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Leinster Senior Cup Preview: Can Roscrea retain their title?

Last year’s beaten finalists Belvedere start the match as favourites.

Belvedere's Conor Jennings.
Belvedere's Conor Jennings.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

ROSCREA’S VICOTORY IN last year’s competition meant they became only the 18th different winner in the tournament’s 129-year history.

Having lost four previous finals, the Offaly side have made sure that last year’s success wasn’t just a flash in the pan by reaching today’s showpiece.

To retain their trophy, Roscrea must once again overcome Belvedere College, who they beat 18-11 in an engrossing final last year.

Speaking to The42.ie, Roscrea’s head coach, Pieter Swanepoel believes that getting preparation right and being disciplined on the pitch are key ingredients for success, but that it will be “very tough” to get past Belvedere again.

“Everybody has been going for us in the league matches. There are no easy matches; every opponent seems to be raising their game against us. Retaining the trophy is always harder, if I was offered just to reach the semi-final at the start of the year, I probably would have taken it,” says Swanepoel.

Although it’s a different season, with different players, half of the team is new, his message to the players will be the same “go out and enjoy the atmosphere. Remember to stay in the patterns. It’s a massive occasion with a lot of pressure but go out and enjoy it.”

This week, the management team has tried to keep preparations as normal as possible, with the players training four times this week, while behind-the-scenes Swanepoel says “it was all about fine-tuning, looking at the video analysis. Everything is done at the same level as a semi-professional outfit.”

Although Andy Wood, Gamesmaster at Belvedere College acknowledges the strengths of Roscrea, especially from the maul he has more of an alternative view of video analysis, saying that “99% of the preparation has been focusing on themselves and getting the processes right. I’m not sure if the television gives the full picture.”

It will be the Great Denmark Street school who will start today as favourites. They have brought the much-coveted trophy to the northside of the Liffey on 10 occasions, but endured a barren run of over 30 years before lifting the trophy again in 2005.

Roscrea supporters at the game CC Roscrea supporters. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Having knocked-out pre-tournament favourites Blackrock in a titanic tussle and St Michael’s in the semi-final, the Dublin school had the tougher journey to today’s final.

They’ve showed some great attacking intent too, having amassed 115 points in their four games so far. There is no reason to suggest why we can’t expect another display of free-flowing rugby this afternoon.

“All of the lads are focused on our team culture and our squad culture, our school ethos is ‘men for others’ and we want to translate that onto the pitch,” says Wood.

It’s easy to forget that some of the players on show have had to combine playing rugby for their school with preparing for the Leaving Cert which is just three months away.

“It has been a normal school week, there has been training and meetings scheduled for the game but there is the academic side too. There is a great buzz around the school, people buying tickets for friends and family, with great interest from our past pupils. There’s a massive sense of occasion but the academic side helps keep their feet grounded,” Wood said.

Despite both teams having six players from the 2015 final expected to feature, the fact the final is a rematch with Roscrea is inconsequential says Wood.

Belvedere say they are treating it as just another important game. Maybe so, but if Belvedere are looking for another ounce of motivation before the game, they certainly have it.

Verdict: Belvedere win

Road to the final

First Round:

Newbridge College 0 Belvedere College 34

Kilkenny College 6 Cistercian College Roscrea 22

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Quarter-final:

Blackrock College 10 Belvedere College 10

Blackrock College 29 Belvedere College 35 (Replay)

Cistercian College Roscrea 27 Gonzaga College 17

Semi-final:

Belvedere College 36 St Michael’s College 22

Clongowes Wood College 18 Cistercian College Roscrea 24

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About the author:

Shane Costello

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