Rockwell reach third final in a row following epic encounter

Avonmore Munster Schools senior Cup Semi Final

Avonmore Munster Schools senior Cup Semi Final

Rockwell College 13

Christian Brothers College 9

Rockwell College are through to their third Avonmore Munster schools Senior Cup final in a row after winning this nail-biting encounter against Cork giants and 2009 champions Christian Brothers College at Clanwilliam Park in Tipperary town on Saturday last. In one of the finest games this century-old competition has seen in recent years Rockwell outplayed and outwitted their illustrious Cork City opponents and in so doing gained some small measure of revenge for their defeat at the hands of the same opposition in the centenary 2009 decider.

Victory though has come at a price as towering second row Sean McCarthy left the fray with a suspected broken arm midway through the second half and the Tipperary men are likely to be without his talismanic presence when they take on Cork City’s Presentation Brothers College in a repeat of last year’s final on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Christians started well and their big pack exerted a lot of pressure on Rockwell in the early stages with a number of pick and drive moves. After soaking up the early Cork pressure, Rockwell started to get a foothold and with Holland getting his backline moving, Rockwell’s slick movement of the ball was starting to pose CBC problems, forcing them to concede a 13th minute penalty which dropped wide for kicker Brian Haugh. The ding dong nature of the contest continued and from the kick off CBC continued to press Rockwell and when Rockwell flanker Richard Moran was penalised for a high tackle on 15 mins Darragh McNamara made no mistake with the penalty kick to put CBC 3-0 up.

However CBC’s tendency to be caught offside was to haunt them again just four minutes later when after a number of close in phases from Rockwell, CBC were caught offside to give Haugh a simple penalty in front of the posts to tie up the scores. With Cconfidence growing Rockwell started to play more of the game in the Corkmen’s half and when Sean McCarthy was fouled from the restart Haugh executed a wonderful penalty kick to give Rockwell the lineout 10 metres from the CBC line. However referee Dave O’Flynn penalised hooker Darragh Mulcahy for a crooked throw but such was the Rockwell pressure that CBC failed to clear before they were eventually penalised yet again for offside and Haugh punished them further putting Rockwell 6-3 up with a precision penalty kick. However just two minutes later Rockwell were penalised for holding on and Darragh McNamara sent the teams in level at half-time.

It was CBC who struck first blood in the second half when Rockwell were penalised for a hand in the ruck Darragh Mcnamara put CBC 9-3. Just 15 minutes into the second half with Rockwell backs exerting more pressure than ever before CBC centre and Captain Kevin Slater was sin-bined for a high and dangerous tackle on Rockwell centre Killian Kiely. Rockwell maximised their numerical superiority just two minutes later when No.8 Luke Cahill broke clear from the back of a ruck to score the game’s only try. Haugh added the extra with a fine kick and Rockwell can deem themselves unlucky not to have added another try just minutes later when an offload from Cahill to McNulty in the build up was deemed to be forward.

By the time Slater returned the game was turning into a nail-biting contest and CBC played the last four minutes of the game inside Rockwell’s twenty two after Rockwell were penalised for not releasing the ball in a ruck. With a penalty of no use to the Corkmen and with the clock ticking down they had to go for broke and three times fullback McNamara kicked his penalty for a lineout to try and edge out that elusive score. However Rockwell put in some huge hits to keep their line intact until Rthe referee penalised CBC for holding on and finishing the game.

An epic victory for the Tipperary men who now go on to play the alma mater of Irish coach Declan Kidney in a repeat of last year’s final in Musgrave Park in Cork City at 3pm. In an interesting twist of fate, County Tipperary could be both Munster and Leinster schools champions on Saint Patrick’s Day after Cistercian College Roscrea qualified for the Leinster final. Roscrea are trained by another Thurles man John Lillis who is a former coach in Rockwell College.

Commenting on the game Rockwell Coach, Thurles native Mark Butler said - ‘We missed two or three scoring opportunities that would have made the game easier for us but the fact that we defended our line will prepare us for the final’. However he cautioned that ‘the fact we have been to two finals doesn’t mean we are entitled to anything. We will have to work very hard if we are to be Pres in the final’.

Rockwell College: D McGillycuddy (Castleisland), S Horgan (Ballincollig), H McNulty (Clonmel), C Kiely (Dungarvan), R Jermyn (Cloyne), C Holland (Cahir), B Haugh (Kilrush), C O’Donnell (Charliville), D Mulcahy (Hospital), MJ Murphy (Fethard), A O’Sullivan (Dunmanway), S McCarthy (Castleisland), D Moran (Dundrum), S Dwyer (Thurles) and L Cahill (Cloyne).

Replacements: A Sweeney (Loughmore) for McCarthy inj 54 mins. E Phelan (Ardfinnan) for Murphy (65 mins), Subs not used B Crosse (Cashel), David Kennedy (Skinarinky), Aidan Barron (New Inn), Alex Lynch (Dublin) and David Johnston (Clonmel)

Referee Dave O’Flynn (MAR)