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Dublin: 2°C Wednesday 14 April 2021

Resolute Gonzaga hold firm to keep Castleknock at bay in absorbing Schools Cup tie

The north Dublin school dominated much of the game but were unable to claw back a half-time deficit.

Out-half Michael O'Kennedy kicked two conversions for Gonzaga.
Out-half Michael O'Kennedy kicked two conversions for Gonzaga.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

Gonzaga College 14

Castleknock College 10

– Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook 

IT MAY NOT have been the highest quality match of the week, but Gonzaga and Castleknock served up an absorbing Leinster Senior Schools Cup contest which had everyone in attendance on the edge of their seat until the final whistle.

In the end, Gonzaga held their nerve and withstood an almighty Castleknock onslaught to edge a game which ebbed and flowed right until the last kick to book their place in the second round.

A brace of first-half tries from Sean Galvin proved the difference at a rain-soaked Donnybrook but Castleknock will lament a series of missed chances as their promising campaign ended at the first hurdle.

The eight-time winners dominated for large periods, and were camped inside the Gonzaga half for all of the second half, but were unable to make that territory count.

Having trailed 14-3 at the break, Darragh McNally gave his side hope with a little over 10 minutes remaining but Gonzaga, incredibly and heroically, kept the door shut to spark jubilant celebrations at full time.

In arguably the worst conditions of the week, it was understandable that both sides took a while to settle into the contest and the opening exchanges were incredibly scrappy.

Castleknock probably shaded the first quarter and that was reflected on the scoreboard when Cian Egenton dissected the posts with a penalty after nine minutes.

Gonzaga fans do the 'Poznan' Gonzaga supporters celebrate. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Their lead didn’t last long, however.

From the restart, Gonzaga stole possession and from there hit the front. A period of patient build-up was rewarded when winger Galvin crashed over the line after collecting James Kenny’s pop pass.

Gonzaga extended their advantage eight minutes later but it came against the run of play.

Having applied all the pressure down one end, Castleknock were made to pay as they were caught short at the back and exposed when Gonzaga hacked through and the bounce of the ball favoured Galvin.

Moments earlier, the eight-time winners thought they had made the breakthrough of their own. A powerful scrum set the platform and flanker McNally peeled off the back and put the head down.

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He was initially stopped metres from the line but, illegally, forced his way over before referee Brian Montayne correctly cut the celebrations in the stands short for a double movement. It was to prove a defining moment in the game.

Just as they had done after Egenton’s penalty, Gonzaga swiftly turned defence into attack and their lead had suddenly extended to 14-3 with the impressive Michael O’Kennedy adding the extras to O’Donnell’s score.

That’s how it stayed until the break with Gonzaga content to keep their shape and prove difficult to break down. Led by captain Conor Gleeson, the Ranelagh school were superb in defence but were finally unlocked on the hour mark.

With Ian O’Grady in the sin bin, Castleknock bided their time and eventually found a way through with McNally applying the finish under the posts. Replacement out-half Donncha Ryan struck the conversion sweetly to set-up a grandstand finish.

Castleknock threw absolutely everything at the wall of green shirts but time was against them and it was Gonzaga who prevailed to take their place in the draw for the quarter-finals.

Gonzaga scorers:
Tries: Sean Galvin [2]
Conversions: Michael O’Kennedy [2 from 2]
Castleknock scorers:
Tries: Darragh McNally
Penalties: Cian Egenton [1 from 1]
Conversions: Donncha Ryan [1 from 1]

GONZAGA COLLEGE: 15. David Lynch, 14. Sean Galvin, 13. Hugh Twomey, 12. Brian O’Donnell, 11. Elliot Allen, 10. Michael O’Kennedy, 9. James Kenny; 1. Michael Gleeson, 2. Conor Gleeson (captain), 3. Simon Clear, 4. Eoin Buggy, 5. Caoilim Fassbender, 6. Ian O’Grady, 7. Mark Keegan, 8. Robbie Kidney.

Replacements not used: 16. Mikey Holly, 17. Matt Meagher, 18. Frank McHugh, 19. Eoin Barron, 20. James Veale, 21. Charlie Goulding, 22. Danny Inglis, 23. Jack Connolly.

CASTLEKNOCK COLLEGE: 15. Cathal Lacey, 14. Robert O’Meara, 13. James Branagan, 12. Jamie McGaley, 11. Luke McMenamin, 10. Cian Egenton (22. Donncha Ryan 46′) 9. Conor Neville (21. Josh Connolly 46′); 1. Emmet Reilly, 2. Michael Corcoran, 3. Jack Keleghan (captain), 4. Connor O’Brien, 5. Jack Horgan, 6. Jack Gillen (20. Adam Corcoran 41′) 7. Darragh McNally, 8 Cian Clancy.

Replacements not used: 16. Robert Hodson, 17. Matthew Holton, 18. David Sinclair McCabe, 19. Alexander O’Farrell, 23. Daire Turley.

Referee: Brian Montayne.

– Article updated at 6.25pm

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Ryan Bailey

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