’Rock hunt down a 70th title but ’Zaga eager to join roll of honour

If the Ranelagh lads bring their attacking game, this promises to be a gripping final

Leinster Schools Senior Cup final

Blackrock College v Gonzaga College

Unless it ends in a stalemate, there is set to be a landmark victory in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup decider at the RDS on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 1pm).

Should they come out on top in the south Dublin venue, it will be an extraordinary 70th title at this grade for an impressively assembled Blackrock College. If Gonzaga College are the ones to prosper, they will become the 18th school in the history of the competition to add their name to the roll of honour.

After edging out St Michael's College in a pulsating opening-round encounter back on February 13th, it was expected that 'Rock were going to be the team to beat in the latter stages of the cup. They have fully justified their favourites tag since then by recording comprehensive wins at the expense of Terenure College (48-0) and Newbridge College (41-5).

Remarkably, 13 different players have scored tries for Justin Vanstone's charges in their three games to date, with Gus McCarthy, Hugh Cooney, Luke Kritzinger and Inigo Cruise-O'Brien the only ones to cross over more than once.

Eye-catching

Like 'Rock, Gonzaga's most eye-catching performance came in the first round, when the Ranelagh school recorded a stunning 34-26 victory over Clongowes Wood College.

Although not at the same level as Blackrock, Declan Fassbender's 'Zaga still clocked up good tallies against Wesley College (32-7) and St Mary's College (34-21) in the subsequent rounds.

Inside centre Jody Browne has been a leading light for them, with three tries in as many games, while outhalf Stephen McMahon and fullback Hugo McLaughlin have shared place-kick duties in an effective manner.

Perhaps the most recognisable name within the Gonzaga ranks is that of number eight Paul Wilson – an All-Ireland minor football champion with his native Meath in 2021.

This will technically be the second final in succession that ’Zaga have contested, given their 2019 decider against St Michael’s College was the last one to officially take place. The scheduled showdown between Newbridge and Clongowes 12 months later was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the competition wasn’t held in 2021.

They finished 23 points adrift (28-5) of an excellent Michael's outfit on St Patrick's Day three years ago and, while Blackrock are capable of dominating the proceedings in Ballsbridge, Gonzaga will certainly be in the reckoning if they can force their attacking game on the Williamstown men.

BLACKROCK COLLEGE (probable): R Moloney; C Molony, H Cooney, L Kritzinger, E Walsh; Z Quirke, O Coffey; M Holmes, G McCarthy, P McCarthy; T Brigg, A Mullan; L Molony, I Cruise-O'Brien, K Jackson.
Replacements: M Yarr, T O'Riordan, A Andersson, C Tonge, J Angulo, W Fitzgerald, C O'Shaughnessy, M Aschenbrenner.

GONZAGA COLLEGE (probable): H McLaughlin; H Neville, H Goddard, J Browne, O O'Neill; S McMahon, M Sullivan; T Hammond, T Cotter, G Morris; T Murphy, L O'Callaghan; N Maguire, G O'Donnell, P Wilson.
Replacements: L McLaughlin, A McVerry, T Noone, T Wyley, M Tyrell, O Murray, M Wall, A O'Flanagan.