Clongowes show the stuff of champions


SCHOOLS RUGBY LEINSTER SENIOR CUP, SEMI-FINAL Clongowes 34 St Michael's 20:TRUE CHAMPIONS always find a way. St Michael’s tactical approach must be applauded; they engineered three tries, but the ability of Clongowes Wood to soak it all up and counter punch with five tries of their own says everything about their desire to create a little piece of history.

Only the winners from tomorrow’s giant-killing pair, St Gerard’s and Roscrea, stand in the way of them retaining the Leinster Schools Cup for the first time.

This ultra-physical Clongowes pack are literally brothers-in-arms as the three Byrne siblings have a huge influence on go-forward momentum. Add seven returning cast members from last season’s Cup-winning 22, allied by impressive new additions like centre Conor Joyce, and their march back to the RDS on March 17th has seemed inevitable.

But St Michael’s arrived in Donnybrook yesterday determined to avenge defeat in the 2010 final.

The combination delivered a thrilling spectacle. Rugby at its most pure.

The contribution of St Michael’s fullback Cameron Diamond is a good place to start. Mimicking elder brother Cormac, who last year also took time away from a Gaelic football upbringing, he turned the big Clongowes forwards on their heels with a clever array of kicking to manufacture a decent attacking platform.

After Mark Corballis, the excellent Dan Leavy and Andrew Murphy carried with venom, outhalf Bobby Holland finally punched a hole in the seemingly airtight Clongowes defence and his offload out the back door, alá Sonny Bill Williams, put Diamond clear for a try on 18 minutes.

The Clongowes response was brutally efficient. It came at a price, however. Nick McCarthy – from the all-representative Clongowes backrow – retired with a recurring shoulder injury as intense pressure at scrum time forced the St Michael’s halfbacks into uncharacteristic errors.

The return from injury of tight head prop Edward Byrne, alongside twin brother Bryan at hooker, had a huge bearing on their mastery of the tight exchanges. Eventually, with half-time in sight, outhalf David Quirke nimbly side-stepped a route through light-blue traffic for their first try.

But St Michael’s refused to blink, immediately responding with another try after brilliant handling by Leavy and then lock Donagh Lawler sent number eight Christian Daly sprinting towards the posts. Joyce just managed to catch him, but a quick recycle allowed McGrath put Diamond over for his second touchdown. McGrath converted to put them ahead, 12-10, at the interval.

The champions looked rattled, especially when McGrath extended the lead with a penalty won from the kick-off after a massive hit by Leavy.

It was at this point the momentum swung back towards Clongowes. With captain Conor Gilsenan busy with defensive duties, it was Coghlan who carried two defenders over the try-line on 45 minutes. The scrum was gain a factor but the lineout shouldn’t be overlooked either as the third Byrne brother, Thomas, directed matters with great composure.

At 15-all the next score would be decisive. McGrath was a shade wide with a penalty (the Ireland schools number nine performs scrumhalf duties with artistry but he is not a place-kicker).

Clongowes best period of continuity followed as they surged into the St Michael’s 22, earning a scrum when the ball struck referee Alan Rogan. They switched the point of attack to their three-quarters with Joyce fixing the defence to free up space outside. Jamie Glynn picked a delicious line to power onto the offload and cross untouched near the uprights.

Mahony’s conversion made it 22-15. There followed a slight moment of controversy. St Michael’s possession was turned over by the tackler – something the Irish national team is being killed for at present. It was deemed legitimate and Clongowes scrumhalf Conor McQuaid shot up the blindside. Coghlan provided support as a combination of poor defence and powerful running saw the Ireland under-20 cricketer make it all the way home.

Clongowes were rampant now. Fullback Harry Burns sealed victory with a fifth try as McGrath and Diamond lay strewn further out the field, crippled by cramp.

Brave St Michael’s looked spent although Corballis did squeeze in for their third try at the right corner. For Clongowes to be stopped we may need to witness something bordering on a miracle this St Patrick’s Day.

Scoring sequence – 10 mins: C Mahony pen, 3-0; 18C Diamond try, 3-5; 32D Quirke try, 8-5; C Mahony conv, 10-5; 35: C Diamond try, 10-10; L McGrath conv, 10-12. Half-time. 36L McGrath pen, 10-15; 45J Coghlan try, 15-15; 53 mins: J Glynn try, 20-15; C Mahony conv, 22-15; 55J Coghlan try, 27-15; C Mahony conv, 29-15; 65H Burns try, 34-15; 70M Corballis try, 34-20.

CLONGOWES WOOD COLLEGE: H Burns; G Murray, J Glynn, C Joyce, C Mahony; D Quirke, C McQuaid; G Frayne, B Byrne, E Byrne; B Phelan, T Byrne; N McCarthy, C Gilsenan (capt), J Coghlan. Replacements: D Kennedy for N McCarthy (29 mins), P Timmins for B Phelan (49 mins), S Fromm for C Mahony (66), T Collis for E Byrne (67).

ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE: C Diamond; M Corballis, R O’Loughlin, R Kavanagh, C Kelleher; B Holland, L McGrath (capt); A Barr, J Headon, K Lawless; M O’Neill, D Lawler; D Leavy, A Murphy, C Daly. Replacements: T O’Connell for A Barr (ht), B Butler for B Holland (62 mins), R O’Neill for J Headon, R Byrne L McGrath (both 66).

Referee: A Rogan(Leinster).

IRFU announce ticket rices for World Cup warm-up games

THE IRFU has announced the ticket prices for the home international games against France and England this August in both single ticket and family package formats. Ireland will take on both Scotland (Edinburgh) and France (Bordeaux) away in August before the welcoming the French to the Aviva stadium and finishing off their run of four pre-World Cup matches against England.

These two final games will see premium level tickets available in the Aviva stadium priced at €50, with other category tickets ranging from €40 to €20: it is much lower than the pricing structure for the current Six Nations home games.

Schoolboy/girl tickets are available at €10 with a family ticket (two adults, two children) being offered for €60. The tickets will be distributed through rugby clubs on a first preference basis and any tickets that are not taken up by clubs will be distributed through the Irish Rugby Supporters Club.

World Cup warm-up ticket prices

Premium€50 Category 1€40 Category 2€30 Category 3 Family Ticket Adult€20 Child€10 Category 4€20 Schoolboy/girl€10


Sat, Aug 6th: Scotland v Ireland, Murrayfield. Sat, Aug 13th: France v Ireland, Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux.

Sat, Aug 20th: Ireland v France, Aviva Stadium. Sat, Aug 27th: Ireland v England, Aviva Stadium.