A Hollywood blockbuster wouldn’t have been as good. Rockwell College are 9-3 up in the Avonmore Munster Schools Cup final seven minutes into injury time and PBC hooker Will Foley breaks clear from the base of a ruck and looks set to score a try under the Rockwell posts and deny Rockwell their first title in 10 years.
Somehow Rockwell openside flanker Sonny Dwyer tracks back and gets his body under Foley and prevents a legal grounding of the ball. Whatever the young Thurles flanker goes on to achieve in his future career he will hardly ever make a tackle which had such a bearing on this match result which sees the Munster Schools Senior Cup sit proudly in a County Tipperary School and not where some might claim is its more natural home in Cork or Limerick.
The sequence of events which led to such a dramatic conclusion at Musgrave Park on Saint Patrick’s Day is more telling. Rockwell dominated this game upfront for nearly an hour, completely destroyed PBC at the breakdown and only lost one of their twelve lineouts while also nicking three of their opponents.
This coupled with absolutely faultless kicking from scrum half and Man of The Match Brian Haugh shows just the disappointment that would have been heaped on Rockwell’s long suffering fans but for Dwyer’s telling intervention.
Coach Mark Butler, who had brought Rockwell to their third final appearance in a row, had to plan for this game without the hugely effective lock Sean McCarthy. McCarthy, who is a nephew of former Munster Captain Mick Galwey, broke his hand in the semi final and was replaced in the second row by Neville Flynn.
Rockwell tore into the Corkmen from the start and after just four minutes a brilliant run from Dwyer and subsequent offload to captain Cian O’Donnell, remarkably playing his third year at senior Cup level, had PBC making several last ditch tackles to keep their line intact.
Rockwell kept going however and with outhalf Conor Holland kicking well for territory and Moran and Flynn competing well at the breakdown, they continued to play most of the game inside the PBC half. However several times they lost the ball in contact which should have given them an early try.
Indeed Rockwell had to wait for 25 minutes to finally make their dominance pay on the scoreboard. PBC eventually succumbed to Rockwell’s constant pressure and were penalised for offside and scrumhalf Haugh sought maximum retribution. Things were to get even better for Rockwell just eight minutes later when PBC were penalised for not rolling away after the tackle and Rockwell went 6-0. It could have been better straight after the kick off after Conor Holland thought he had broke clear but he was called back for a knock on.
PBC needed a good start to the second half and it couldn’t have been worse. Outhalf Eamon Mills didn’t make ten metres with his kick off and Rockwell continued to attack with PBC struggling to get any field position whatsoever. Time and time again Rockwell wingers Rob Jermyn and Shaun Horgan and centres McNulty and Kiely moved the ball to great effect and with No. 8 Luke Cahill often acting as an extra pair of hands out wide, PBC were struggling to get any sort of a foothold in the game. Their cause wasn’t helped by the lost of three losses on their own throw during the first ten minutes.
However with one or two replacements sprung from the bench and with less coughing up possession, PBC started to up their game. Finally on 55 minutes they managed to halve the deficit when Rockwell were penalised for offside and Steve Dinan put the match at 6-3. Indeed he could have equalised shortly afterwards with another penalty but his kick went to the right.
However this seemed to spur PBC on and Rockwell winger Rob Jermyn had to make a decisive tackle to prevent PBC scoring from a brilliant overlap. Rockwell continued to push however and when on 60 minutes they were awarded a penalty for offside again by the Corkmen Haugh confidently opted to kick at goal from over 45 metres instead of trying to run down the clock. His brilliantly executed kick put Rockwell 9-3 and now PBC had to attack the Rockwell line as a penalty was of little use to them.
And attack it they did when an excellent close in move from centre Ross Caplice and scrum half Rob Bannon saw Rockwell winger Rob Jermyn sit out the remaining minutes of the game in the ‘Sin Bin’ for a deliberate knock on. Rockwell averted the danger on this occasion but found themselves defending under their own posts just minutes later when an excellent turnover allowed out half Holland to hoof the ball into touch.
However referee Peter Fitzgibbon ruled that the there was still more injury time left and so the agony was prolonged until Dwyer’s late intervention and with the ball been held up the referee blew the final whistle to give Rockwell their 24th victory in this competition and a first since 2001 in a team that then included future professional players such as Mark Melbourne, Denis Fogarty and Brendan O’Connor and was coached by current Games Master Tony Smith.
Only time will tell if any of these great players go on to achieve such dizzy heights in the professional game but for now they will saviour success in a competition which started with victory over Bandon Grammar last January and also included wins over Limerick giants Munchins and Ard Scoil and Cork side Christians.
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 (Charleville), D Mulcahy (Hospital), MJ Murphy (Fethard), A O’Sullivan (Dunmanway), N Flynn (Cahir), D Moran (Dundrum), S Dwyer (Thurles) and L Cahill (Cloyne).
Replacements : David Johnston(Clonmel) for K Kiely 68 mins, A Lynch (Dublin) for C Holland 70+2 mins. Subs not used - C Ryan (Clonoulty), David Kennedy (Skeheenarinky), Luke McGrane (Kinsale), Aaron Sweeney (Loughmore) and Eddie Phelan (Ardfinnan)
Referee Peter Fitzgibbon (MAR).