Kearney and O'Driscoll do honours as 2013 big three avoid each other

Tue, Dec 11, 2012, 00:00

The big three for 2013 – Terenure, Blackrock and defending champions St Michael’s – managed to avoid each other in last night’s Powerade Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup draw.

In a new format, only the first round, or last 16, was drawn with recuperating Leinster and Lions pair Rob Kearney (Clongowes Wood 2004) and Brian O’Driscoll (Blackrock 1997) doing the honours.

The quarters and semi-finals will be drawn after each round is complete.

Terenure and Blackrock both look primed to return from the wilderness, not winning since 2003 and 2009 respectively. Admittedly, it sounds odd but having won it 66 times since 1887 three years without the Cup is considered a famine in Blackrock, while 10 years is a life time for Terenure, who are joint second, alongside Belvedere, on the all-time list with 10 titles.

St Michael’s are the newest powerhouse in Irish schools’ rugby, having contested the last six Junior finals, capturing the double in 2012, and winning two of the four senior finals they’ve reached since 2006.

Their opening round opponents are Castleknock College, Blackrock have Gonzaga, while Terenure have a Becher’s Brook of an opening obstacle in Belvedere.

Dark horses

The dark horses this year appear to be Cistercian College, Roscrea. They have Qualifier 1 for starters.

The senior matches begin January 28th, with quarter-finals on February 19th, semi-finals on March 3rd and 5th (at Donnybrook), with the final switched from its traditional St Patrick’s Day slot to the Bank Holiday Monday, March 18th at the RDS Showgrounds.

This is to facilitate the large contingent travelling home from Ireland’s last Six Nations game in Rome on March 16th while the Branch also wish to avoid clashing with the GAA’s All-Ireland club finals in Croke Park.

It will be televised live on Setanta Ireland.

In the Junior Cup, Blackrock and St Michael’s look the strongest with our man on the ground also mentioning Belvedere and CBC Monkstown as contenders.

World stars

O’Driscoll and Kearney, world stars now, still speak of their own cup campaigns in hushed tones. Both of them have painful memories. Granted, O’Driscoll was an unused sub for the Dream Teams in the 1996 final but the following year he lost out in the semi-final to Gordon D’Arcy’s Clongowes.

Best player he ever faced or played alongside? “I used to be afraid of going to training and having to tackle Ciarán Scally. And he was a scrumhalf. He went on to play for Ireland not long after school but he got injured and was forced to retire. He was better than all of us.”

Kearney, who was outstanding in the 2004 final defeat to Blackrock, is joined in the current Leinster set-up by eight fellow Clongownians; Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, his brother Dave, along with recent recruits Conor Gilsenan, Jordan Coghlan, Jack O’Connell and the highly rated Byrne twins, Brian and Edward.

“What I loved most about Clongowes was the bond you had with your mates. That goes through the generation. One of us goes down pretty much every year.

“It is nice to see how senior cup rugby still works because it was a massive part of our lives at the time. When you are in that moment, nothing is bigger. You remember that and appreciate what it means to these guys. They put a huge amount of time and effort into it.”

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