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by Sean Ryan
Munster Schools Senior Cup semi-final
Rockwell College 13
St Munchin's College 6
A late try by Rockwell College fullback and Lismore native, Steve McMahon means the Tipperary men will dine at Munster schools rugby 's top table for an unprecedented fifth successive year after a nail biting victory over Limerick's St Munchin's College in a repeat of last year's decider at Clanwilliam FC on Tuesday afternoon last.
Encounters between Rockwell and Munchin's are always close affairs and no one from either side needed any reminding of how close last year's decider at Thomond Park was, when Rockwell emerged victorious 6-5. Rockwell coach's Mark Butler and Denis Leamy had a full strength side to pick from for this encounter, with two time winning medallist Neville Flynn restored to the second row .
It was Munchin's however who were first out of the blocks and completely dominated the early exchanges, with centre Dan Goggin Rockwell's tormentor in chief, causing havoc with some excellent line breaks and No. 8 and Tipperary minor footballer, Ben Kilkenny causing Rockwell plenty of problems at the breakdown. Indeed from one such foray into Rockwell territory, only an exceptional tackle from Rockwell scrum half Ben Riley on Goggin prevented a certain try for the Limerick men with Riley forcing to retire from proceedings after his bravery. The move forced Rockwell to re-jig their defence with O'Mahoney dropping to scrum half and Rory Horgan coming in on the wing. The Munchin's pressure eventually yielded dividends after 15 minutes when Rockwell were penalised for off-side and flyhalf Shane Airy made no mistake to put the Limerick men 3-0 to the good.
Despite living on their nerves at times, Rockwell did get back into the encounter. A searing run by centre Shaun O'Donoghue almost yielded dividends in the 20th minute but it was an exceptional gallop by Steve McMahon from a mark inside his own 22 to the opposing 22 which yielded Rockwell's first penalty after the Limerick men were penalised for hands in the ruck. Shortly afterwards Parata executed to perfection to leave the score at the break at 3 points each.
Rockwell were on the back foot for the early part of the second half. However just 11 minutes into the second half Munchin's lost influential centre Goggin who was sent to the sin bin for slapping the ball out of the hands of scrum half David O'Mahoney. Shortly afterwards, Parata brilliantly executed another penalty for Rockwell after the Limerick side were penalised for offside.
However straight from the kick off, Rockwell were penalised for not releasing the tackler and Shane Airy levelled matters up once more. Rockwell gave it everything in the closing stages with some great work from tight-head James Maxwell, second row Sean O'Connor and back row James Feehan, taking the game to the Limerick men. Rockwell were to lose influential captain Aidan Butler with a hamstring injury midway through the second half, as well as James Feehan and Neville Flynn in the closing stages and introduced forwards Tommy Anglim, Adam Horgan and Luke Hickey to their pack .
With the game heading for a 6-6 draw nobody could have predicted the dramatic outcome. With over three minutes of injury time on the clock scrumhalf Dave O'Mahoney produced a superb carry from the base of a ruck, and his off-load to fellow halfback Moynihan, who in turn off-loaded brilliantly to Parata. Parata's step seemed to distract the Limerick defence and his exquisite pass to fullback Steve McMahon saw the fullback use his strength to drive over from five yards out.
It was a truly remarkable late score from the Waterford man who has had a fine tournament thus far. Parata made no mistake with the extra to put Rockwell 7 to the good. It was a cruel late blow to St Munchin's, who failed to capitalise on one last play, to bow out of this year's tournament.
Speaking after the game Rockwell head coach Mark Butler said he was ''delighted with the win'' but that his side ''still had a lot to improve on if they are to win the cup this year''. They will now meet the winners of Crescent Comprehensive and Christian Brothers College (CBC) who must replay after they drew 3-3 in the other semi-final at Tom Clifford Park in Limerick last Thursday. Depending on the outcome of this game, Rockwell will play the senior cup final, most likely on Monday, March 18th at Musgrave Park if CBC win - and at Thomond Park if Crescent win.
Rockwell: Steve McMahon (Lismore), David O'Mahoney (Clonakilty), Shaun O'Donoghue (Clonmel), Rory Parata (Passage), Willie Coffey (Toomevara), Aidan Moynihan (Canovee, Cork), Ben Riley (Cahir), Denis O'Connell (Tipp Town), Sean McNulty (Clonmel), James Maxwell (Ballyooby), Neville Flynn (Cahir), Sean O'Connor (Boharlann), James Feehan (Killenaule), Sonny Dwyer (Thurles) and Aidan Butler (capt, Cashel). Replacements Rory Horgan (Fermoy) for Riley injured 12 minutes, Adam Horgan (Ballincollig) for Flynn, Tommy Anglim (Fethard) for Feehan both 50 minutes. Luke Hickey (New Inn) for Butler (inj 54 mins).
St Munchin's: S Halpin, E O'Keeffe, D Goggin, D Kelly, G Bateman, S Airey, R Meagher, D Begley, P Meyer, B Keogh, S O'Mullan, T O'Dwyer, K Browne, L Nicholas (C), B Kilkenny. Replacements: T Madden, E Brennan, J Prenderville, J Sheehan, N Nugent, A Wallace, S Doona, Kelton Faloon.
Referee Olly Hodges (Mar).
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