Ryan Byrne/INPHO Belvedere College winger James McKeown.
# revenge mission
McKeown the hat-trick hero as Belvedere secure shot at schools final redemption
Two intercepted tries proved crucial as they saw off a gritty challenge from St Michael’s.

Belvedere College 36

St Michael’s College 22

A HAT-TRICK OF tries from winger James McKeown ensured that Belvedere will get a shot at redemption in this year’s Leinster Schools Senior Cup final.

The Dublin school will be looking to avenge last year’s defeat in the decider against Roscrea, after beating a battling St Michael’s side in the semi-final this afternoon.

Belvo came into this match after overcoming favourites Blackrock in an enthralling quarter-final replay just 10 days ago. Michael’s, on the other hand, had more than four weeks to prepare for today’s semi-final.

In wet conditions, it was Belevdere who dominated the early possession without gaining too much territory, but their ownership of the ball was finally rewarded after 10 minutes.

A dummy run by scrum-half Paraic Cagney allowed McKeown to break through the Michael’s defence.

He then combined well with Hugh O’Sullivan before the winger crossed the line for his first of the day. A fine Connor Jennings conversion gave Belvedere a deserved 7-0 lead.

As is often the case in this competition, the opposition responded well. St Michael’s fly-half Harry Byrne converted a simple penalty after Belvedere failed to roll away when the Ailesbury Road side were pushing for a try under the posts.

Belvedere came back with a penalty of their own shortly after, when Michael’s pulled down their scrum. And another fine strike by Jennings restored Belvo’s seven-point lead.

It was only a matter of time before Belvo crossed the line again and it eventually came from good interplay from their line-out in the Michael’s 22.

After some sharp passing the impressive Max Kearney carried the ball a couple metres short before Cagney found a gap in the defence to cross the line. Jennings again converted to extend the Belvedere lead to 17-3.

Conor Jennings kicks a conversion Ryan Byrne / INPHO Belvedere's Conor Jennings. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

In the first-half, Michael’s always looked dangerous when in Belvedere’s 22, the biggest problem they had was actually making metres against the northsiders’ strong and disciplined defence.

A crunching tackle by the influential Jennings epitomised their first-half performance. It was beginning to look like the four-week break had seen the Michael’s attack lose its sharpness.

Byrne missed a penalty attempt just before half-time and the gap remained 14 points at the break.

Belvedere then consolidated their lead by getting the first score of the second period.

A great line from Jennings saw him burst free of the Michael’s defence before laying the ball to Hugh Sexton, and he gave McKeown a simple run in for his second try of the game.

However, there was still hope for Michael’s as captain Jack Kelly had the easiest of finishes after good work by the driving maul. Byrne’s conversion reduced the gap to 12 points with more than 20 minutes remaining.

A break from Kelly was instrumental in Michael’s getting the next score. Belvo seemed to be tiring under the pressure and Barry Fitzpatrick grounded the ball after good work from their backs. Byrne missed the conversion to set up a tense finale with the scores at 22-15.

It was game on again but out of nothing McKeown completed his hat-trick with 10 minutes to go when he intercepted a Michael’s pass on the half-way line. Jennings converted and the gap was back to 14 points.

Michael’s refused to surrender and were in again when Jack Dunne bundled the ball over the line under the posts. Byrne converted and once again the crowd was in for a grandstand finish.

Unbelievably, shortly after the restart Belvedere secured their second intercept try as Michael’s tried to run the ball from their own 22.

Full-back Hugh O’Sullivan cleverly read the situation to score and ensure a rematch with Roscrea on Sunday, 13 March in the RDS at 3pm.

Ryan Byrne / INPHO St Michael's are applauded off the field. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Belvedere College scorers: Tries: James McKeown x3, Paraic Cagney, Hugh O’Sullivan; conversions: Conor Jennings x4; penalties: Conor Jennings.

St Michael’s College scorers: Tries: Jack Kelly, Barry Fitzpatrick, Jack Dunne; conversions: Harry Byrne x2; penalties: Harry Byrne.

Belvedere College

Hugh O’Sullivan
James McKeown
Conor Jennings
Hugh Sexton
Peter Maher
David Hawkshaw
Paraic Cagney

Daniel McCaffrey
Cian Galvin
Conor Wynne-Walsh
Hugh Fenlon
Brian Egan (captain)
Senan McNulty
Max Kearney
Tom De Jongh

Replacements: Sam Osborne, Cillian Molloy, Jesse Iredale, James Kenny, Jake Robinson, Ryan Byron, Fergus Flood, Fiachra Smith.

St Michael’s College

Jack Kelly (captain)
Michael Heaney
James Hickey
Ian O’Kelly
Jeff O’Loughlin
Harry Byrne
Tomas Killeen

Ronan Kelleher
Stephen Judge
Samuel Griffin
Ryan Baird
Jack Dunne
Oisin Dowling
Scott Penny
Barry Fitzpatrick

Replacements: Max Kennedy, Milo O’Donahoe, Luke Duffy, Andrew Courtney, Michael Roche, Peter O’Beirne, David Ryan, Dan O’Donovan.

Referee: John Carvill

Ryan Byrne / INPHO Belvedere players celebrate after the game. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

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