Coláiste Iognáid looking good for treble
CONNACHT SCHOOLS SENIOR CUP: THIS YEAR’S Senior Cup is shaping up along expected lines, with Coláiste Iognáid the front-runners for a third successive title.
The Galway school is unbeaten this season, and, having already claimed the league crown, are now looking for a title double again.
With recent weather playing havoc with fixtures, a number of second round matches are still to be played this week. However, The Jes are already through to the quarter-finals, having been given a walkover by Rice College, and they are due to meet Oranmore school Calasanctius in the quarter-finals in early February.
It will be a tough task for Calasanctius, who suffered a large turnover this season. Although they enjoyed a 51–0 win over St Mary’s, Ballygar, on Monday, they are expected to struggle with the physicality of the city side, having lost their frontrow, backrow, and most of the backs.
Favourites to join Coláiste Iognáid in this year’s final are Sligo Grammar, and they face St Joseph’s, Galway. Grammar’s proud tradition has seen them in five finals this decade, with two titles, but their last was in 2003.
Having lost to The Jes the following two years, they also came unstuck last year to the Galway school in the quarter-finals.
But this year they have greater expectations, particularly as both schools will not meet until the final, should they advance.
They will be favourites to overcome The Bish, but can expect a tough challenge from the Galway school who enjoyed a solid, 29-7 second-round win over Presentation, Athenry.
QUARTER-FINALS (week of February 2nd): Coláiste Iognáid (Jes) v Calasantius College, Oranmore; Clifden CC v Winners Marist Athlone/St Patrick’s College, Tuam; Winners of St Muirdeach’s/Gallen CS v Winners Holy Rosary, Mountbellew/ St Joseph’s, Garbally; St Joseph’s, Galway (Bish) v Sligo Grammar School.
SEMI-FINALS: Week of February 23rd.
FINAL: Wednesday, March 11th, Galway Sportsground.
GALLEN COMMUNITY SCHOOL
Coach: Charlie Cooper.
Captain: Ronan Cassidy.
Representative players: Connacht Schools, Calum Boland; Connacht U-17s, Diarmuid Higgins.
Prospects: With astute Buccaneers’ man Charlie Cooper in charge, Gallen continue to make great strides. Would be reasonably confident of making it through to the semi-finals, where they would meet Sligo or The Bish. Looking to make an impact.
COLÁISTE IOGNÁID, GALWAY
Coaches: Paul Kilraine, Colm Power, Dermot Murphy.
Captain: Shane Conneely.
Representative players: Eoin Griffin (Ireland U-18, Connacht U-20), Conor F Murphy (Sweden U-18, Connacht U-19), Shane Conneely, Colin Conroy, Donchadha Phelan (all Connacht U-19); Fearghal Campbell, Aaran Conneely, Rory Cunningham, Eoin McKeon (all Connacht U-18); Anthony O’Loughlin, David O’Meara (Connacht Schools A).
Prospects: Favourites to win their 11th Senior Cup. The only school in Connacht to boast 12 players from last year, The Jes is top-heavy with representative players.
Difficult to beat.
ST JOSEPH’S COLLEGE, GALWAY
Coaches: Ambrose Conboy, Tommy Ellard.
Captain: David Garvey.
Representative players: David Garvey and Andrew Fallon (Connacht Schools and Youths).
Prospects: A young side that is progressing, but not expecting honours. Well coached by former Galwegians captain Ambrose Conboy and current scrumhalf Tom Ellard. Well balanced, with potential in the backline, they may struggle with the physicality up front.
SLIGO GRAMMAR SCHOOL
Coaches: Jimmy Staunton/Simon Galvin. Captain: Tadgh Power.
Representative players: Irish Schools, Aaran Spring; Connacht Schools/Youths. Tadgh Power.
Prospects: Another young side with 14 who will be eligible for senior again next season. Led for a second season by Tadgh Power, they also boast Irish Schools’ backrow player Aaron Spring, who moved from Summerhill, who are not playing in this year’s cup. Always a skilful side, they are well balanced and would hope to make it to the final again. MARIST COLLEGE, ATHLONE
Coaches: Mick Loftus, Ray Fagan.
Captain: David Henshaw
Representative players: David Henshaw, Jack Carty, Robert Reid, Alexander McArdle (Connacht U-18).
Prospects: Still waiting an overdue Senior Cup. There were great hopes for the last two years but they came unstuck in the last two finals. As a result, they may have missed their big chance.
Coaches: Jimmy O’Toole, Des Fogarty.
Captain: Stephen Smyth.
Representative players: Ian McDonagh, Jack Vaughan, Colin Reily (Connacht Youths/U-17).
Prospects: A good set of forwards coupled with a young backline. Looking to make progress this season with a view to next year, they could give Marist/ St Pat’s a run for their money in the quarter-finals, particularly in Clifden.
Coaches: Seán Grealish.
Captain: Frank Shelly.
Representative players: Ronan Burke (Connacht U-17).
Prospects: Without a transition year at the school, the turnover is greater at Calasanctius. A light side, Calasanctius look to play 15-man rugby this season with expansive play. Likely to find The Jes too strong and physical.
GARBALLY COLLEGE, BALLINASLOE
Coaches: Michael Horan.
Captain: Michael Cloonan.
Representative players: Michael Cloonan.
Prospects: This should have been Garbally’s year – with the team that won the Junior Cup three years ago. However, only three of those players remain on the team, having lost so many to other boarding schools. No great expectations this year.