Great rivals Pres and Christians go head to head in the decider for the first time in 12 years

Great rivals Pres and Christians go head to head in the decider for the first time in 12 years
Michael Hand, Pres, leads a charge against Rockwell College. Picture: Larry Cummins

SUNDAY, Clayton Hotels Munster Schools Senior Cup final: CBC v PBC, Musgrave Park, 4pm

A FIRST decider in 12 years between the arch-rivals has the added incentive (if any was needed) in the winners moving top of the roll-of-honour with 30 titles.

This is Christians’ second successive final appearance and a third in four years while Pres were champions in 2017.

Twelve months ago Christians experienced the acute disappointment of losing to first-time winners Glenstal Abbey at the same venue, though the surface has since changed to a 3G all-weather pitch.

CBC's Adam O'Connor tackles PBC's Jonathan Wren in last year's semi. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
CBC's Adam O'Connor tackles PBC's Jonathan Wren in last year's semi. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

They can call on three players who started in the 18-17 defeat, tight-head prop Mark Donnelly, second-row John Willis and number eight Cian Hurley.

Five more players, centres Harry O’Riordan and Killian Coughlan, out-half Cian Whooley, loose-head Charlie Rasmussen and hooker and captain Scott Buckley were on the bench with Whooley and Buckley summoned to the fray.

Christians’ campaign started with as tough an opening round fixture as they come, drawing the short straw after being paired with Limerick’s strongest side, Crescent College Comprehensive, at Thomond Park, game which more than lived up to its high billing.

It was a punishing encounter all through with Christians starting like a whirlwind, Willis and O’Riordan crossing for early tries and full-back Billy Cain kicking a conversion and a penalty. But, in typical Shannonside fashion, Crescent thundered back into the contest to catch and then overhaul Christians to lead 19-15 at the end of a breathless opening 35 minutes.

CBC supporter Cathal Kearney beating the drum. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
CBC supporter Cathal Kearney beating the drum. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The gruelling effort obviously took a toll as Christians managed to shut out their opponents on the resumption with Cain kicking a couple of penalties in an 11-point contribution and steer his side to a 21-19 triumph.

That stiff examination of their cup credentials stood to them, however, as Christians steamrolled Árdscoil Rís 48-12 in the semi-final, scoring seven tries.

O’Riordan claimed two, Whooley, Hurley, Bill Cain, Aaron Leahy and Dylan McAuliffe the others as the Cork school flexed their muscles ominously.

Dylan McAuliffe celebrates his try. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Dylan McAuliffe celebrates his try. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Pres also impressed in their initial cup outing, scoring five tries in a 31-9 defeat of Rockwell College in their first test on the new surface.

Explosive number eight Alex Kendellan crossed for a couple with Darragh Murphy, Eoin Quilter and Joe O’Leary also getting in on the act. Out-half and captain Louis Bruce kicked three conversions.

But, the Mardyke school were put to the pins of their collars in squeezing past Bandon Grammar School in the semi-final, scraping through 19-18 thanks to a late Kendellen try, converted by Bruce, who held his nerve impressively.

An early try from Peter Cunningham against the wind hinted at Pres dominating, but a well-drilled Bandon fought back to lead 8-7 at the interval and extending it to 11-7 midway through the second half.

Substitute Michael Hand scored a brilliant opportunist try from over half-way to edge Pres 12-11 ahead only for Bandon to cross again for a six-point advantage, forcing their opponents to pull out all the stops in a hectic finish.

The schools clashed in a thrilling semi-final 12 months ago, when Christians came from 0-15 to win 17-15, Adam O’Connor scoring in the final play, eight minutes into injury-time.

Pres supporters Mark Traynor, Mark Murphy and Briain Murphy. 
Pres supporters Mark Traynor, Mark Murphy and Briain Murphy. 

Pres have five survivors in their starting 15, Bruce at 10 and McLoughlin at full-back with Eoin Quilter and David McCarthy, tight-head prop in 2018, forming the second-row and Kendellen at number 8.

Others like Darragh Murphy, Rory Duggan, James O’Shaughnessy, Jack Kelleher and John Forde were also involved last season.

Who’s going to win? Pres won at Christmas but didn’t impress in the semi-final unlike their opponents, but how relevant those games are now is the pertinent question.

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