herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Father and son team take Saints to brink of a second Leinster titleIt is a long way from Kirkintiloch Lenzie in Glasgow to the field of schoolboy dreams at Donnybrook. Edwin McWilliams has taken 71 years of his life to find his place in rugby as the manager to the St Michael's College team which stands one game away from a second Senior Cup.

The father of St Michael's coach Greg has taken on a role similar to that of Irish legend Patrick 'Rala' Reilly for the benefit of the Merrion Road school.

It is difficult to over-estimate the value of this vocation of volunteerism. It is the sort of selfless attitude that makes the game what it is -- from the grass roots.

Of course, St Michael's started out as nothing more than a feeder school to mighty Blackrock College. Slowly, it has moved out of the shadows and into the limelight, in rugby terms, as a result of the focus and all-round energy given by coaches to hundreds of boys every year.

The reward has been the development of a St Michael's side to rival that of their only previous winners in 2007. Greg McWilliams oversaw the eclipse of this year's wonderfully fresh-faced giant killers St Gerard's (15-6) on Tuesday.

It was anything but easy: "It was the most physical match of the year, bar none. I was really happy with our defensive display. We've done a lot of work on our offence, but we felt we needed to brush up on our defence over the last week," he said.

"Maybe we were a bit top heavy concentrating on that area. Because of that, I felt we forced the matter going forward.

"We struggled to get momentum into the game."

Still, St Michael's were able to strike on both sides of the field in the first-half with wings Mark Corballis and David Egan whizzing over for the tries that gave them the edge, if not definitive domination.

"The key was to keep it simple and get the confidence up. We didn't do that from the start. But I was delighted with how we responded in the second-half."

True to form, St Gerard's put the hammer down through their excellent centres Jody Crosbie and Rian O'Loughlin and number eight Jack Conan, who was closely monitored by the St Michael's back row.

"We controlled the territory and the breakdown. I really feel that the players needed to go through that sort of test as a group. We had to win the dogfight. It was a perfect semi-final for us."

Indeed, it is the closest thing you could get to a dress rehearsal as Clongowes Wood, like St Gerard's, bring a manic physicality and willingness to play the game from one to 15.

St Patrick's Day can't come quick enough for St Michael's and their Glaswegian 'Rala'.

FIXTURES

Tues -- Junior Cup Semi-Final: St Michael's College v Blackrock College , at Donnybrook, 3.0. Wed -- Senior Section 'A' League Final: Newpark v Wilson's Hospital, at North Kildare, 2.30. Fr Godfrey (Junior) Semi-Finals: Wesley College v Pres. Bray, at Seapoint tbc, 2.30; The High School v St Patrick's Navan, at Ashbourne, 2.30. Thurs - Junior Cup Semi Final: Clongowes Wood College SJ v Terenure College , at Donnybrook, 3.0.

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