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Time for the stars to shine

Wednesday, 13th March, 2019 4:33pm

In schools rugby, bragging rights are simply only concerned with silverware – regardless of the wins recorded in a tournament, the end goal is simple – win the cup and the rest is history.

On Sunday, Cork is set to host two of the biggest rivals on the pitch. Many on Leeside will tell you the rivalry extends beyond that when Christians Brothers College face Presentation Brothers College in the Clayton Hotel Munster Senior Cup.

With 29 titles each, the pair are above and beyond the rest in the roll of honour in this competition and Sunday's final represents the chance for one school to collect title number 30, along with those already discussed bragging rights and a place at the top of the leaderboard.

With so much at stake, it would be easy to assume that both teams could be weighed down by the occasion but that's not the case for CBC coach Tommy Crowe, who says his lads are fully focused on the game.

“Things are very good for us now this week, we're just getting ready for Sunday. Obviously with it being the two teams that it is, it gives credence to the hype but a final is a final and that's how we're treating it. I think the lads are mature enough now to deflect it and just concentrate on what needs to be done on Sunday.”

This is maths and PE teacher Tommy's second year in charge of the senior squad after previously coaching the junior side. It's also his second year in the Munster Senior Cup with Christians falling to a one point loss against Glenstal Abbey who won their first ever title in 2018.

On that day CBC lost by a single point, 18-17. The Limerick school themselves learned the age old lesson of having to lose one to win one when Pres beat them in 2017. For their part, Christians will be hoping the same applies to them on Sunday with a number of the squad, including sharpshooter Cian Hurley, having been part of the team last year that came up short.

“We were very disappointed last year obviously,” comments Tommy, “and I guess sometimes that can be a help the following year – the hurt of losing last year. Overall though, I don't think it really makes any difference to Sunday; yes they experienced that loss but it takes a lot more then that memory to win a final.

“It's about the players, we have a few standout players such as Cian and our captain Scott Buckley, Mark Donnelly and Aaron Leahy, then there's a few that were on the Munster Under 18s last year but for us it's been about the players that haven't necessarily got the recognition at the next level. You know you have your stars but it's the other players that have really pleased me in this campaign – they've really made the difference.”

CBC and PBC have both had rather different run-ins to the final. Christians eased their way in with a comfortable 48-12 win over Ardscoil Rís whereas Pres snatched victory late in their semi-final win over Bandon Grammar, thanks to a late try and conversion which gave them a 19-18 win.

When these two sides last met in an epic semi-final last year, Christians came from 0-15 down to grab a 17-15 win with Tommy quick to point out that there is nothing to separate the sides.

“I don't think the manner of the semi-final win makes any difference to us, we've obviously come across Pres a few times and we lost a friendly at Christmas to them but it was a very tight game. Look, we're in a final and we're going to enjoy the position we're in, there's an opportunity there and the important thing is to take it.”

Famed for being a rugby nursery in Cork city, Christians has been grabbing the headlines recently for its hurling prowess along with the rugby team's efforts. Although losers in the Harty Cup Final, the senior hurling team beat Gort Community School in the All-Ireland Quarter Final to progress to their first ever semi-final at that level.

“Ah it's fantastic,” reflects Tommy. “There's a high level of activity in the school, it's not just the rugby and hurling but there's soccer there as well and a host of other sports – a good broad range and sport is always high on the spectrum in the school cause pupils are really enthusiastic about participating.”

The last time these two sides met in the final in 2007, Pres took the spoils that day thanks to a glorious try from Simon Zebo, while Peter O'Mahony was also on the team.

One thing is for sure, the Munster Senior Cup Final certainly give onlookers a glimpse of the future, players such as the aforementioned Zebo and O'Mahony, along with Ronan O'Gara, have all left Pres with medals in their pockets while Donnacha O'Callaghan was a winner with Christians in 1998.

A time for stars to shine, Sunday also represents the chance for one school to grab its 30th title, something, however, that Tommy is certainly not emphasising to his players: “These lads won't be burdened with the weight of history,” he concludes with a smile, “Sunday is just about winning a final, that's what we're there to do.”

The Clayton Hotel Munster Senior Cup takes place on Sunday 16 March, and kick-off at Irish Independent Park is at 4pm.

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