Some New Friends

As featured in Leinster Rugby v Harlequins match programme (13/12/14)

Traditionally home to the powerhouses of schools’ rugby, the Leinster Schools Senior and Junior Cup’s will have a much broader appeal when the New Year kicks off in earnest. With the remaining two slots in both premier tiers to be determined by the Vinnie Murray (Senior) and Father Godfrey (Junior) Cup finalists, there is much at stake for some of the rising forces of Leinster rugby.

The final stages of schools’ competitive season in the province will see ten counties being represented, an unprecedented feat in the annals of the schools’ competition. The initial impact of Shane Horgan (Meath) and Gordon D’Arcy (Wexford) through to the current presence of Sean O’Brien (Carlow) and the Kearney brothers of Cooley (Louth) has done much to spread the game to the outlying areas of Leinster.

Meanwhile, Jamie Heaslip and Fergus McFadden will be pleased to find that the Kildare representation will stretch beyond their own precincts in Newbridge and Clane. In the Father Godfrey Cup, CBS Naas and Maynooth Post-Primary School will take their place alongside fellow Duff Cup semi-finalists Scoil Chonglais of Baltinglass and De la Salle Churchtown.

Having seen their stock rise over the years with the continued presence of the evergreen D’Arcy in the Irish midfield, allied to the recent additions of the Byrne brothers and Tadhg Furlong to the Leinster mix, the South-East of the land will be further boosted by the presence of Gorey Community School, Enniscorthy Community School and Sean O’Brien’s alma mater, Tullow Community School in the Vinnie Murray Cup draw. There they will be joined by the Dublin outpost of Sutton who will be represented by the up-and-coming St. Fintan’s High School who are also set to feature in the Father Godfrey Cup.

A decade on from first appearing in their first Leinster Schools Cup competition, St Fintan’s have enjoyed a remarkable rise through the ranks of Leinster rugby. From entry into Junior Cup 2003/04, the North Dublin school has grown to the point where the sport exists at every grade from first year to Senior Cup, with growing competitiveness and some great successes en route.

With the expansion of the Leinster Schools rugby programme, St. Fintan’s availed of the opportunity to join fellow emerging schools in the Development Cup competitions and after two Senior Cup wins at that level in 2006/07 and 2009/10 they were elevated to Section A status.

Subsequent reforms to pre-cup leagues which determinine cup entry were a further boon for the High School as meaningful, balanced fixtures became more readly available along side a cup entry reflective of the ability of the team year to year. Last year’s Junior Cup thereby saw the first Fintans team to gain automatic entry into Section B via winning the Section B2 league, a real landmark ahievement.

For those attched to the school over the longer time, it was a matter of huge pride that the school was for the first time entered in the Section B draw at both JCT and SCT level in the 2013/14 season alongside all the great schools in the history of Leinster Schools Rugby. St Fintan’s is now firmly entrenched ‘on the rugby map’.

While the resource requirements of rugby have been challenging, the wider school community continues to support the school’s rugby endeavours. Thankfully, the school also benefits from a strong relationship with neighbouring side, Suttonians RFC. Indeed, St. Fintan’s is situated in an ideal catchment area. Students hail from traditional rugby hotspots in Howth and Clontarf and are complimented by pupils from Baldoyle, Kilbarrack and Donaghmede – locales rich in sporting talent but where perhaps rugby might not in the past have been as readily accessible. St Fintan’s is playing a huge role in that change.

The fruits of this relationship has already seen a number of players make unprecedented personal progress. In 2013/14, St Fintan’s provided 12 players to the Leinster Metro side coached by Dan Van Zyl, a side which contested the Shane Horgan Trophy final and proved to be the most competitive Metro side to date. From that side, Jack Aungier and James McCourt turned out for Leinster Youths and were part of their successful inter provincial side. While a year previously, Andrew Feeney captained the same side before an international callup, while he now remains part of the Leinster U19 set-up. St. Fintan’s High School has therefore established itself as a significant contributor to Leinster Rugby in nurturing young talent and progressing players through the representative pathways.

While the school might never scale the heights of a Blackrock College, within it’s own capabilities it can still meet the needs of players and provide a fulfilling rugby experience for all.

Good luck to all teams as they prepare embark on the final leg of the Schools’ Cup journey.

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