Moyne's James McGahern from Cornafean makes a good break during the Leinster Schools Junior U16 Development Cup Final. Photo: Ray Donlon www.raydonlon.ie
A quirk of schools' rugby competitions will see Moyne Community School's match against St Columba's College today literally count double.
Courtesy of Brian O'Driscoll pulling their names out of a hat, the pair have been matched in the semi-final of the Duff Cup, quarter-final of the Fr Godfrey Cup. The stakes have never been higher as both ties will be played in a single winner-takes-all game. To confuse matters further, Moyne qualified for the knock-out matches by virtue of reaching the final of a third competition!
In that final, they overcame Scoil Chonglais in Tullamore on Monday, January 14 by a score of 17-5 to claim the Junior Rugby Development Cup for the first time in their decade-long history. Although located just over the border in County Longford, there's more than a smattering of Breffni blood amongst Moyne's ranks, and it was a Cavan pair Cormac McCabe and James McGahern who were Moyne's try-scorers.
Cormac scored the opening try when a swift four-player move released the Arva youth, who sliced through Chonglais defence. Mark Hughes slotted over the conversion to give Moyne a seven point lead.
The confidence boosting score urged Moyne on, and saw them gain territory in Chonglais' half. The sustained pressure earned them a penalty in front of the posts, which Mark Hughes cooly converted stretch the lead to 10. However as the first half drew to a close, Chonglais responded with a try courtesy of a long dangerous kick unravelling Moyne's defence. The Baltinglass school's conversion attempt bounced wide off the upright.
Ten minutes into the second half, Moyne again began to assert control over the game and their dominance paid off when captain, James McGahern from Cornafean took the ball off the back of a scrum and powered over the try-line. Dependable Mark Hughes scored the conversion giving Moyne a 17-5 lead, which despite the gallant efforts of a battling Chonglais side, they held until the end. Moyne's defence, inspired by courageous displays from the likes of Joe Reynolds and Cathal McCabe - who put in an O'Gara-esque 60m kick to relieve the pressure - held firm to see the game out.
The historic cup win is the latest in a spectacular 10-game unbeaten run and sees Moyne entering unchartered territory, much to manager Brian Reilly's delight.
"It's the first time we've ever got this far," enthused the Redhills native. "It's a huge achievement."
The lads' success at U16 level is just rewards for their commitment to a three year plan.
"It's hard work and graft - the lads have put it in for the last two years and it's paid dividends this year."
Despite the rugby success, most of the Moyne lads' backgrounds would primarily be in Gaelic football. About half play for the Cavan U15 development squad - of which Brian is the coach - while the other half are involved with the Longford U15 development squad.
"The whole squad is gaelic footballers," Brian told the Celt, "but the skills transfer over - the handling and all. They're all big units and they are well able to move."
Hopefully the Moyne players will move as well against St Columba's as they did agianst Chonglais, and they just might claim another famous victory... or two!