Glenstal Abbey 3
PRES overcame next-to-impossible conditions and tenacious Glenstal Abbey tackling to collect their 29th Clayton Hotels sponsored Munster Schools Senior at Thomond Park yesterday.
Their joy at ending a seven-year wait since the last time the famous trophy found its way to the Mardyke school was all the more evident for joining fierce rivals CBC at the top of the roll-of-honour.
And there was no disputing Pres’s hour-of-glory because they were the dominant side throughout a game ruined by the howling and wind which engulfed the ground.
Despite an inordinate amount of possession they somehow managed to restrict spilling the slippery-as-a-soap-bar of a football to the minimum despite confronted by such spirited defiance.
The Pres pack were truly awesome. Number eight and skipper, Jack O’Sullivan, led by example, never taking a backward step to force the challenge on Glenstal and he was well supported by his colleagues in the pack.
Prop Brian O’Connor again carried impressively as did back-rowers Cian Fitzgerald and David Hyland while Pres also profited from a far more reliable set-piece.
Rules determine the scrum isn’t as powerful a weapon as before, but Pres’s destruction on the Glenstal line-out throw was another potent element in their success.
Hooker Billy Scannell deserves huge credit, too, for picking out his jumpers in such treacherous conditions, helping Pres to maintain possession.
Of course, it wasn’t all about the forwards’ grunt because half-backs Gary Bradley, son of former Ireland international, Michael, and Peter Sylvester marshalled the game-plan expertly.
Sylvester regularly used his boot in a Pres dominated second-half in particular to turn Glenstal, taking turns with points’ scoring hero, Sean French, to pin their opponents back.
Pres set the tone from the start by keeping the ball in hand and working the corners to make ground, showing impressive retention in the process.
Their early pressure was rewarded with the opening score after 15 minutes, when Sylvester and French linked to force Glenstal into conceding a penalty, which French kicked from the 22m line.
However, their difficulty in dealing with the re-start offered Glenstal a chance of opening their account, which they duly did with Ben Healy’s penalty after Pres were blown up for not rolling away in the tackle.
Yet, Glenstal’s hopes of building on that boost were dashed almost immediately with a classic training-ground move from an attacking scrum which yielded the game’s only try after 19 minutes.
O’Sullivan broke on the blind side, attracting the attention of a couple of defenders before offloading at the perfect time for French to take the ball on the charge and force his way over.
The weather affected his conversion, however, as the ball fell from its tee and his drop-goal effort flew left and wide. Pres were 8-3 in front and worthy of the advantage.
It remained that way to the interval though the Cork school were always in attack mode and they continued in that vein from the second-half resumption.
And they varied approach intelligently, as well, O’Sullivan breaking down the right before wing Paul Buckley took over as Pres pressed for the crucial next score to stamp their mark on the second-half.
Full-back Jonathan Wren also got in on the act while Tom Fitzgerald’s use of the ball was always the right option either by taking it on or sending Glenstal back-pedalling with superb kicking.
And yet, the Limerick somehow hung in there, putting their bodies on the line to frustrate their opponents, who endured a heart-in-the-mouth moment three minutes from the end of regulation time.
Glenstal flanker Conor Booth broke clear over half-way only to be felled by Tom Fitzgerald initially. Pres’s relief at winning the penalty was obvious.
So, too, when French kicked the clinching penalty four minutes later to signal the celebrations.
Scorer for PBC:
Try: S French; Pens: S French (2)
Scorer for Glenstal:
Pen: B Healy
PBC: J Wren; P Buckley, S French, J Broderick, T Fitzgerald; P Sylvester, G Bradley; C Burke, B Scannell, B O’Connor; A McAuliffe, M McCarthy; C Fitzgerald, J O’Sullivan, captain, D Hyland.
Subs: E Burns for McAuliffe 52 mins, D Harrington for Bradley 63 mins
GLENSTAL ABBEY: J O’Mahony; T Molony, J Mawhinney, L Fitzgerald, R Quinn; B Healy, T Coole; S Scanlon-Garry, G Downing, E Bergin; C O’Sullivan, S Downes; C Booth, R Clarke, captain, M Fleming.
Subs: A Hogan for Molony 55 mins, H Downing for Bergin 63 mins, D Floyd for Mawhinney 67 mins, M Walsh for Downes 71 mins
Referee: K Imbusch (Munster)