Gonzaga chasing history in first senior final
Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup Final
St Michael’s College v Gonzaga College
Tomorrow: RDS, 2pm
TV: Eir Sport
Gonzaga College will look to create another slice of history at the RDS tomorrow afternoon, when they face a hotly-fancied St Michael’s College in the Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup final.
Thanks to a superb hat-trick of tries from loosehead prop Henry Godson, the Ranelagh school defeated Clongowes Wood College last Tuesday week to reach a showpiece senior decider for the very first time.
Declan Fassbender’s charges had kick-started their campaign back on January 30 with a nail-biting 26-24 success over the Jeremy Staunton-coached Castleknock College at Castle Avenue.
This set up a quarter-final showdown with near neighbours Terenure College in Donnybrook – where Fergus Ó hOisín effort, Liam Tyrell and Godson all crossed over in a 19-11 triumph. Eight-time winners Clongowes were expected to prevail in their last-four clash, only for Godson’s heroics to provide a novel final pairing for 2019.
Fassbender will bring an extremely settled side to the Ballsbridge venue, with just 17 players used in their three games to date. Jack Connolly is a reliable source of scores off the kicking tee and has dovetailed effectively with half-back partner Harry Colbert.
Alongside Ó hOisín in the back three, Conor Hennessy and Brian Barron have delivered a consistent attacking threat. Their forward pack has stood up to intense scrutiny thus far and will need to do so again if they’re to overcome the challenge by two-time champions Michael’s.
After claiming a facile 52-10 win at the expense of Kilkenny College in the first round, the Ailesbury Road outfit showed their true grit to dislodge holders Blackrock College.
With a John Fish try supplementing 11 points from the boot of Chris Cosgrave, they registered a maiden victory against the Williamstown men at this grade. They backed up this groundbreaking achievement by edging past Belvedere College in a tense semi-final – Lee Barron grabbing the game’s all-important score.
Having experimented with different combinations against Kilkenny, head coach Emmet MacMahon has subsequently settled on a balanced starting 15.
A Junior Cup winner in 2017, outside centre Cosgrave has already amassed an impressive personal haul of 39 points. Barron had led by example at the front of the Michael’s scrum, ably assisted by Jack Guinane and team skipper Mark Hernan.
Over the past couple of decades, Michael’s have established a reputation as one of the finest rugby nurseries in the land. Current internationals James Ryan, Luke McGrath and Dan Leavy count themselves as former pupils, while Leinster stars Ross Molony, Nick McCarthy, Rory O’Loughlin and Noel Reid are other to have passed through the halls of the school.
However, Gonzaga is also the alma mater of former Leinster back-rows Kevin McLaughlin and Dominic Ryan – as well as current Ulster and Ireland scrum-half John Cooney.
This leaves tomorrow’s squads with big boots to fill, but for now their focus will be on securing this much-coveted provincial crown.
ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE: A Smith; E Kelly, C Cosgrave, S O’Kelly, M O’Brien; N Carroll, R Gilsenan; J Boyle, L Barron, F Finlay; S Woods, J Fish; J Guinane, M Hernan, W Hickey.
Replacements: J Boland, B Victory, J Power, L Fehily, C Booth, J Woods, H McWade, R Van Den Akker.
GONZAGA COLLEGE: C Hennessy; F Ó hOisín, F O’Grady, K Morgan, B Barron; H Colbert, J Connolly; H Godson, H Fitzgerald, R Shaw; L Tyrell, J Coolican; C Kirby O Briain, T Cullen, J Barry.
Replacements: L Hammond, G Kenny, S Grimley, O Rogers, A Henry, M Colgan, JJ Walsh, S Wilson.