As featured in Leinster Rugby v Connacht match programme (19/12/14)
With the Christmas exams out of the way, schoolboy focus across the province will now turn to the new 4G pitches at Donnybrook in January. While every team will be well represented in the stands by pupils, staff and parents alike, the Cup competitions also offers the interested neutral a glimpse into the future of Leinster Rugby. With the Irish schools game envied by all the rugby-playing nations of the world, we take a look at how it has impacted on the current Leinster squad.
- Rob Kearney (Clongowes Wood College)
Following two underwhelming campaigns, Rob Kearney created quite a stir in Clongowes’ run to the final in 2004. Throughout the competition, Tony Ward noted that Kearney was “simply a class apart” with missile-like touch-finders and supreme counter-attacking kills, attributes that marked him out as a future international.
- Fergus McFadden (Clongowes Wood College)
McFadden was a key component in the same Clongowes side that ultimately lost to Blackrock in 2004. A tough-tackling and hard-running centre, McFadden returned the following year only to see his side dumped out of the cup in controversial circumstances by St. Michael’s College in the 1st round.
- Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College)
Fast-tracked into the Blackrock senior set-up at just 15 years of age following a triumphant Junior Cup campaign, Fitzgerald helped his ‘Rock side to three consecutive finals, prevailing twice (2004, 2006). Within five months of leaving school, Fitzgerald made his debut for Ireland against the Pacific Islands.
- Gordon D’Arcy (Clongowes Wood College)
Arguably one of the greatest schools players ever, D’Arcy was a phenomenon in the Clongowes dream team of 1998. With scintillating power and pace, D’Arcy was an obvious star in the making. Indeed, so taken was he by his talent that Irish coach Warren Gatland called D’Arcy into the Irish tour to South Africa on the eve of his Leaving Cert. D’Arcy politely declined.
- Darragh Fanning (St. Mary’s College)
Fanning has frustrating memories of the Senior Cup in that for two years running his St. Mary’s side lost out to the eventual winners. An extraordinary comeback by Blackrock in 2004 set the tone before Belvedere undid all their good work in the semi-final of 2005.
- Ian Madigan (Blackrock College)
Madigan’s cup career is often overshadowed by a missed penalty kick in the dying moments of a sensational loss to Kilkenny College in 2007. Such is Madigan’s resolve however that the prodigiously talented out-half dusted himself down and debuted for Leinster within two years.
- Luke McGrath (St. Michael’s College)
One of the most talked about schoolboy scrum-halves since Ciaran Scally of Blackrock, McGrath captained St. Michael’s College in 2011. The purple and white of Clongowes proved to be McGrath’s arch nemesis during his Senior Cup campaigns. Within a year of leaving St. Michael’s, McGrath had represented his province in the RaboDirect Pro12.
- Jamie Heaslip (Newbridge College)
While there hasn’t been much of a return in terms of silverware, Newbridge College continuously churn out talented players. Alongside Munster’s Johne Murphy, Naas man Jamie Heaslip was the standout performer for Newbridge in the early 00’s.
- Shane Jennings (St. Mary’s College)
Shane Jennings dominated the 1999 schools season with a combination of drive and dexterity. An energetic back-rower with a try-scoring touch, Jennings stood out as an excellent candidate for the first generation of players being bred into the professional game.
- Jordi Murphy (Blackrock College)
A 2006 Junior Cup winner, Jordi Murphy went on to captain a fine ‘Rock side to triumph in the 2009 Senior Cup. With Brendan Macken in the centre and Munster’s Andrew Conway at full-back, the 2009 vintage have gone down as one of the best cup sides to emerge from Williamstown.
- Devin Toner (Castleknock College)
A giant during his teens, Toner could never simply shirk the attentions of the opposition. However, Toner would be the first to admit that his school career was unremarkable while his attentions were often swayed by hurling and football. Indeed the Meath native was already 17 by the time he decided to focus on his rugby.
- Ben Marshall (St. Andrew’s College)
Before the success of last year’s cup campaign which saw St. Andrew’s reach the semi-final, the Booterstown Avenue based school struggled to gain notoriety for their rugby. However, the successes of Munster’s Felix Jones and second-row Ben Marshall, appear to have rekindled the love-affair once again.
- Marty Moore (Castleknock College)
Moore’s meteoric rise was instigated in Castleknock in 2009 when he was picked up by Leinster and Ireland selectors whom he has represented through the various age grades alongside the likes of Dominic Ryan, Noel Reid and Dave McSharry of Connacht.
- Brian Byrne (Clongowes Wood College)
Alongside twin brother Ed, Brian Byrne was a monstrous performer in the front-row for Clongowes over several seasons. The Carlow native was a fifth year student in the mould of Cian Healy when he lined out at hooker on the all-conquering Clongowes side of 2011.
- Cian Healy (Belvedere College)
Even as a fifth year student, Healy was a tour de force in the victorious Belvedere campaign of 2005. Although the side also featured the recently retired Eoin O’Malley and Munster out-half Ian Keatley, the versatile Healy was the chief destroyer and quickly became one of the most feared opponents on the schools scene. In 2006 Healy’s talented Belvedere side came undone by Fitzgerald and Blackrock in the semi-final.
- James Tracy (Newbridge College)
- Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College)
- Kevin McLaughlin (Gonzaga College)
- Jack Conan (St. Gerard’s School)
- Dominic Ryan (Gonzaga College)
- Noel Reid (St. Michael’s College)
- Brendan Macken (Blackrock College)
- Dave Kearney (Clongowes Wood College)