Michaels to lift the Leinster Schools Junior cup for the 46th time in their history and inflict the fifth successive final defeat on the Dublin 4 school.
Tries from blindside Oliver Jager and captain Nicholas Timoney gave ‘Rock the narrow win over their close rivals.
Michaels have now competed in, and lost, five junior finals in a row, but the achievement in getting this far and pushing Rock all the way should not be taken lightly.
Indeed, they came within inches of the win after a last ditch Matthew Gilsenan penalty went narrowly wide of the upright.
Michaels had the kick off and the best of early exchanges, some tidy work at the base of the scrum from Scott Smith kept his side pushing forward until Gilsenan was caught by a ferocious Jager tackle and knocked on.
After 12 minutes, ‘Rock made their first inroads into opposition territory. Despite Shane Lynch getting unceremoniously dumped by – the equally huge- Harry Redmond, they trundled on up the right flank. Showing their intent, and declining a penalty in the corner, they kept the ball amongst the pack.
Somehow, Michaels managed to keep them from touching down, but it was merely a temporary reprieve. From the following scrum, Jager barged over the line and Ian Kinsley added the extras, which proved crucial come the final whistle.
Rock were in the groove, Joe O’Hehir broke the line on the right wing, and when Jager made another burst through the 10 channel, it looked only a matter of time before they would have a double score advantage.
Until, that is, the 20th minute when wing Dillon Coughlan collected Gilsenan’s kick and fired a long pass across his own 22. Oisin O’Meara was lurking in the blindspot and out-jumped Zach O’Hagan to collect and race through to the line.
The Saints were humming before the break; the loop between fly-half and centre, Adam Leavy, was a joy to watch. Jack Dwan was guilty of handling in the ruck but was let off the hook by Gilsenan who pulled his penalty left and wide.
Five minutes later, David O’Conner was pinged for holding on, Gilsenan would not repeat the mistake, he made score 10-7 at the half time whistle, a sound Blackrock were glad to hear.
The Blackrock management sent on a trio of impact subs and it had the desired effect as they set up camp in Michael’s territory.
Eoin Fanning burst towards the posts, dragging O’Meara along as a would-be tackler. The defence was penalised for holding on in the tackle, but in front of the posts, Tristan Brady declined the certain three points and quick tapped. Michaels were not easily breached but the intense pressure eventually yielded five points for Timoney, who touched down on the line.
By Timoney’s standards this was a quiet day, he and his opposite number, Max Deegan are used to being behind dominant packs and running riot through the gaps. However, with two sets of forwards so evenly matched this was a day to put the shoulder to the wheel.
That’s exactly what Michaels did, they knuckled down and refused to accept their fate. Leavy was a constant theat, probing for gaps all along the defensive line. Though, in defence, Rock seemed to have all the answers.
With two minutes on the clock, just as ‘Rock were given some relief from the intense pressure, Jack Power missed touch from a penalty in front of his own posts. Alex Penny caught it at the second time of asking and the Saints were back in business.
40 meters out, referee Ed Power adjudged Hugo Kean to be holding in the tackle and Gilsenan, who had a mixed day with the boot, was faced with a chance to end five years of hurt. The kick sailed narrowly left but there was yet still time for Michaels.
Powers’ 22 drop-out only found Gavin Duffy on halfway and the excitement reached a crescendo when he put, winger, Will Butler into space on the left. But there was to be no dramatic finish, O’Hagan, who has been a fantastic full back throughout the competition was covering and dragged his man into touch to seal the win.
Blackrock College: Zach O’Hagan, Johnny Redmond, Joe O’Hehir (Dan O’Mahoney ’35) Ian Kinsley, Dillon Coughlan (Davin Glynn ’63) Jack Power, Tristin Brady. Shane Lynch (Dane Fitzpatrick ’35) Geoff Moylan (Hugo Keane ’35), Evan Holland, Jack Dwan, David O’Conner, Oliver Jager (Cian O’Dwyer ’68) Eoin Fanning, Nicholas Timoney (capt).
Replacements: Jonathan Moore, Evan O’Sullivan
St Michaels College: Gavin Duffy, Karl Victory, Adam Leavy, OIsin O’Meara, Will Butler, Matthew Gilsenan, Scott Smith (David Duggan’ 59) Oisin Joyce, James O’Connell, Harry Redmond (Liam Bradbury ’65) Charlie Cregan, James Ryan, Alex Penny, Cathal McGettigan, Max Deegan.
Replacements: Gavin Barrett, James Bollard, Joe Browne, Harry Sandford, Peter Dineen.
Referee: Ed Kenny