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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 20 February, 2019
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Blackrock's revenge mission faces the ultimate test against history-chasing Belvo

The Leinster Schools Senior Cup final takes place this afternoon.

The two sides meet in a repeat of last year's final.
The two sides meet in a repeat of last year's final.
Image: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

FIVE DAYS AFTER originally scheduled, Blackrock College will seek to end their four-year drought in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup when they face three-in-a-row chasing Belvedere in this afternoon’s final at the RDS [KO 2pm, eir Sport 1].

After the adverse weather forced the postponement of last Sunday’s decider, there is an even greater level of anticipation ahead of the renewal of a rivalry between two schools who have shared four of the last five titles at senior level.

Belvedere are looking to emulate the feat achieved by Blackrock back in 1964 by claiming three consecutive crowns, having pulled off a remarkable comeback — one of the greatest in the competition’s history — to see off St Michael’s at the semi-final stage.

Phil Werahiko’s side were down and out, trailing by 16 points with just 10 minutes remaining, but showed immense character and determination to retrieve the situation and book their place in the final against all odds.

The momentum built up from that win, coupled with their tag as defending champions and the fact they’ve arguably had the tougher route to this juncture, cannot be underestimated as the Great Denmark School go into Friday’s showdown bidding to make history.

There is also the small matter of the return of captain David Hawkshaw, who missed both the quarter and semi-finals through injury, while Belvo are also hopeful of having second-row Aleksiey Soroka available again.

David Hawkshaw Leinster U19 out-half Hawkshaw is back for Belvo. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

‘The entire playing squad, and all the coaches, are really looking forward to this final,” Werahiko said.

“The squad have approached this season with real maturity and have been striving to put their own individual stamp on the competition. This is a new squad that has shown a real resilience and depth of character that has carried them to this final stage.

“We are all looking forward to having our resilience and character tested this week against opponents we respect hugely. Our players and squad have grown as leaders throughout this challenge and I am confident that they will all continue to grow, even beyond this season.”

Led by the impressive Ruadhan Byron, one of only two players back from last year’s 10-3 win over Blackrock, Belvo have big players across the park and fullback David Lacey has stood out throughout the campaign.

Wins over Gonzaga, Newbridge and then Michael’s have seen Belvo begin to build up a head of steam and you get the sense they are yet to hit top gear this season, with Werahiko aware they face a stiff test of their credentials this afternoon.

“We will face a formidable Blackrock College team who have a number of excellent players,” the Belvo head coach added. “But we as a squad also take great confidence from the tough challenges we have had to overcome so far.

Blackrock College celebrate at the final whistle Blackrock are hoping to complete a Senior and Junior double in 2018. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“We are preparing ourselves for a performance on Friday that will reflect the efforts and determination of everyone who has contributed to our season so far.”

As for Blackrock, Justin Vanstone’s class of 2018 have power all over the park while possessing a cutting edge out wide with a thrilling backline led by captain Liam Turner, Tom Maher and flying wingers Liam McMahon and Harry Donnelly.

The 68-time winners will relish another crack at Belvo having fallen disappointingly short in the St Patrick’s Day rain 12 months ago.

A powerful six-try win over St Mary’s in the last four further highlighted their strengths and sent out a big statement of intent ahead of a mouth-watering final.

It should be worth the wait.

Belevdere College: D Lacey; A O’Grady, M Grogan, S Barry, A Loughrey; D Hawkshaw (captain), T Walsh; J Gleeson, L Harmon, C Cagney; N Howard, J Murphy; G Hill, A Coleman, R Byron.

Replacements: J Haughey, M Galinski, J Bell, M Daly, C Scott, P Lysaght, J Meagher, J O’Grady.

Blackrock College: S Madigan; L McMahon, L Turner (captain), T Maher, H Donnelly; J Tarrant, L O’Reilly; D Mescal, S Molony, T Clarkson; S O’Brien, J Stapleton; J Dixon, M McGagh, E Brennan.

Replacements: L Mion, C Duffy, H O’Malley, D Foley, J Burke, R Barron, G Jones, R Madigan.

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Ryan Bailey

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