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Saturday 20 September 2014

Rugby: 'Nure aim to thwart Saints' revenge bid

The champions Terenure College and the beaten finalists St Michael's College will reconvene in a repeat of the 2009 Leinster Schools Junior Cup final at Donnybrook on Sunday.

The scene is set for 'Nure to confirm their continuing domination, following on from last year's 5-3 thriller, or for revenge so sweet for St Michael's between the two best teams by some distance at this age grade.

Terenure coach Dermot Blaney will wait as long as he can to see if centre Robbie Carroll and blindside Niall O'Sullivan can recover from the injuries that forced both of them off in the early stages of the semi-final win over Clongowes Wood (20-10) last week.

In the event of them not being able to make it, Jimmy McCormack and Stephen Caffrey are the most likely candidates to step into their boots in what is otherwise an unchanged first 15.

This is a more dominant side than the one that won the Cup last year with four starters back for more in the shape of centre Stephen O'Neill -- he was the try-scoring match winner in 2009 -- scrum-half Gary Clarkin, captain Robert Somerville and the superb No8 Harrison Brewer. It is a spine fit for a circus strongman.

In terms of strength, tight-head Silvio Borza, an impact replacement in the final last year, has really come into his own for making excellent use of his power in tight exchanges. He is a real handful.

St Michael's coach Robbie O'Flynn is keeping his cards clutched tight to his chest: "It is looking likely to be the same team as in the semi-final, but we haven't finalised it. This is down to a tactical approach."

This suggests O'Flynn could be considering a change in personnel or position in order to counteract the many threats posed by 'Nure, who have to be considered slight favourites.

"We are going to concentrate on our own game. Once we do the hard work that is necessary, we feel the scores will come. We have to commit numbers to the ruck."

This concern comes as direct evidence of their poor start in the semi-final against Blackrock before getting their act together to run in three tries in the comfortable 24-7 defeat of their near neighbours.

"There were too many guys wanting to run with the ball in the semi-final. We have to make sure we do the hard work first," insisted O'Flynn. "They are pretty dominant once they get on top. We are going to have to stop them from doing that."

St Michael's are not short of experience of the big day with two starters and one early replacement back from last year.

"There are two of the starting 15 back from the final last year, but there are four or five that were on the squad. Cian Kelleher would have been one of them and Stephen Harold the other."

Indeed, full-back Kelleher is their main strike weapon out wide with captain Ross Byrne at out-half deceptively useful on the move and clever enough to play the percentages, as he did in the second-half of the semi-final, when they were required.

Hooker Richie Allen and prop Denis Coulson are two uncompromising characters in the front row where they will have to break even for Harold and the rest of the back five to give Byrne enough possession to conjure what would amount to an upset.

Terenure v St Michael's, Donnybrook, Sunday, 3.0

Verdict: Terenure

Terenure College: R Church; N O'Connor, S O'Neill, A N Other, T O'Brien; J Lynch, G Clarkin; K Colgan, J Carroll, S Borza, M Murphy, R Somerville (capt), A N Other, P Thornton, H Brewer.

St Michael's College: C Kelleher; D Greene, A Leavy, A Comerford , M O'Keeffe; R Byrne (capt) N McCarthy; D Gibbons, R Allen, D Coulson, S Harold, R Moloney, M Craig, J O'Connell, C Duffy.

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