THE draw for the Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup produced an obvious stand-out fixture in the Cork derby between last season’s beaten finalists, PBC, and their arch enemy, CBC, at Musgrave Park on January 25.
It will revive memories of the great battles between the fierce rivals, not least last season’s semi-final, when Pres came from 19-7 down in the second-half to snatch victory with a couple of late converted tries.
The Mardyke school, however, had no answer to the hot favourites Crescent College Comprehensive in the final at Thomond Park and both schools look poised to again challenge strongly along with Christians, St Munchin’s and Ardscoil Ris.
It’s not a winner-take-all encounter. The big prize for the winners is automatic qualification for the semi-final while the losers get another chance to reach the last four.
The cup kicks-off on Wednesday with the meeting of Bandon Grammar School and Castletroy College at Musgrave Park, starting at 2.30, and continues the following day with the second appearance of Bantry Community College, who travel to play Glenstal Abbey at Dooradoyle at 2pm.
Bandon and Castletroy struggled in the group-style qualifying competition, both losing all four games to finish bottom of their respective table so a close game is likely with Crescent awaiting in the wings in round 2.
This is Bantry’s second successive season qualifying for the cup proper after a combined score line of 84-36 in their two wins over Villiers School from Limerick and High School Clonmel, scoring 13 tries in the process.
The winners take on Rockwell College, who won two and lost two of their group games, in the second round with the losers of Pres-Christians taking on the eventual winners.
There are obvious strong links to the local Bantry Bay club in whose colours out-half Dylan Hicks and centre Michael O’Donovan represented Ireland U18 Clubs in their 43-10 away win over Italy back in November.
The pair were also part of a recent camp in Dublin for the various Ireland under-age squads in which a notable feature was the paltry representation of players from Cork schools and clubs.
They were joined by PBC duo, Gene O’Leary-Kareem and Tom Coughlan, and CBC’s Michael Foy and Eanna McCarthy.
Pres and Ardscoil Ris finished on 15 points each in Group A in qualifying, winning three of their four games with the Limerick school taking the head-to-head 34-19 earlier in the season.
St Munchin’s were the only side to emerge with a 100% record, topping Group B ahead of Christians after the Shannonsiders won a nine-try thriller by 33-27 with Crescent in third spot with two wins and two losses.
The second round of fixtures concludes with the Limerick derby between St Munchin’s and Ardscoil with the winners progressing directly to the semi-final.
Pres are the defending junior cup champions after overcoming Christians in last season’s final and they begin their title defence against Rockwell at Musgrave Park on February 1.
The Mardyke school won all four games in Group B in qualifying, including a 21-15 victory over Christians, who propped up the table after losing all four games though the majority were just one-score encounters. Castletroy finished runners-up with Ardscoil, who had a 50% success rate, third.
It means Christians are first out in round 1 on January 18 against Bandon Grammar, who also lost all four games in Group A, which was won by St Munchin’s with a 100% record and were followed by Rockwell and Crescent.
Bantry also came through the ‘B’ section, defeating Villiers 12-7, to set-up a meeting with Glenstal in round 1.
In round 2, the winners of the Christians-Bandon tie travel to play Crescent while Ardscoil await either Bantry or Glenstal.
Meanwhile, tomorrow, Cork Constitution and Highfield try for a third time to play their round 9 games in energia All-Ireland League against Trinity College and St Mary’s respectively while Midleton are at home to Bruff at Towns Park in Division 2C.
Frozen pitches, twice, forced the postponement of the Trinity-Con and St Mary’s-’Field games in 1A and 1B respectively and the teams reverse the fixtures the following week in what is a very busy month for club rugby with games every weekend.