Glenstal withstand dramatic Árdscoil comeback to reach first final in 47 years

Glenstal Abbey 21
Árdscoil Rís 20

Daragh Frawley reports from Thomond Park

Glenstal Abbey’s Rory Clarke claims a lineout. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

AN INCREDIBLE AFTERNOON of cup rugby saw Glenstal Abbey edge past a gutsy Árdscoil Rís side to set up a final showdown with PBC on 17 March.

Aiming to reach their first Munster Schools Senior Cup decider since 1970, it was Glenstal who set the tone early on and they were first to strike off a free-flowing move.

Clean lineout ball sent centre Luke Fitzgerald up the middle and over the gainline. From there, quick hands culminated in a superb chip-and-chase from fullback Jack O’Mahony, who touched down after five minutes. Out-half Ben Healy slotted over the conversion from out wide to make it 7-0, as Glenstal continued to to dominate the early exchanges.

Putting Árdscoil under pressure at every opportunity, there was a real maturity about this Glenstal side and their ability to execute set-plays. From a scrum, another break from Fitzgerald saw him stopped just short of the 22.

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The ball eventually found its way to hooker George Downing after several phases and he touched down in the corner. Healy again added the extras from a challenging angle and it was 14-0.

Glenstal Abbey’s Tim Molony tackles Odhran Ring of Árdscoil Ris. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Glenstal were in rampant form and Fitzgerald was next to get on the scoresheet. Árdscoil were struggling to deal with Glenstal’s lines of running and when Healy put winger Tim Molony through a gap, Fitzgerald was on hand to receive the pass and canter in for his side’s third try. With barely 20 minutes on the clock and 21-0 down, Árdscoil were in real trouble.

But to their credit they began to find their way into the game. After a series of infringements from Glenstal, a quick tap penalty from Árdscoil captain Craig Casey put prop Alex O’Callaghan over for a try.

Casey himself added the extras and this gave Árdscoil encouragement. Further possession in Glenstal’s 22 on the stroke of half-time saw out-half Evan Cusack land a drop goal, and the deficit was cut to eleven points at the break.

Opting to stay on the pitch for the interval, Glenstal looked a little unsettled in the opening period, with Healy sending his kick-off out on the full. This appeared to galvanize Árdscoil, who made their way into the Glenstal 22. Indiscipline at the ruck led to captain Casey adding a penalty to make it 21-13.

Glenstal Abbey’s Jack O’Mahony breaks away from Alex O’Callaghan of Árdscoil Ris. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Conditions began to deteriorate soon after, as did both side’s discipline, with both Glenstal captain Rory Clarke and Árdscoil captain Craig Casey both sin-binned for separate incidents. Glenstal’s Healy missed the opportunity to add a further three points when he hit the post from a penalty, but it was well and truly game on heading into the final quarter.

Both packs would dominate their team’s approach as a result of the inclement weather for the remainder of the game, and Árdscoil began to get the upper hand for the first time in the match.

Building phases deep inside Glenstal’s 22, scrum-half Casey sent a hopeful grubber kick in behind. Fitzgerald would collect for Glenstal but his laboured clearance was blocked down by Árdscoill hooker Colin Slater, who pounced for a try under the posts. Casey converted and suddenly it was a one-point game at 21-20.

Glenstal appeared to be rattled, and with their set-piece wavering in critical areas, Árdscoil were growing in confidence and they almost took the lead, only for Cusack’s attempted drop goal to be blocked down.

Chances were very limited for Árdscoil with time running out to complete an incredible comeback, and Glenstal just about held on to reach the showpiece on St Patrick’s Day.

Glenstal Abbey players celebrate after the game. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

GLENSTAL ABBEY: Jack O’Mahony; Tim Molony, Jamie Mawhinney, Luke Fitzgerald, Ronan Quinn; Ben Healy, Thanade McCoole; Sean Scanlon-Garry, George Downing, Eoin Bergin; Conan O’Sullivan, Shane Downes; Conor Booth, Mark Fleming, Rory Clarke.

Replacements: Padraic Mulligan, Patrick Prendergast, Henry Downing, David Kelly, Mark Walsh, Andrew Walsh, Aran Egan, Declan Floyd, Eoin Callaghan, Andrew Hogan.

ÁRDSCOIL RÍS: Darragh O’Gorman; Cian O’Rahilly, Colin Madden, Glen Clancy, Michael Gorman; Evan Cusack, Craig Casey; Alex O’Callaghan, Colin Slater, Ferdia Lyons; Darragh O’Grady, Roy Whelan; Luke Clohessy, Ian Brown, Odhran Ring.

Replacements: Rhys Tucker, Matthew Gaule, Conor O’Brien, John Taylor, Sean Hanley, Maurice Noonan, Hugh Fenton, Cian Murphy, Brian Noonan, Lloyd Mulcahy.

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