PBC coach Ger Bourke summed it all up in a nutshell afterwards, when saying Pres and Christians could play for a teacup and there would still be that atmosphere.
As usual, Musgrave Park was no place for the faint-hearted or the neutral for that matter. Quite simply you’re on one side of the great divide, whether it’s the black and white section or the red and yellow. There’s no middle ground.
And per the norm, the famous old stadium, which has had many an uplift, including a synthetic pitch, crackled with excitement and anticipation and in keeping with the long-standing tradition, the game didn’t disappoint.
In fact, it’s up there with many of the greats from bygone eras like Alex O’Regan’s injury-time drop-goal to snatch the cup from Pres’s grasp in the closing act and send it northside over Patrick’s Bridge to find a resting place in Christians’ extensive trophy cabinet.
They are lasting memories, standing the test of time, hazy re-call and no doubt the odd tinge of embellishment, though none is required in many of the stories. The 2022 version became the latest chapter in this compelling and never-ending drama.
For 28 minutes, it remained scoreless, reflecting the tight nature of the exchanges and the importance of stout defending and not allowing the enemy breach their line.
Then, the deadlock was broken by Pres centre Rory O’Shaughnessy, who happened to be joint-captain of the Munster winning Cork minor footballers in 2021. He found a gap to create the opportunity for supporting flanker Fionn Roussel to crash over.
The conversion was kicked by full-back Ben O’Connor, a promising hurler whose year with St Finbarr’s catapulted him to another level, for a 7-0 advantage.
Yet, it only lasted seven minutes as Christians came roaring back and earned a due reward for sustained pressure following a terrific run from wing Shane Moloney which brought play to within five metres of a score.
Despite being held up over the line, a Pres knock-on handed Christians an attacking scrum in a promising position and they, duly, benfitted, number 9 Jack Casey squeezing over for out-half Daire Burke to convert and level matters at 7-7 at half-time.
Christians now had momentum and developed a head of steam as they swept in front for the first time with a second try, 10 minutes into the second-half.
It stemmed from another close-range scrum in the left corner, but, on this occasion, Burke launched a tantalising cross-field kick for full-back Ben Lynch to climb highest, claim the ball and dot down for an unconverted try, 12-7.
Within another 10 minutes, Christians pulled further ahead with a third try, Burke the scorer on this occasion after centre Mathew O’Shaughnessy almost made it to the line though Casey was up in support to send his out-half over. Burke converted for 19-7 with a quarter-of-an-hour of regulation time remaining.
Then came the fight-back. Pres pressure yielded a try for wing Sean Condon with O’Connor expertly converting from the touchline to cut the deficit to five points.
The game now reaching boiling point, O’Connor’s booming kick sent Condon on a mission and he forced a line-out 10 metres from the line. Pres sensed their moment.
O’Connor wrote his name into school folklore by snatching the equalising try before converting from out wide to sensationally win the game.
Tries: F Roussel, S Condon, B O’Connor Cons: B O’Connor (3).
Tries: J Casey, B Lynch, D Burke Cons: D Burke (2).
B O’Connor; A Twomey, S Sexton, R O’Shaughnessy, S Condon; H Coughlan, M Murphy; F Cowhig, D Sheahan, S Ventura Patricio; L Hardman, A Keane; F Roussel, I Dennehy, J Sheahan.
M O’Sullivan, P Doyle, T McCarthy, D Holohan-Healy, D Noonan, L Tuohy, G O’Leary-Kareem, A Cooke, Z Dinan, J Wixted.
B Lynch; B O’Riordan, M O’Callaghan, E Cahill-Murphy, S Maloney; D Burke, J Casey; S Loftus, G Rasmussen, H Foster; D Novak, K Novak; T Land, A Ronan, J Coleman.
S O’Shaughnessy, A O’Leary, D Callaghan, C Kidney, G Hyde, O Prenter, S Crowe, F Whooley, C Kilbride, A Egar.
G Clancy (MAR).