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Michael's live up to the billing in three-try quarter-final defeat of Clongowes

The Ailesbury Road school impressed as they booked their place in the last four at Donnybrook.

Ryan Baird celebrates his try.
Ryan Baird celebrates his try.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Clongowes Wood College 13

St Michael’s College 22

Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook 

THE WORD ON the street is that St Michael’s are this season’s frontrunners, and certainly there is growing evidence to suggest the Ailesbury Road school are primed to end their six-year wait to reign supreme at Senior Cup level again.

These remain relatively early days in the competition, and there are still two further hurdles for Emmet MacMahon’s supremely talented side to overcome, but on the basis of this powerful performance, they have the required credentials to go all the way.

This was the highest-quality quarter-final by some distance, and Clongowes deserve credit for that, but try as they might, it is nearly impossible to contend with Michael’s when they flex their considerable muscle.

Perhaps most impressive was the concentration and application showed by Michael’s who, having surged into a 22-6 lead, then stood resolutely firm to subdue Clongowes’ desperate attempts to get back into contest.

With ball in hand, Michael’s are equally formidable as they contain willing runners all over the park and in captain David Ryan, second row Ryan Baird and flanker Scott Penny have three of the most exciting players in the competition.

Baird showed why he is so highly-rated with a brilliantly finished try in the far corner to get his side up and running, and then hooker Lee Barron and Dan O’Donovan added further scores before and after the interval.

Clongowes, to their credit, displayed admirable resolve to work their way back into the game through number eight Matthew Martin but left themselves with too much to do, as Michael’s closed the game out to book their place in the last four, where they will face holders Belvedere College.

Dan O'Donovan is tackled by David Wilkinson Dan O'Donovan had a big game for Michael's. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

From the outset, Michael’s stamped their authority on proceedings and the breakthrough score was started and finished by the second rows.

Matthew Healy collected a kick over the top, drew in the defender and set Andrew Smith galloping away down this near side. The winger beat seven would-be tacklers, including the same player twice as he danced inside and out, before Michael’s recycled right.

Number eight O’Donovan maintained the forward momentum with a powerful carry and when he linked again with the supporting Baird, last season’s Leinster schools captain showed athleticism and dexterity to still ground after being tackled just short.

If Baird’s try was evidence of the devastating threat Michael’s carry from broken play, their second was equally impressive in the manner the forwards and backs combined to retain possession and then pick and drive around the fringes. Hooker Barron was the man to reap the reward after sniping over from close range.

Try number three wasn’t long in arriving, as Michael’s moved through the gears.

Quick ball allowed scrum-half Rob Gilsenan to move it wide through Ryan and then Chris Cosgrave, with Smith surging clear down the left and although he was halted just short, Michael’s kept it alive and O’Donovan wasn’t going to be stopped.

Attempting to progress to the semi-finals for the fifth successive year, Clongowes weren’t going to lie down and gave themselves hope of an unlikely comeback after a period of sustained, and controlled, possession yielded seven points.

While Michael’s showed all their defensive qualities, with quick line speed and a tireless work ethic, to shut the door time and time again, the wall of skyblue shirts was breached when John Maher spotted a gap and Martin took full advantage to give the Kildare school a lifeline.

St. Michael’s huddle before the game Michael's are through to the semi-finals. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

But through their dynamic pack, Michael’s took the sting out of the game and in the end comfortably got across the line even allowing for Ryan’s missed penalty attempt in the final exchanges.

It mattered little. Michael’s surge into the business end, where they’ll take some stopping. It could just be their year.

Clongowes scorers:Tries: Matthew Martin
Penalties: Ben O’Shea [2 from 2]
Conversions: Ben O’Shea [1 from 1]St Michael’s scorers:

Tries: Ryan Baird, Lee Barron, Dan O’Donovan.
Penalties: David Ryan [1 from 2]
Conversions: David Ryan [2 from 3]

CLONGOWES WOOD COLLEGE: 15. Charlie Gallen, 14. John Maher, 13. Joe Carroll, 12. Ben O’Shea, 11. Connell Kennelly, 10. David Wilkinson, 9. Conrad Daly; 1. Conor Duff, 2. Bobby Sheehan, 3. Ryan McMahon, 4. Dan Beggs, 5. Tom Coghlan, 6. Anthony Ryan (captain), 7. John Durkan, 8. Matthew Martin.

Replacements: 16. Calum Dowling, 17. Luke McMahon, 18. Rossa O’Kane, 19. Gavin Dowling, 20. Michael Colivet, 21. Max Dowling, 22. Sean Donovan, 23. David Hanly.

ST MICHAEL’S COLLEGE: 15. Chris Cosgrave, 14. Mark O’Brien, 13. David Ryan (captain), 12. Jay Barron, 11. Andrew Smith, 10. David Moran, 9. Rob Gilsenan; 1. Jack Boyle, 2. Lee Barron, 3. Chris Hennessy, 4. Matthew Healy, 5. Ryan Baird, 6. Jody Booth, 7. Scott Penny, 8. Dan O’Donovan.

Replacements: 16. Pierce Fenney, 17. Adam Peat, 18. Fionn Finlay, 19. John Fish, 20. Mark Hernan, 21. Des McCarthy, 22. Mark Earle, 23. Jeff O’Loughlin.

Referee: Nigel Correll.

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Ryan Bailey

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