Leinster lads lead way as Schools teach Clubs lesson
IRELAND SCHOOLS 39, IRELAND CLUBS 8 - The indication at the start of the season was that this was the best collection of Leinster Schools players to come through the modern professional era.
This was confirmed by the manner in which they consummately dealt with the Inter-provincial Championship matches, routing Ulster (68-5), Munster (34-12) and Connacht (61-3).
Leinster were bound to numerically dominate the Irish Schools squad that came together to take on the Irish Clubs at Coolmine RFC recently.
There were a total of 118 players who took part in the Interprovincial series well before Christmas.
It was whittled down to 36 for the first camp and finalised at 26 for the match against the Irish Clubs, eventually broken down into 20 from Leinster, three from Munster and three from Ulster.
"They are very talented. It is a blessed situation to have this season. We picked a first 15 against the Irish Clubs. But, every player that came on was expected to make a difference," said Team Manager John McKinney.
In addition, two of last year's starters in centre Harrison Brewer (Terenure) and wing Greg O'Shea (Crescent), as well as Leinster Schools captain and scrum-half, Nick McCarthy (St Michael's), were unable to take part due to injury.
There were 11 Leinster starters against the Ireland Clubs, captained by Cistercian College flanker Rory Moloney.
They executed well from their first piece of proper patience and continuity, bulky centre Fergal Cleary forcing his way over on the left. Then, the front row union of Michael Lagan, Oisin Heffernan and Sean McNulty showed up in the wide channel to out-manoeuvre the club cover with simple passing for McNulty.
As bodies tired, the Schools were able to exploit gaps more regularly, Cleary, flanker Josh Murphy and replacement wing Jack Owens shooting through on the left on the end of the simple timing of full-back Billy Dardis's (pictured left) passing.
Sadly, the Ireland Schools have been withdrawn from the FIRA/AER European U18 Championships at Easter because of the proximity to the Senior Cups campaigns and Leaving Certificate mock exams.
This is a pity as Ireland were able to dominate England in the 2011 final before falling to the 'auld enemy' last Easter.
As it happens, the Irish have arranged to play England at Coolmine RFC on Saturday, March 30th and France somewhere over there on Saturday, April 6th.
Ireland Schools: B Dardis (Terenure); C Brennan (Roscrea), A Leavy (St Michael's), F Cleary (Clongowes Wood), S McMahon (Rockwell); R Byrne (St Michael's), J Fullerton (Campbell); M Lagan (Methodist), S McNulty (Rockwell), O Heffernan (Roscrea), D O'Connor (Blackrock), J Ryan (St Michael's), J Murphy (St Michael's), R Moloney (Roscrea, capt), N Timoney (Blackrock).
Replacements used: A Roche (Terenure), G Reynolds (King's Hospital), L O'Connor (CBC Cork), O Jager (Blackrock), R Lalor (Terenure), P Thornton (Terenure); C Rock (Blackrock), M Courtney (CBC Monkstown), J Owens (Campbell).