Wednesday 23 January 2019

Clongowes duo doubts for tasty tie

Clongowes Wood coach Pat Kenny described Ireland U18 Schools prop Edward Byrne and Ireland U19 back-rower Conor Gilsenan as "touch and go" for their mouth-watering Leinster Senior Cup quarter-final against Blackrock at Donnybrook next Monday.

The Clane school had been billed as the favourites from the start of the season, losing only one friendly, to Campbell College, from their 11, including a 15-6 defeat of 'Rock back in October.

A lot has changed since then. It is treacherous thinking to put any great credence in what happened four months ago. If Clongowes cannot get captain Gilsenan (shoulder and hip) and/or Byrne (ankle) out on Monday, it would most definitely swing the balance of favouritism back in Blackrock's direction. They are that important.

This is not to say Clongowes are a two-man team. Far from it. It will just put extra onus on Edward's brothers Bryan, his twin, at hooker, and Thomas at lock, tighthead Tom Collis and loose forwards Nicholas McCarthy and Jordan Coghlan to subdue a capable 'Rock eight.

Other than that, Clongowes are in fine fettle. Gordon Frayne is well capable of deputising for Byrne and Bryan Grehan is on standby for Gilsenan in what is a deep and devilishly impressive squad, with last year's fly-half David Quirke back in pole position to provide experience from the hot seat.

There was a clear understanding of the game plan and how to grind down Presentation Bray (23-0) in the first round as the defending champions look to put back-to-back titles together for the first time in their history.

This really is one to relish.

Blackrock are also stacked with representative quality in Ireland U18 Schools prop Adam Boland, likely to be fit from a knock, and the exciting lock Gavin Thornbury, two players of significant potential.

There is also Ireland U18 international thrust in behind from the centre partnership of Conor McEllin, strong on the ball, and the more evasive Mark Roche.

If the pack can deliver fast ball, they can take the space and eat into it in the blink of an eye.

Then, there is the leadership and authority of their Leinster U19 number eight Richard Marsh, a standout figure in the first round win over Newbridge College (27-8). He carries at speed and hits with heavy intent.

Verdict: Clongowes Wood

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