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Mary's survive grandstand finale to see off gallant Roscrea in nine-try thriller

St. Mary’s are into the Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-finals after a high-octane encounter with the 2016 champions.

Jay Culleton's fantastic finish wasn't enough for the never-say-die Roscrea
Jay Culleton's fantastic finish wasn't enough for the never-say-die Roscrea
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

St Mary’s College 32

Cistercian College Roscrea 29

Daire Walsh reports from Donnybrook

There was little to separate the sides throughout the course of this engrossing contest at Donnybrook Stadium, but in the end, it was St Mary’s College who booked their place in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup semi-final at the expense of a committed Cistercian College Roscrea.

After Tim MacMahon and Gavin O’Brien crossed early in the second half, Mary’s had placed themselves in pole position for a spot in the last four. Sizeable contributions from Michael Milne and Tadhg Bird got Roscrea back on track – only for a brace of Eoin Carey tries to effectively determine the final outcome of this nine-try thriller.

St Mary's College huddle before the game St Mary's College huddle before the game Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Five-time champions Mary’s had opened the scoring through an early penalty by Ruairi Shields, but following a protracted move inside the 22, fullback Bird released winger Jay Culleton for an unconverted Roscrea try.

Their lead was a short-lived one, though, as Mary’s scrum-half Adam McEvoy dived over on 11 minutes via a five-metre attacking scrum. Shields’ wayward bonus effort at an awkward angle was a minor let-off for Roscrea – who subsequently moved back on level terms at 8-8 courtesy of a routine Foley penalty.

Both defences started to get on top as the half progressed before Mary’s found the way over the whitewash on 33 minutes.

However, much to the delight of the Roscrea supporters, the pass to the waiting Carey was deemed to have gone forward. Yet Mary’s maintained this attacking momentum upon the resumption, as the excellent MacMahon grabbed a breakaway score at the end of a lung-bursting run on 40 minutes.

A Shields two-pointer followed for the Rathmines school, and he also supplied the extras to hooker Gavin O’Brien’s powerful finish to open up a 14-point gap between the sides. Roscrea, though, refused to throw in the towel, and the decision to switch the outstanding Milne to the back row started to pay dividends.

St Mary's College students in the crowd It was fans of the Rathmines school who departed Donnybrook the happier after a last-eight thriller Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

At the end of another sustained move, Milne (a survivor from Roscrea’s last final appearance against Belvedere two years ago) drove over the Mary’s line in clinical style.

The boys from the Offaly-Tipperary border were gradually rediscovering their confidence and Bird’s superb solo try on the right-wing – supplemented by a Foley bonus strike – set-up a grandstand finale to a pulsating encounter.

Mary’s held their nerve under intense pressure, however, and Carey touched down in the 59th and 67th minutes to finally to kill off the Roscrea challenge.

There was enough time for Milne (try) and Foley to add to their impressive personal tallies – 10 and nine points respectively – but it is St Mary’s who will join Blackrock College and Belvedere College in the penultimate round of the competition.

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St Mary’s College scorers

Tries: Eoin Carey (2), Adam McEvoy, Tim MacMahon, Gavin O’Brien

Penalties: Ruairi Shields (1)

Conversions: Ruairi Shields (2)

Cistercian College Roscrea scorers

Tries: Michael Milne (2), Jay Culleton, Tadhg Bird

Penalties: Billy Foley (1)

Conversions: Billy Foley (3)

ST MARY’S COLLEGE: 15. Ruairi Shields; 14. Hugo Conway, 13. Michael McEvoy, 12. Tim MacMahon (23. Peter Masterson 70’), 11. Eoin Carey; 10. Sean Bourke (22. Joe Walsh 70’), 9. Adam McEvoy (21. Eoin Franklin 69’); 1. Sean O’Reilly, 2. Gavin O’Brien, 3. Conor McElearney (17. Elliot Massey 70’), 4. Ian Wickham, 5. Sean Heeran, 6. Oscar Byrne (19. Joe Nolan 42’), 7. Harry McSweeney (captain), 8. Niall Hurley.

CISTERCIAN COLLEGE ROSCREA: 15. Tadhg Bird; 14. Jay Culleton (22. Ben Murphy 69’), 13. Cormac Izuchukwu, 12. Diarmaid Kilgallon (Darragh Tynan 53’), 11. Evan Browne; 10. Billy Foley, 9. Liam Crowley (Jack Matthews 53’); 1. Josh Wycherley, 2. Jerry Cahir (Caoimhghin Bradshaw 69’), 3. Michael Milne (captain), 4. Lucas Culleton, 5. David Maher (19. Daniel Power ’60), 6. James Corcoran (17. Ryan Lomas half-time), 7. Gavin Meagher (20. Joseph Cronin 63’), 8. Neal Moylett.

Referee: Brendan Cuttriss (Leinster)

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