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The class of 2017: A preview of this year's Leinster Schools Senior Cup

This year’s competition gets underway on Sunday.

Belvedere College will be the team to beat after lifting the trophy last year.
Belvedere College will be the team to beat after lifting the trophy last year.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

IN NO OTHER sport does a breeding ground quite like the Schools Senior Cup exist.

The competition’s swelling levels of professionalism and quality is reflected in the heightened substance given to it by the four provinces, players and schools.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Leinster Schools Senior Cup gets under way with last year’s winners Belvedere College beginning their defence against St Andrew’s College at Donnybrook.

It marks the beginning of the show-piece event of the schools season and a three-month period of non-stop action across all four provinces as the next generation of stars are given a platform to exhibit their ability and make a name for themselves.

Just as importantly, however, is the competition’s facility to provide young players with a rich, and indeed raw, rugby education.

Belvedere will be the team to beat but as with the start of any new campaign, each and every side go into this week with fresh optimism and a belief that this could be their year.

Twelve months ago, it was the year of black and white. After the heartbreak of 2015, Belvo claimed their 11th senior crown with an emphatic 31-7 victory over Roscrea at the RDS and they’ll be heavily-tipped to be there again come St Patrick’s Day.

Their first assignment comes in the form of a school enjoying a resurgence in recent years. St Andrew’s have threatened to shake up the established order in recent years and will be hoping for another strong campaign this time around.

The Booterstown school punched above their weight in 2014 and were the competition’s surprise package as they progressed to the semi-finals but have been unable to reach those dizzy heights since having fallen at the first hurdle 12 months ago.

Ian Dumbleton’s side will go into tomorrow’s opening game as underdogs but they gave St Michael’s a run for their money at this stage in 2016 and will be out to cause an early upset.

Peter Sullivan St Andrew's winger Peter Sullivan is one to watch. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Captain Harry McCarthy has represented Leinster at schools level and explosive winger Peter Sullivan, who has also featured for Leinster U19s, is one to keep an eye on.

Fourteen of last year’s squad are still involved but while there is a sprinkling of prodigious talent across the side, the holders should prove too strong for their south Dublin opponents.

Belvo may be the defending champions but many people will be backing Blackrock College, the competition’s protagonists with a record 68 titles, to come back strongly after two disappointing years.

Peter Smyth’s charges were dumped out after an epic tussle with Belvo last time out and they begin their quest for a first Senior Cup crown in three years against The King’s Hospital on Monday afternoon.

Indeed, all eight first round ties are down for decision this week. On Tuesday, St Fintan’s High School make their debut at this level against eight-time winners Clongowes Wood in what will be a hugely significant occasion for the competition.

Rugby has only been played at St Fintan’s since 2001 and their remarkable rise to the Leinster Senior Cup under the guidance of coach Robert Forbes promises to be one of the stories of this year’s edition.

A lot of their squad play club rugby for the adjourning Suttonians RFC and Frankie O’Dea, Conor Moore, Aziz Naser, Declan Adamson and captain Sean Cribbin have all been capped at Leinster underage level.

The fixture also marks the beginning of eir Sports’ coverage of both the Senior and Junior Cups.

Nick Timoney is interviewed Setanta Sports, now eir Sport, have provided TV coverage of the tournament in recent years. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

In addition to Tuesday’s game, the broadcaster will televise the four second-round games, the semi-finals and then the final. In the Junior Cup, meanwhile, eir will show the semi-finals and final live.

The extensive media coverage given to all four provinces underlines the significance and prestige of the competitions and as primary sponsor of the Leinster Senior Cup, Bank of Ireland are proud to be associated with schools rugby.

“We realise that to get these players to professional team level there is a broad underage base of participation built around the twin pillars of schools and club rugby,” Ian Murray, Sponsorship manager at Bank of Ireland, told The42.

“We see the power of schools rugby and its importance in the development of both young people and the game itself and that is why Bank of Ireland is proud to be associated with this prestigious competition.”

One of the ties of the round comes on Wednesday when St Mary’s College, the five-time winners, face Newbridge College at Donnybrook.

The Rathmines school exited at the first round stage last year and will be determined to progress further this time around with former Leinster and Munster winger Johne Murphy now part of their coaching team.

By virtue of their qualification for the Vinnie Murray Cup final, CBC Monkstown and Kilkenny College take their spots in the first round and they’ll hope their competitive outings in recent weeks will give them a fighting chance.

Both have been handed difficult first round games with Kilkenny facing Terenure College in one of two ties down for decision on Thursday. The former won the last of their 10 titles in 2003 and have always had enough about them to cause problems for the competition’s powerhouses.

Sam Dardis and JD O'Hea Terenure's Sam Dardis. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

John Coffey, who has enlisted the help of Harrison Brewer and Leinster academy prop Oisin Heffernan, has a number of Leinster players at his disposal, including Sam Dardis (brother of Billy), Harry O’Neill, Rory McGrath, Adam La Grue and Mark Fabian.

Thursday’s other game sees St Michael’s College go head-to-head with St Gerard’s. The Ballsbridge school have emerged as a real force in recent years and they have another hugely talented squad this year with Alex Deegan and David Ryan — brothers of Leinster academy players Max and James — set to play key roles.

Cistercian College Roscrea were beaten finalists last year having lifted the trophy for the first time in their history in 2015 and they must be considered front-runners again this time.

They’ll be hoping for a safe passage through to the next round when they face CBC at Castle Avenue on Friday. In another fascinating match-up, Gonzaga and Castlenock College meet at Donnybrook in the final tie of the round.

Leinster Schools Senior Cup Fixtures:

Sunday 29 January (all 3pm kick offs)

  • St Andrew’s College v Belvedere College, Donnybrook

Monday 30 January

  • The King’s Hospital v Blackrock College, Donnybrook

Tuesday 31 January

  • Clongowes Wood College v St Fintan’s High School, Donnybrook (Live on eir Sport)

Wednesday 1 February

  • St Mary’s College v Newbridge College, Donnybrook

Thursday 2 February

  • Kilkenny College v Terenure College, Castle Avenue
  • St Michael’s College v St Gerard’s, Donnybrook

Friday 3 February

  • Cistercian College Roscrea v CBC Monkstown, Castle Avenue
  • Gonzaga College v Castleknock College, Donnybrook

Squad lists:

Belvedere College: Aaron Coleman, Aaron Murphy, Adam Maher, Alekseiy Soroka, Alex Kavanagh, Alex O’Grady, Anthony McDonnell, Bobby McCarthy, Brian Keane, Cailean Mulvaney, Cian Scott, Cian Walsh, Cillian Molloy, Conor Byrne, Conor Cagney, Conor Doran, Conor Henry, Daragh Ring, David Fox, David Hawkshaw, David Hill, David O’Byrne, David O’Mahony, David Sanfey, David Sheridan, Eoghan Doody, Eoin Gaine, Evan Hill, Evan Mitchell, Finian Gallagher, Fionn Boland, Gareth O’Brien, Gerard Hill, Greg Petherbridge, Grellan Murray, Harry Beggy, Hugh O’Sullivan, Iain Nolan, Jack Crumlish, Jack Doorly, Jack Keating, Jack McCarthy, Jake McComish, Jake Robinson, James Gleeson, Jamie O’Grady, John Meagher, Jonathan Ball, Jordan Wilkes, Joseph Haughey, Josh McGrath, Killian McNevin, Lorcan O’Kelly, Luan McGrath, Luke Gauvin-Grennan, Luke Harmon, Luke Maguire, Luke McDermott, Luke Nolan, Marcus Young, Mark Daly, Mark Donnelly, Mark Farrell, Matthew Hynes, Mathhew Puszczewicz, Max Kearney, Mike Fogarty, Neil Howard, Niall Begley, Oscar Kavanagh, Paraic Cagney, Pascal Ryan, Patrick Lysaght, Paul Twomey, Peter Hill, Peter Maher, Rory Bobbett, Rory Clarke, Ruadhan Byron, Sam Barry, Sam Osborne, Sean Mulhall, Stephen Meagher, Ted Walsh.

Blackrock College: Failed to provide squad list.

Castleknock College: Adam Corcoran, Al O’Farrell, Andrew Proudfoot, Brian Dalton, Cathal Lacey, Cian Clancy, Cian Egenton, Ciaran Farrelly, Conor Neville, Conor O’Brien, Daire Turley, Daniel Waldron, Daragh McNally, David Sinclair-McCabe, Donnacha Ryan, Emmet Reilly, Jack Gillen, Jack Horgan, Jack Keleghan, James Branagan, Jamie McGaley, Josh Connolly, Lennon Bracken, Luke McMenamin, Matthew Holten, Michael Corcoran, Misha Maxwell, Padraig Whelan, Rob O’Meara, Robert Hobson, Sean Egan, Sean Picard.

CBC Monkstown: James Reynolds; Conor Newman, Cameron Watson, Darragh Forster, Luke Sweeney; Sean Power, Shane O’Hanrahan; Max Read, Mark Theunissen, Callum Kavanagh, Robert Ivers, Eoin Vaughan, Robert Doyle, Zach Sattar, Eoghan Clarke.

Cistercian College Roscrea: Adi Donavan, Alex Halpin, Ben Hyland, Ben Murphy, Billy Foley, Caoimhighin Bradshaw, Cathal Walsh, Cinead Tynan, Conor Kelly, Conor Timmons, Cormac Izucchukwu, Dan Power, Darragh Loughnane, David Gavin, David Maher, David O Toole, Diarmaid Kilgallon, Eoin Deegan, Evan Browne, Fiachra Murphy, Finbarr Crowley, Gavan Brady, Gavin Meagher, Gearoid Cramp, Iain McGrath, Jack Canning, Jack Matthews, James Brandon, James Corcoran, Jay Culleton, Jack Egan, Jeaic O Cinneide Pender, Jerry Cahir, Josh Wycherley, Joseph Cronin, Liam Crowley, Lucas Culleton, Luke Rigney, Neal Moylett, Paul Keane, Philip O Shea, Robert Deacy, Robert Enraght-Moony, Ronan Loughanne, Rowan O Halloran, Ryan Lomas, Ryan McDonnell, Sean Clancy, Tadhg Bird, Thomas Martin, Tiernan McCloskey, Tom Byrne.

Clongowes Wood College: Arthur Odlum, John Timmins, Joe Murphy, Jack Reilly, Bobby Sheehan, Patrick Celebi, Conrad Daly, Eoin Maher, Gavin Cheung, Ryan McMahon, Shane Hogan, Ben O’Shea, Sean Donovan, Tim O’Brien, Liam El Sibai, Dan Beggs, Jack Gilheany, Dan Fitzpatrick, David Jeffares, Sean Ojejinmi, Reinis Lemess, Connell Kennelly, Sean Phelan, David O’Connor, Ronan Hannon, Tom Monaghan, Daragh Slattery, Max Dowling, Iarla Carroll, Joe Carroll, John Durkan, Anthony Ryan, John Maher, Matthew Martin, Charles Gallen, Gavin Dowling, James Durkan Watson, Sean McCrohan,David Murtagh, Dan Sheehan, Calum Doyle, Tom Coghlan.

St Andrew’s College: Patrick Murray, Harry McCarthy, David Wilson, Ben Crowley, Andrew Sullivan, Stephen Keane, Zola Henry, Daniel James, Aaron O’Neill, Douglas Burns, Nathan Fitzpatrick-Couzy, Adam Larmour, Daragh Geraghty-Singleton, Hugh Black, David Nam, Roan Kennedy, Jack O’Brien, Daniel O’Connell, Sam Gleeson, Alexander Wallace, Luhle Sigcau, David Molloy, Peter Sullivan, Rory Simmington, Matthew Jordan, Zane McClatchie-Ombima, Ben Bradley, Ben Ryan, Andrew Vincent, Will Hennessy, David Tuohy, Nicholas Judge, Sebastian Ingram, Reece Jordan, Michael Bruun-Nielsen.

St Gerard’s: Failed to provide squad list.

St Mary’s College: Niall McEniff, Richie Bergin, Ronan Watters, Harry McSweeney, Niall Hurley, Sean Heeran, Darragh McDonagh, Myles Carey, Craig Kennedy, Alex Dix, Eamonn Byrne, Timothy MacMahon, Ruairi Shields, Brian MacMahon, Tom Murray, Sean Bourke, Oscar Byrne, Liam Corcoran, Gavin O’Brien, Ciaran O’Meara, George Hassett, Elliot Massey, Conor McElearney, Ian Wickham, Ben Rock, Tom Brennan, Adam McEvoy, Ben McDonnell, Hugo Conway, Joe Nolan, Jack Grant, James Coolican.

St Michael’s College: Max Kennedy, Peter O’Beirne, Jonathon Fish, Adam Peat, Charlie Allen, Fionn Finlay, Des McCarthy, Hugh McGovern, Luke Dunne, Luke Duffy, Harry Byrne, Alex Deegan, David Moran, Cian McGettigan, Conor Quinn, Cormac Hurley, Dan De Loughrey, Michael Cororan, Stephen Judge, Ian O’Kelly, Chris Hennessy, Jay Barron, Pierce Feeney, Elliot Haran, Bobby Leahy, Nicolas Foreau, Jody Booth, Chris Carey, Ryan Baird, Andrew Smith, Jack Dunne, Robbie Dix, Craig Lynch, David O’Doherty, Mark O’Brien, Matt Healy, Robert Russell, Ben Gannon, Jeff O’Loughlin, Michael Roche, David Ryan, Scott Penny, Dan O’Donovan, Jack Conn, Cian O’Gorman, Mark Hernan.

Gonzaga College: Elliot Allen, Eoin Barr, Eoin Barron, Jack Barry, Seán Barry, Hugo Boggan, Eoin Buggy, Daniel Carson, Simon Clear, Andrew Coman, Jack Connolly, Dermot English, Caoilim Fassbender, Seán Galvin, Marcus Gill, Conor Gleeson, Hugh Gleeson, Michael Gleeson, Henry Godson, Charlie Goulding, Henry Higgins, Mikey Holly, Daniel Inglis, Mark Keegan, Hugh Kelly Bowen, James Kenny, Robbie Kidney, Oscar Looby, David Lynch, Calum McCarthy, Frank McHugh, Matt Meagher, Daniel Moriarty, Declan Murphy, Max Neville, Brian O’Donnell, Ian O’Grady, Fergus O hOisin, Micheál O’Kennedy, Patrick O’Loughlin, Killian Quigley, Jack Tackaberry, Hugh Twomey, Liam Tyrrell, Joe Vagge, James Veale, Sam Victory.

Kilkenny College: Mark Braithwaite,  Tamalori Awonusi, Andrew Ross, Jason Rothwell, Lukeman Onilenla, Josh Miller, Evan Stephenson, David Young, Stephen Gray, Owen Edgehill, Sam Smith, Gavin Parr, Stuart Dudley, Andrew Florio, Reuben Pim, Charlie Buckley, Ben O’Sullivan, Lloyd Stephens, Luke Kerr, Malik Onlienla, John Rogers, Charlie Buckley, Kyle Edwards, Andrew Warner.

St Fintan’s High School: Adam Kenny, Adeola Abass, Aidan O’Kane, Alan Keogan, Alex Stevens, Aziz Naser, Cian Hynes, Conor Mahon, Conor Moore, Conor Stokes, Dan Callen, Danny Achimugu, Darragh Kelly, Declan Adamson, Frankie O’Dea, George Bodor, Harry Harrison, Jack Aungier, Jack Brewer, Jack Ussher, James McCourt, Jeff Waldron, Killian Hickey, Mark Jackson, Mark Wickham, Max Heyraud, Mick Fitzpatrick, Nathan Henderson, Niall O’Halloran, Rob McCormack, Sam Donohoe, Sean Cribbin, Shane Cox, Simon Feeney, Tommy Bourke.

Newbridge College: Adam Browne, Ben Caulfield, Dan Caulfield, Tom Connolly, Eimhin Conroy, Con Creedon, Jonathan Deane, Enda Dowling, Dominic Doyle, Jack Doyle, Ross Fallon, Ruairi Finan, Karmon Fitzgerald, Thomas Grant, Oisin Halpin, Theodore Hovenden Kelly, Ben Howlett, Ciarán Joyce, Larry Kelly, Kevin Kyne, Conor Lowen, Cian Mahon, Luke Maloney, Cillian McCarthy, Shane McGroary, Dylan Morrisey, Cian Murphy, Stephen Murphy, Patrick O’Brien, Daniel O’Connor, Greg O’Neill, Harry O’Neill, Josh Peacock, Alex Pocock, Cian Prendergast, Daragh Ryan, Patrick Ryan, Thomas Rynne, Niall Stapleton, Andrew Sweeney, Rob Wynne.

Terenure College: Ross McInnes, Aaron Deegan, Sam McCoy, Levi Vaughan, Jack Cooke, Zak Vaughan, Adam La Grue, Mark Fabian, Sam Dardis, Jake Moore, Callum Ashmore, Mark Eaton, Harry O’Neill, Joe Kerins, Adam Melia, Finn Bolger, John Quirke, Jack Cadell, Bill O’Hara, Leo Fabre, Cormac O’Kelly, Jack O’Hare, Rory McGrath, Adam Tuite, Jack Boland, Harry Boyden, Brishan O’Brien, Mark Curley, Shane Curran, Jamie Devlin, Alex Duff, Patrick Heneghan, Dominic Henry-Hayes, Alex Kelly, Sean McElwaine, Luke Murnaghan, Matthew O’Shea, Conor Shenton, Jack Walsh, Matthew Woulfe, Luke Grady.

The King’s Hospital: Sean Goodburn, Felix Campbell, Nathaneal Sibanda, Rhys Edghill, Zac Bursey, Sam Wrafter, Osebor Evbodaghe, David Boles, Scott Le Roux, Fionn O’Loughlin, Clinton Wokocha, Edward Mahood, Ross Hackett, Connell Howley, Ian West, Alan Bennett, Andrew Irwin, Killian Smith, Luke Corr, David Carroll, Harrison Mahood, Paddy O’Boy, Luke Gilmartin.

– Squad information provided by schools and correct at time of publishing. Corrections or additions to ryan@the42.ie

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Ryan Bailey

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